Salle de bal, Palace of Fontainebleau, Seine-et-Marne, France

The Domain of the Fontainebleau Palace is inscribed at the UNESCO Humanity World Heritage. The Château de Fontainebleau in both classical and Renaissance style, not only famous for witnessing Napoleon’s imperial adventure, but also a big part of French history. From the royal charter of 1137 to the fall of the Second Empire in 1870, the Palace of Fontainebleau saw the lives of the greatest French sovereigns from day to day.

Salle de bal is one of the largest in the castle. As with his castle of Fontainebleau, François I wanted his new residence in Saint-Germain-en-Laye to house a large ballroom. Louis XIV made it a “Salle des Comedies” where Lully and Molière played. The court was invited to extravagant masked balls: Francis I could be seen dressed as a centaur. During celebrations, the head table was set up on trestles near the large fireplace. Once the banquet was over, the tables were removed for dancing.

The ballroom, sometimes called the “Henri II gallery”, 30 m long and 10 m wide, has an area of more than 300 m2. Originally (under François I), it was a simple loggia (built under the direction of Gilles Le Breton) which opened onto the Oval courtyard and the gardens, and which must have been covered with a barrel vault, like the attest to the piles of arch support brackets. François I then Henri II decided to transform it into a large reception and ceremonial room to organize royal celebrations. The design of the room is entrusted to the architect Philibert Delorme. A carpentry contract was awarded on July 13, 1548 for the covering of the room.

It is, in a way, the hall for celebrations, banquets and receptions. Under Francis I, this space was a loggia, an Italian-style Renaissance balcony. It was his son, Henry II, who transformed it into a closed room, which is why it is the figures and emblems of the latter that we can guess today in the decor. It was also he who commissioned his architect Philibert Delorme to place a monumental fireplace at the end of the room, a fireplace in front of which the sovereign sat in order to keep warm. At the other end, a balcony was to accommodate the musicians during these festivities, in order to ensure good acoustics. We owe the entire iconographic program to Primaticce, an Italian artist who arrived at the court of Francis I in 1532: its implementation was ensured by Nicolo dell’Abbate who directed a workshop.

The paintings, the drawings of which were created by the Primaticce and executed as frescoes by Nicolò dell’Abbate and his team, decorating the ballroom, are mostly inspired by Greco-Roman mythology. On the fireplace wall: Diana hunting, Sébastien de Rabutin killing a wolf, Diana, Cerberus and Cupid, Hercules and the wild boar of Erymanthus, and Diana driving a chariot drawn by dragons. On the side walls: The feast of Bacchus, Apollo and the Muses at Parnassus, The Three Graces dancing before the gods, The wedding of Thetis and Peleus and the apple of Discord, Jupiter and Mercury at Philemon and Baucis, Phaethon begging Apollo for him let him drive his chariot, Vulcan forging the weapons requested by Venus for Love, The Harvest, and eight weapon trophies painted under the sculpted bases.

In the embrasures: The Ocean, Man with a child holding fruit, Cupids in the air, Woman holding an oar, Child and man crowned with vine leaves, Nymph, Jupiter, Two men holding a rudder, Mars, Two men, Juno, Pan, Two men, one of whom holds a torch, Pomona, Aesculapius, Abundance, Hercules, Caron, a man, and Cerberus, Sleeping man, Saturn and Mercury, Deianira holding the tunic of Nessus, Adonis, Two men leaning on their elbows, Loves in the air, Vigilance, Venus adorned with the weapons of Mars, Venus and Love, Narcissus, Ganymede kidnapped by Jupiter, wounded Amazon and woman holding an arrow, Mars, Amphitrite, Arion, Vulcan, Insurance, Neptune, Hebe, The Resolution, Janus, A spring and a woman, Bacchus, Cybele, Mars and Venus, Night or Truth, Cupid, Love, and a lamenting man, Saturn, Flora, Sleep, Man seated on a cathedra, Winter, Vulcan. On the back wall, above the stand: A Concert.

François I died in 1547 without seeing the new castle completed, the construction of which he launched in 1539. It was his son, Henri II, who brought the work to completion. He inaugurated the “Ballroom” desired by the late king on May 19, 1549, on the occasion of the great banquet given for the baptism of his second child, Louis. This vast room of more than 500 m2 is located in the west wing, on the 1st floor, between the keep and the chapel. Its ribbed vaults are decorated with fleur-de-lis. This room has undergone different uses over the centuries, which have modified its appearance. It was the subject of restoration work, in the 19th century and then in the 1980s, which restored its original character and its stone and brick walls. You can also admire its monumental fireplace, created in the 19th century, which is decorated with a stone motif depicting the salamander, emblem of Francis I.

The first major restoration campaign did not take place until 1834, when Jean Alaux repainted all of the frescoes, sometimes heavily, using the “Vivet” process. The joinery (ceiling and grandstand) was restored by the sculptor Lambert-Théophile Lefébure, and the carpenter Poncet. The paneling is also redone, as well as the marquetry of the parquet floor, which follows the pattern of the coffered ceiling decorated with gold and silver, directly inspired by the ceiling of the Basilica of Constantine in Rome, and executed from 1550 by Francesco Scibec de Carpi, which had been chosen by a market of February 19 and June 4, 1550 for the carpentry work: the floor, the platform (in February 1550), the ceiling (in June 1550), the gallery, and the paneling. New restorations were carried out in 1858, 1865, 1883-1885, and between 1963 and 1966, when an attempt was made to remove the work of Jean Alaux, and the bay of the grandstand was reopened.

The fireplace in the room designed by Philibert Delorme rests on two cast bronze atlanteans representing satyrs, casts of antiques preserved in the Capitole Museum, painted and gilded in 1556 by Guillaume Rondel. Melted during the Revolution, they were remade in Rome in 1966. During this time, they were replaced in 1805 by plaster columns by Percier and Fontaine. The fireplace is also decorated with the number “H” of Henry II mixed with the two intersecting “C” of Catherine de Medici, as well as representations of bows, arrows, quivers, fleurs-de-lis and the emblems of the order of Saint-Michel. The neo-renaissance chandeliers are the work of Soyer and Ingé, in 1837.

Passionate about theater, opera and ballet, Louis performance hall is considered the largest in the kingdom. The Sun King having lived mainly in Saint-Germain-en-Laye from 1660 until his departure for Versailles in 1682, it became a mecca for artistic creation during this period. More than 140 performances of all kinds are given there, including many “premieres”. Lully and Molière had their heyday there. In 1666, Louis XIV, an accomplished dancer, himself performed on stage in the Ballet des muses.

After the departure of the court for Versailles, the Salle des Comédies only occasionally hosted balls and shows. In 1809, Napoleon I founded an imperial cavalry school at the castle. The place where the verses of Racine or Corneille resonated resounded with the clanging of the sabers of the student officers, who crowded into what was now called the Mars Room. Subsequently, the castle became a military penitentiary under Louis-Philippe. It was Napoleon III who allowed the ballroom to regain its luster by deciding to create an archeology museum in Saint-Germain. It now houses the comparative archeology collections.

Château de Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is a lovely historic town 55.5 km south of Paris, France. It is renowned for its large and scenic forest that surrounds one almighty château, once a hunting lodge beloved of the kings of France. Built in the 12th century, this chateau is also a fabulous relic of French history, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Over nearly eight centuries, 34 emperors and two monarchs spent time in the estate, inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage list since 1981.

The Château de Fontainebleau enlarged in particular by François I, the residence of Fontainebleau is the only château that was lived in by every French monarch for more than eight centuries. With 1500 rooms, it is one of the biggest châteaux in France, and the most furnished in Europe. Testimony to the life of the official and initimate courts of the monarchs across the centuries, it embodies better than anywhere else the French ‘art de vivre’.

Surrounded by a vast park and neighboring the Fontainebleau forest, the castle is made up of elements of medieval, Renaissance, and classical styles. The overall effect is awe as successive monarchs added their own personal touches. Fontainebleau is an inspiring place, full of rich details. The most furnished chateau with the decor like Renaissance frescoes, precious porcelain, exceptional furniture through the Second Empire. A stroll in the sprawling gardens and along the canal designed by architect André Le Nôtre is a must.

It bears witness to the meeting between Italian art and French tradition expressed both in its architecture and in its interior decorations. This specificity is explained by the desire of François I to create in Fontainebleau a “new Rome ” in which Italian artists come to express their talent and influence French art. This is how the School of Fontainebleau was born, which represents the richest period of Renaissance art in France, and inspired French painting until the middle of the 17th century , and even beyond.

Famous for witnessing many of the emperor’s important turning points, “The true home of kings, the house of ages,” Napoleon once said about this vast castle built in the Classical and Renaissance styles. Napoleon had locked up the pope of the time there for a long time, Napoleon also signed his first declaration of abdication here Appreciate the double-horseshoe staircase in the main courtyard, the Cour d’Honneur, also known as the Farewell Courtyard, after Napoleon bade farewell there on 20 April 1814, before leaving for the Island of Elba.

Fontainebleau is not only famous for its part in Napoleon’s imperial adventures. Discover the Renaissance masterpieces commissioned by François I, the major projects of Henri IV, the refined decoration of Marie Antoinette, Napoleon I’s apartment, the splendour of Napoleon III and Eugenie, etc. Head toward the west wing, where you’ll find the Renaissance rooms and the Galerie de François Ier lavishly decorated by Rosso Florentino, a master of the School of Fontainebleau. Admire the dramatic chimney in the Guard Room, the original Saint-Saturnin Chapel, and Napoléon’s luxurious Throne Room.

Discover the Chinese Museum created by Empress Eugénie, and its precious antiques originating from China and Thailand. Explore rooms normally off-limits to the general public, like the luxurious theater created under Napoleon III in 1857, similar in its refined style to that of the Chateau de Versailles. There is also Marie-Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir, with its fabulous Oriental exuberance.

Situated in a park of 130 hectares, the château spreads its architecture around four main courtyards and is at the heart of three historic gardens including the largest parterre in Europe (11 hectares), the work of André Le Nôtre. Go boating on the Carp Pond, admire the Grand Parterre, also known as the French Garden, designed by Le Nôtre and Le Vau, or take a walk in the English Garden. The botanical and architectural imprint of each monarch promises a truly royal stroll in the park.

Rich in a first-rate architectural setting, the Château de Fontainebleau also has one of the most important collections of ancient furniture in France, and preserves an exceptional collection of paintings, sculptures, and art objects, dating from the 6th century in the nineteenth century . A favourite weekend getaway for Parisians, which gives a remarkable quality of air and life in the Paris region.

A little train and carriage rides are available for a fun jaunt around the grounds with the family, while initiations at hot air ballooning will soaring over the chateau and the Fontainebleau forest, one of the largest forests in the region. Take a break at the Café des Mariniers on the Cour de la Fontaine is well deserved. Appreciate a stop at the restaurant Les Petites Bouches de l’Empereur located in the heart of the château, in the wing known as the “belle Cheminée”, a stone’s throw from the Porte Dorée decorated by Primaticcio.