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Drawings from the school Fontainebleau

Primaticcio, Nicolò dell’Abate, Jean Cousin, Baptiste Pellerin: all the great names from the School of Fontainebleau, a result of the decorative projects commissioned by François I at the Château of Fontainebleau, are remarkably represented.

The history behind the development of this new aesthetic lies at the heart of a new exhibition that gives pride of place to folios, most of which have never been shown despite the fact that they are central in the art history of the French Renaissance.

In 1528, abandoning the banks of the Loire, François I decided to start a vast project to enhance his château in Fontainebleau. This former royal residence, nestling amidst a forest abounding with game, soon became the cultural capital of a prince and patron who was steeped in all things Italian.

Rosso Fiorentino, Primaticcio, Nicolò dell’Abate: several painters from the peninsula were called here to transform the site into a new Rome.

In the François I gallery, the Ulysses gallery and the Ballroom, they rolled out narrative programmes that were essentially antique, mythological or allegorical, with scientific references, influenced by those of Raphael in Rome and Giulio Romano in Mantua. They popularised a decorative formula that would become hugely successful: a mix of exuberant frescoes and stuccoes combining interwoven leather, garlands and other putti. The lines are serpentine and feminine nudity is preponderant.

The vocabulary of what would later be referred to as the “School of Fontainebleau” enjoyed wide acclaim. Thanks to drawings and engravings, it was adopted far beyond the confines of the château and influenced the arts over the long term, from sculpture to stained glass, and from silverware to armoury, via illuminations, furniture and royal effigies.

This exhibition, devoted to one of the major artistic movements in French art history, draws on a large number of drawings and some exceptional manuscripts. Some of these, which up to now had received little or no examination, are true rediscoveries. A study of them made it possible to specify or revise their attribution, to continue to better understand this extremely fertile artistic period and aesthetic that is both captivating and surprising.

These masterpieces were collected by Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale (1822-1897), who had a strong interest in the French Renaissance in general, and in the works of Fontainebleau in particular. He in fact stayed regularly at the Château de Fontainebleau in his youth and drew inspiration from it for the reconstruction of the Château de Chantilly. Not far from his home, the Duke also had regular opportunities to admire one of the rare frescoes by Primaticcio held in France, at Chaalis Abbey. For him as for us, the art of the School of Fontainebleau is the perfect embodiment of the French Renaissance.



Exhibition trailer:



Useful information

Venue: Château/Graphic Arts Room


Exhibition included in the 1-day ticket with no extra charge


Mathieu Deldicque, Heritage Curator at the Condé Museum.


Exhibition produced with the support of:

In partnership with:



Press Contacts:

Agnès Renoult Communication
01 87 44 25 25
National press :
Saba Agri
International press :
Marc Fernandes