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Chantilly, The Gentlemen’s Castle – France

Chantilly offers a beautiful experience thanks to its art collection that embarks you on a journey through time. For more than a century the collection of Condé is an unknown treasure. 25 minutes away from Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, the small city of Chantilly holds the second biggest collection of ancient painting after the Louvre. The story of this collection is bound to the destiny of the Duke of Aumale. Henri D’Orléans duke of Aumale, son of the last king of France Louis Philippe I inherited the castle at the age of 8 and made him one of the biggest land owner.

After a career in the military, this aristocrat passionate about arts gathered the most important art collection in the world at the time. The castle that he loves for its location, beauty and history was destroyed during the French Revolution. Upon his return from exile the Duke undertook the renovation and rebuilding of the property to set up his personal collections. As you enter the castle you can see in the grand dining room’s ceiling engraved with the coats of arms from past families who inhabited this place, a tribute from the duke to his royal ancestors.

“The particularity of this collection remains in its diversity and its scenography” says Nicole Garnier, the museum’s conservative. Indeed as you walk into the different paintings galleries, you see the art works are put up on the walls without any chronology and they are set up frame to frame one on top to each other. This style of exhibiting is specific from the XIX century museography which has disappeared. As an example, you can contemplate the only auto portrait of Ingres next to a painting of Italian renaissance painter Botticelli.

The castle has also two libraries conserving more than 60 thousand volumes. The first one is the cabinet of the Duke where are on display original letters from Richelieu, the Cardinal of the time, or “les très riches heures du duc de Berry”, the best surviving example of the late Gothic phase which is considered as the most beautiful manuscript of the world. The other library located in the ground floor is only open to researchers.

The last but not least are the Great Apartments where you can see a typical XIXth century interior design style with its ” chinoiseries ” or its tapestries retracing France’s history.

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