Château Condé, a painter’s paradise


Attending to the sky, on the highest branches of the tallest trees of the Château de Condé, it is not “Raven Master” that we see perched but a virtuoso pruner pruning the foliage. ” This professional has the composure of a mountaineer », Recognizes Aymeri Paste de Rochefort, owner of the estate.

From the park to the castle, he guides visitors with renewed enthusiasm in this year when the 400th anniversary of the birth of Jean de La Fontaine is being celebrated, not far from here, in Château-Thierry.

→ LARGE FORMAT. Cicada or ant? The world according to La Fontaine

Aymeri Paste de Rochefort places particular emphasis on the works inspired by the author of Fables and Tales which adorn the vast building. ” It is especially the latter that you will find evoked on the painted decorations of the castle., specifies its owner. As well as his novel in verse, The Loves of Psyche and Cupid, whose preface is addressed to Marie-Anne Mancini, Mazarin’s niece. The young woman had married the Duke of Bouillon, Lord of Chateau-Thierry. ” There, as in Paris where she held a salon, La Fontaine was one of the fine spirits she protected.

Apollo in majesty

Spectacular and yet harmonious, the large decorations of the room decorated by Giovanni Niccolo Servandoni present Apollo in majesty, served by the nymphs, as the god of light and the arts appears in The Loves of Psyche and Cupid published in 1669 by La Fontaine. Servandoni, master of the great machinery for the theater and the opera, reproduces there, in a greyness of accomplished refinement, a group sculpted for the cave of Thétys in Versailles, then moved to the aptly named Bosquet des Bains d’Apollon.

From room to room, the stroll plunges us into the heart of bucolic episodes under the brush of 18th century artists, proof that the fortune of the Tales had not faded years after their publication. Proponents of the gallant style, these painters drew from La Fontaine’s licentious allusions as many characters and explicit subjects: an amorous Courtesan, a Village Coquette, a justified Servant, a Villager who seeks his calf and finds something else …

→ CRITICAL. 400 years of La Fontaine: a free spirit

“Art historians study several of these murals, continues Aymeri Paste de Rochefort, whose attribution to Lancret seems more and more probable. With his master Watteau, Lancret worked in Condé before the first left for London in 1720. “ Indeed, the Marquis de La Faye, patron of Lancret, had acquired the castle to make it his resort, a country residence certainly but richly decorated.

Dog without collar …

If they are not taken directly from the Fables, the canvases of Jean-Baptiste Oudry, official painter of Louis XV’s hunts, can also easily echo the animal people that La Fontaine orchestrated there with genius. We read in the guide to the castle a remark that gives pause for thought: “ rumor has it that Oudry never painted dogs with collars », Leaving this task to his students. Would we dare to see it as a direct tribute to the famous fable The wolf and the dog, in which the collar of the second horrifies the first, so much does he see in it an unbearable sign of enslavement?

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