Friday, 24 November 2017

Chateau d'Ecouen - Museum of the Renaissance

A jewel of French renaissance architecture, the chateau was begun in 1538 by Anne de Montmorency the head of the armies and first minister to Francois I and Henri II. Now specialising in artifacts from the Renaisssance it contains culture and art from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, inspired by roman antiquities as well as modern technological developments such as the printing press and explorations. Most of the inspiration and influence came from Italy but the museum also contains items from Germany, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, China, Japan, Mexico, Turkey.
There are many very beautiful things here, some of which I have never seen the like before. They include arms, earthenware and enamiled plates, precious metals, tapestries and paintings, carved wood and stone. artisans' tools, carved metal faceplates for keyholes,ancient time-pieces, globes, cutlery and furniture, metalwork and leatherwork. At the entrance is the chateau chapel, nicely restored with it's fine painted ceiling. It has, unfortuanately lost much of its decoration to the chateau de Chantilly. A copy of Leonardo da Vinci's La Cerne painted in Milan between 1506 and 1509 is a useful reminder of how badly the original has degraded over the years.  

The chateau is full of excellent examples of the best of European renaissance art but it also includes the unexpected; pieces from Mexico made during the same era, for example, and the Ottoman Empire as well as China. This chateau is the perfect setting for renaissance works as it's one itself.
Other interesting objects on view were illuminated manuscripts, some used by French royalty, ceramic flooring, exquisite painted chimneys. I was intrigued by the epinette, a forerunner to the spinet and piano. It was displayed in a glass case rather than on its usual wooden stand.

The range of objects is vaste so you get a good idea of life for nobles and royalty during this period on enlightenment.  
It's so impressive to see the workmanship of artists and artisans of this period. It would be a rae person in our times who could produce such exquisite detialing on wood, metal, ceramics, glass from Venice, textiles, weapons and a clock. But what a clock! It's built in the form of a golden galleon. The timepiece is activated by a plethora of minute animations sparking further movements, all quite charming and the detailing is, frankly, extraordinary. Soeone had to imagine all this and someone had to make it all by hand with very expensive materials, without making a costly mistake. 

Various forms of standardised measurements were on display as was a large tool used to make copper wire. Science and technology were evident in everything, including the paint pigments, painting on leather, sculpting iron and armour. The swords came in three categories: ceremonial, fighting and symbolic. The guns and crossbows were decidedly deadly, no two ways about that.
JC and I smirked at one set of armour. The codpiece was delusional. It was so 'out-there' it would have attractedd any enemy sward to 'have a go'. Totally impractical you could hang your laundry on it.
I'll leave you with images of some of the fine things you can see if you're willing to go a bit off the beaten tourist track to Ecouen, It's worth the effort. go to


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