INSTITUT DE FRANCE, THE WORLD MONUMENTS FUND AND HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN WORK IN PARTNERSHIP FOR THE RESTORATION OF FRance’s hidden gem
Introduction: The Foundation for the Safe-keeping and Development of the Chantilly Domain created by His Highness the Aga Khan in 2005, is on a mission: to restore to original magnificence, the Château of Chantilly, its park and its gardens, as well as the Great Stables. The French Institute has entrusted the foundation, with the management of this heritage for a period of twenty years.
At the heart of a vast domain covering 7,800 hectares, located in one of the largest forests near Paris, stands the Great Château de Chantilly. The Château and surrounding estate have been built by the owners of Chantilly since the Middle Ages. It is one of the finest museums of historical paintings in France (after the Louvre in Paris) with a library stocked with rare and precious books and manuscripts.
The original building on the site, now occupied by the Château de Chantilly, was built in the 15th century, later to be destroyed in the French revolution. In 1632 after the death of Henry II it was passed on to Louis de Bourbon, le Grande Conde and remained in this family for many years. It was Louis who added the Grand Ecurie (stables), in the belief that he might one day be reincarnated as a horse!
Chantilly’s last private owner was Henri d’Orléans, Duc d’Aumale, in 1897. This last son of France’s last king, Louis-Philippe, was a master collector of art and antiquities. As such, he had the Château rebuilt to the designs of Honore Daumet, with the intent to house a phenomenal collection of works, second only to the Louvre in Paris as far as the French are concerned. These rooms remain today in their original state with the art displayed exactly as the Duc d’Aumale left it. The collection, known as the Musee Conde, contains great masterpieces such as Raphaels Three Graces and Poussin’s Les Massacre des Innocents. The Duke left it under strict conditions to l’Instiut de France after his demise.
Over a period of time the Chantilly estate was beset with numerous problems. With water infiltration and high humidity compounded by a failing hydraulic system, which led to a rising water table, it became clear that the problems at Château de Chantilly were widespread. The entire estate was placed on the 2002 World Monuments Watch. WMF supplied technical expertise and advice on effective treatments and conservation methods.
Playing a significant part in Chantilly’s resurrection was the nearby Aiglemont estate, where His Highness the Aga Khan has lived and stabled his horses for years. A lover, breeder and owner of horses, the Aga Khan’s red and green epaulets surpass stately glory in many of Europe’s great horse races including the French Derby and Oaks which are held on the Chantilly racecourse.
His Highness became interested in Chantilly when there was talk of its racecourse being closed. He summoned two consulting companies and came up with a 20 year plan to restore the entire estate whose original beauty had been seriously altered by time and neglect.
Along with the Institute de France, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) and a donation of almost half the required funds (Euro 70m) from His Highness the Aga Khan, the estate is underway to its former glory. WMF President Bonnie Burnham noted that the work being carried out at Chantilly and two other cultural materpieces in France would inspire future generations.
THE RESTORATION OF GRANDE SINGERIE, “MONKEY ROOM”
Commissioned in 1737 by the Duc de Bourbon, Louis XV’s prime minister, the Grande Singerie (“monkey room”) in the Château de Chantilly, about 25 miles northeast of Paris, is a rare survival of chinoiserie, fashionable throughout Europe in the 18th century. The walls of the room are adorned with whimsical paintings of costumed monkeys imitating humans, painted by Christophe Huet (1700-1759), a student of Claude Gillot. One of the few rooms by Huet that survives intact, the salon originally housed the prince’s porcelain and other East Asian objects.
The walls of the Grand Singerie are lined with painted wooden panels featuring whimsical depictions of costumed monkeys imitating humans. For decades, the room was in disrepair, deteriorating due to water infiltration. WMF’s restoration cleaned and consolidated the painted and gilded boiseries and ceiling. The revived “Monkey Room” is now open to the public, part of a major refurbishment of the former royal estate. The restoration of the Grande Singerie was led in partnership by WMF and His Highness the Aga Khan.
THE JOINT PARTNERSHIP
The Grande Singerie [Great Monkey Room], centrepiece of the grand apartment of the Princes of Condé and the chateau’s finest decorative ensemble, was restored in 2007 through the joint action of the World Monuments Fund and the Fondation pour la sauvegarde et le développement du domaine de Chantilly [Foundation for the Protection and Development of the Chantilly Estate], founded on the initiative of your brother [Prince Karim Aga Khan] - Excerpt from a speech by the French Minister for Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand, addressing Prince Amyn Aga Khan, November 9, 2010.
TRIBUTE TO HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN
“You have saved a jewel of French culture”
As a great advocate of culture, fascinated by places that embody a strong cultural identity, you have saved a jewel of French culture, of which the Princess of Cleves said, “of all the places under the sun, there is not one to match it”. I refer, of course, to Chantilly. Like Le Nôtre embarking on a twenty-year plan to create gardens worthy of the estate, you too decided to support an immense twenty-year project for the entire site through your foundation…. – Excerpt from a speech by the French Minister for Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand, addressing His Highness the Aga Khan, November 9, 2010.
APPRECIATION FOR THE WORK OF THE WORLD MONUMENTS FUND
I must not forget your [Prince Amyn Aga Khan's] function as administrator in an institution dear to my own heart: the World Monuments Fund (WMF), the world’s leading private international organisation devoted to the preservation of historic monuments and sites on all five continents. Since its foundation in 1965, the WMF has brought public and private partners together in joint projects that have permitted the restoration of an unprecedented number of historic buildings in over 80 countries… – Excerpt from a speech by French Minister for Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand, addressing Prince Amyn Aga Khan, November 9, 2010.
appreciation TO HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN
“Thanks to you, it will regain its former glory”
…The estate of Chantilly, its history, salons and collections, are greatly indebted to you. Thanks to you, it will regain its former glory, through the restoration of both the chateau and the collections, the renovation of the grounds and the implementation of a comprehensive improvement plan. The ambition of the great French princes has now been taken up by Your Highness; you have become the architect of a spectacular renaissance, which you mention with great modesty…. – Excerpt from a speech by French Minister for Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand, to His Highness the Aga Khan, November 9, 2010.
Commenting on his gift, His Highness the Aga Khan told Libération that he hoped his small gift would be seen as “a special gesture in favour of the population in whose midst I have lived for several years”.
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Date posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Photos are Copyright as follows:
Photos of the restoration work at Chateau Chantilly: The World Monuments Fund, www.wmf.org
Photos of His Highness the Aga Khan at Chantilly in June 2012: Philippe Petit/Paris Match via Getty Images.
Photos of His Highness the Aga Khan and Prince Amyn at the French Ministry of Culture in 2010: www.akdn.org
NOTE: The photos of the restoration work at Chantilly and His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit to Chantilly are published on this blog under licencing agreements with the World Monuments Fund (WMF) and Getty Images respectively. Reproduction and distribution in any manner without the written consent from the WMF and Getty Images is strictly prohibited.
The text for this piece was compiled by Malik Merchant, with assistance from Navyn Naran, from numerous sources including:
The World Monuments Fund Website http://www.wmf.org/
The Guardian, UK
The Daily Telegraph, UK
The New York Times, USA
The Aga Khan Development Network, www.akdn.org
Visit the Home Page for a summary and links to all the photo essays on this blog.
Navyn Naran and Malik Merchant profiles at Contributors.
World Monuments Fund in Action
FROM AFGHANISTAN TO ZIMBABWE
MISSION: World Monuments Fund is the leading independent organization devoted to saving the world’s most treasured places. For over 40 years, working in more than 90 countries, our highly skilled experts have applied proven and effective techniques to preserve important architectural and cultural heritage sites around the globe. Through partnerships with local communities, funders, and governments, inspire an enduring commitment to stewardship for future generations. Headquartered in New York, WMF has offices and affiliates worldwide, including WMF Europe, led by Bertrand du Vignaud and based in Paris.
Selected WMF Projects Worldwide (link to full list at bottom)
1. AFGHANISTAN: Conserving one of Central Asia’s earliest mosques; http://www.wmf.org/project/haji-piyada-mosque-noh-gumbad
2. AUSTRIA: Church of Immaculate Lady; http://www.wmf.org/project/church-our-immaculate-lady
3. BOSNIA: Mostar Historic Center: http://www.wmf.org/project/mostar-historic-center
4. CAMEROON: Bafut Palace: http://www.wmf.org/project/bafut-palace
5. CANADA: St’ John’s Anglican Church; http://www.wmf.org/project/st-johns-anglican-church
6. EGYPT; Rehabilitating an historic monument in Darb Al-Ahmar: http://www.wmf.org/project/tarabay-al-sharify
7. GHANA: Larabanga Mosque; http://www.wmf.org/project/larabanga-mosque
8. INDIA: Delhi Heritage Route; http://www.wmf.org/project/delhi-heritage-route
9. INDIA: Taj Mahal; http://www.wmf.org/project/taj-mahal
10. JORDAN: Petra Archaeological Site; http://www.wmf.org/project/petra-archaeological-site
11. MEXICO: Modern Mural Paintings; http://www.wmf.org/project/modern-mural-paintings
12. NIGER:The Extraordinary Giraffe Rock Art Site; http://www.wmf.org/project/giraffe-rock-art-site
13. PAKISTAN: Petroglyphs in the Diamer-Basha Dam Area; http://www.wmf.org/project/petroglyphs-diamer-basha-dam-area
14. PORTUGAL: Tower of Belem; http://www.wmf.org/project/tower-bel%C3%A9m
15. SPAIN: Al Hambra; http://www.wmf.org/project/alhambra
16. SYRIA: The Citadel of Aleppo; http://www.wmf.org/project/citadel-aleppo
17. TANZANIA: Historic Sites of Kilwa; http://www.wmf.org/project/historic-sites-kilwa
18. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Mesa Verde National Park; http://www.wmf.org/project/mesa-verde-national-park
19. ZIMBABWE: Khami National Monument; http://www.wmf.org/project/khami-national-monument
FULL PROJECT LIST (By Countries): http://www.wmf.org/our-projects/full-project-list
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