Raphael, Poussin, Watteau, Ingres...

The Three Graces by Raphael (between 1504 and 1505)

Location: The Santuario

This painting is the smallest in Chantilly but also the most precious: inspired by an antique marble statue, it is one of the few profane works painted by Raphael (1483-1520). An X-ray of the painting revealed that its composition had been changed by the artist: originally, only one of the three women was holding a golden ball in her hand. This would be a depiction of the Judgement of Paris and the three Greek goddesses: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Subsequently, Raphael changed his mind and put an apple in each woman’s hand, making them Hesperidia, who conferred immortality to humans by giving them apples.

Simonetta Vespucci by Piero di Cosimo (c. 1480)

Location: The Rotunda

It is said that Simonetta Vespucci was one of the most beautiful women in Florence in the middle of the 15th century. She was a model for Botticelli. Although the portrait is an ode to beauty, it is also a posthumous tribute. Simonetta Vespucci died prematurely, aged twenty-three, from tuberculosis. In memory of the young woman, following her death, Giuliano de Medici, brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent, commissioned the painting from Piero di Cosimo (1462-1521). The symbolism depicting the snake evoking the eternal cycle of life and the dead trees on one side, and the live trees on the other, evokes the brief destiny of the model and the cycle of life.


The Massacre of the Innocents by Nicolas Poussin (c. 1628-1629)

Location: The Gallery of Painting

Commissioned from Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) as part of the decoration for Vincenzo Giustiniani’s palace in Rome, this painting is inspired by an episode of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. King Herod, informed by the Magi that the King of the Jews has just been born in Bethlehem, decides to have all boys aged two and under killed. Poussin minimizes the number of protagonists, which gives the work its dramatic strength. He also restricted his palette to three primary colours. Poussin structured its composition around two diagonals converging on the face of the screaming mother.

Esther Chosen by Ahasuerus, Botticelli and Lippi (c. 1475)

Location: The Santuario

This panel is a wonderful testament to the Italian Renaissance. In the 15th century, when young girls from good Florentine families got married they were given a “cassone” or marriage chest, in which they could keep their finery and jewels. The paintings on the sides of these chests were generally scenes relating to love and marriage. This panel depicts a story taken from the Bible : the story of Esther and Ahasuerus. Filippino Lippi (1457-1504) was a student of Botticelli in Florence, and here we see slender figures inspired by his master’s style. The painting is also a magnificent illustration of the rules of perspective.


The Madonna of the House of Orléans by Raphael (c. 1506-1507)

Location: The Santuario

Until the Revolution, this painting by Raphael (1483-1520) belonged to the Orléans’ collection, from which it takes its title. In 1791 Louis-Philippe-Joseph of Orléans sold his paintings and the painting was taken to England, where the Duke of Aumale bought it back in 1869 because of its family origins. This is a magnificent example of the devotional Virgins painted by Raphael in his youth. The jar of “tyriana” in the background is a remedy against bites inflicted by snakes, the symbol of evil. The tyriana and the apple symbolise Christ’s atonement for original sin.

The Madonna of Loreto by Raphael (1509)

Location: The Rotunda

Up to 1976, this painting was considered to be the copy of a lost original by Raphael (1483-1520). When it was restored, the number 133 was identified in a corner of the painting, corresponding to the number that featured on the original by Raphael in the Borghese collection in Rome. This small rectangle demonstrates how darkened the painting had become prior to its restoration. It also explains why the specialists initially did not recognise it as the work of the great Italian master of the Renaissance. This family scene depicting the Virgin holding a veil over her son is a pretext to evoke the tragic destiny of Jesus: the veil traditionally symbolises the shroud of Christ.

Portrait of François I, Jean Clouet (c.1515)

Location: The Clouet Room

One of the most famous portraits in the Clouet room, depicting François I, King of France from 1515 to 1547. François has just become king and won the battle of Marignan. The young monarch, who had an impressive build, is depicted here looking calm yet determined. Dressed in a simple ochre coloured doublet with slits, he is wearing neither a crown nor any royal insignia. This portrait is highly characteristic of Jean Clouet’s (1480-1541) style. The facial features are very realistic, in the Flemish style. The pose is hieratic and majestic, and the model is generally not looking at the spectator.

Self-Portrait at the Age of Twenty-Four, Ingres (1804)

Location: The Tribune

Ingres (1780-1867) started this self-portrait at the age of twenty-four, at the very start of his career. The panting was very different then to what it is today: the costume featured numerous details and the artist was depicted painting a portrait of his friend Gilibert. Poorly received by the critics in 1806, lngres left it aside, came back to it on several occasions and finished it when he was seventy-one years old. Ingres refined his portrait, removing superfluous details. The palette is reduced to a few warm tones that highlight the face contrasting with the white shirt. This composition is one of the finest portraits by the artist.


Portrait of Madame Duvaucey, Ingres (1807)

Location: The Tribune

Madame Duvaucey was the mistress of Baron Alquier, the French Ambassador in Rome. She was painted by Ingres in 1807, during a stay in Rome. This painting is nicknamed the “Mona Lisa” of Ingres (1780-1867). It is the first and one of the most beautiful female portraits by the artist, and is full of curves. Madame Duvaucey was penniless at the end of her life and brought the portrait back to Ingres, who bought it from her.

Gabrielle d'Estrées Bathing, late 16th century French school (1598-1599)

Location: The Gallery of Painting

The composition is taken from Clouet’s painting Diane de Poitiers bathing, but this is the mistress of King Henry IV with his sons, Cesar and Alexander, the latter in the arms of his nursemaid. The latter, who was nicknamed the “almost queen”, was the perfect embodiment of 16th century beauty, dressed in a simple transparent veil that reveals the outlines of her body, she stands out against the red background of a heavy theatrical curtain. The roses and pearls, attributes of Venus, associate the young woman with the goddess of Love and Beauty.


The Anxious Lover, Jean-Antoine Watteau (1715-1717)

Location: The Caroline Room

At the start of the 18th century, Watteau (1684-1721) created a new type of painting called “fête galante”. His works frequently depict characters from the commedia dell’arte. He stages these at social gatherings in parks at nightfall, with young men courting young women in a rather melancholy atmosphere. The roses held by the young woman would thus be symbolic of a love that has already been consummated.


The Oyster Lunch, Jean-François de Troy (1735)

Location: The Gallery of Painting

This painting by Jean-François de Troy (1679- 1752) was commissioned in 1735 by King Louis XV for the “Petits Appartements” in the Château de Versailles, known as the “after the hunt” rooms, hence the absence of women. This is where he invited his friends to lunch after fox hunting. The gentlemen are eating oysters, which were very fashionable in the 18th century, on solid silver tableware, and drinking champagne. The servants and guests have their eyes on the cork, which is visible in the middle of the left column.


Woodland Music Makers, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1844-1857)

Location: The Gallery of Painting

On the banks of a pond, a woman is playing the cello. One of her companions is singing beside her while the other is lying on the grass listening to them. The faces of these young women are barely outlined, as if it were the music itself that the painter wished to depict. This painting is one of the last acquired by the Duke of Aumale, who said he liked paintings to tell him a story.