Fontainebleau Castle and Park (World Heritage)

Fontainebleau Castle was the residence of the French kings for centuries. The complex was built as a renaissance castle from 1528 on in place of a hunting lodge from the 12th century. The magnificent building complex with its five inner courtyards has a chapel and state rooms with frescoes and stucco. Napoleon I also appreciated Fontainebleau.

Fontainebleau Castle and Park: Facts

Official title: Fontainebleau Castle and Park
Cultural monument: Horseshoe-shaped castle complex with the rebuilt castle tower from the 12th century, the Cour Ovale, the Galerie Franz ‘I, the Chapelle de la Trinité, the Escalier du Roi, the Galerie de Diane, the Salle du Trône and the Petits Appartements
Continent: Europe
Country: France, Île-de-France
Location: Fontainebleau, southeast of Paris
Appointment: 1981
Meaning: in the tradition of the Italian Renaissance the “new Rome” of King Francis I.

Fontainebleau Castle and Park: History

998 Hunting lodge of the Capetian King Robert the Pious in the forest of Fontainebleau
1169 King Ludwig VII’s hunting lodge with an attached monastery complex
1528 under Franz I. beginning of the new palace building
1531-40 Arrangement of the Franz ‘I gallery with allegorical frescoes after Homer and Ovid
1544 Birth of the future King Franz II.
1547 Death of Franz I.
1551 Birth of the later King Henry III, the last King of France from the House of Valois
1600 80 m long and 7 m wide Galerie de Diane, in Naopelon III. housed the castle library
1608 Beginning of the design of the Chapelle de la Trinité
1685 under Louis XIV. Edict of Restitution of Fontainebleau, abolition of religious freedom for the Protestant Huguenots; as a result, mass exodus of the Huguenots to Germany and the Netherlands
1921 Establishment of the Musée National du Château

“Work of the Centuries, Home of Kings” (Napoleon)

An elegant young woman grips an equally beautiful nipple with a graceful gesture; both are shown in their nakedness up to the waist and return the gaze of the beholder. This painting with the title “Gabrielle d’Estrées and the Duchesse de Villars”, which despite its erotic subject appears strangely brittle and artificial, hangs in the Louvre in Paris and is labeled “School of Fontainebleau, around 1594”. The castle that gave this painting school its name is located southeast of the French capital. Like almost no other, including Versailles, this palace is closely linked to the history of the Grande Nation. King Ludwig VII had a hunting lodge built here in the 12th century, and up to Napoleon III. French rulers lived and built in this place. Emperor Napoleon I. In 1814, after his defeat by the allied European powers, he signed his deed of abdication in the Red Salon and said goodbye to the soldiers who had remained loyal to him in the Cour du Cheval Blanc; since then the farm has also been known as the “Cour des Adieux”.

The extensive palace complex of Fontainebleau, which is surrounded by spacious parks and is open to visitors today, was essentially built under King Francis I and his successors Henry II and Henry IV. François premier was a highly educated man and a promoter of French literature and language. His court in Fontainebleau developed under the sign of the development of absolutism into the most important art center north of the Alps. The monarch’s preference was for the Italians, such as the famous Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci, who spent the last years of his life at his court. According to computerannals, the other artists whom the king called to Fontainebleau, including Francesco Primaticcio, Rosso Fiorentino and Niccolò dell’Abbate, perhaps had less illustrious names, but they represented the latest artistic development in Europe, Mannerism. The works of that first school of Fontainebleau, which founded it and which shaped the style beyond France in the 16th century, show all the hallmarks of this artistic epoch between the Renaissance and the Baroque: A striving for formalized beauty and decorative effect is in the foreground, with religious motifs in favor of ancient or pagan, often allegorically coded subjects take a back seat.

The main work of the school in Fontainebleau is the Franz ‘I Gallery, a passage between the king’s apartments and the Chapelle de la Trinité. Although only dealers were selling their haberdashery here, the Italians transformed the room into a total work of art of overwhelming splendor by means of painting, sculpture and stucco. It draws its charm from the contrast between the brightly colored, two-dimensional images and the expressive, fully plastic plaster figures, which are loosened up by delicate carvings.

Heinrich II’s gallery – also known as the »ballroom« – is also the work of Primaticcio, dell’Abbate and his colleagues. Here painting predominates over sculpture, the strict classical architecture is loosened up by moving, multi-figure frescoes. The themes mostly come from ancient mythology, with depictions of Diana, the goddess of the hunt, having a current reference: They allude to Diane de Poitiers, who was first Francis I’s mistress and after his death – despite an age difference of 30 years – his mistress Son of Heinrich II. The construction of the palace chapel was started under Francis I, but it was not decorated until Henry IV. Martin Fréminet, who created the frescoes, is attributed to the second school of Fontainebleau, which is mainly influenced by French and Flemish artists. The unknown painter who created the double portrait of Gabrielle d’Estrées and the Duchesse de Villars hanging in the Louvre also belongs to her.

Fontainebleau Castle and Park