At the end of 2015, I was contacted by the Château de Chenonceau. The curator, Laure Menier, wanted to propose a selection of Sajou articles in the museum store. Obviously, nothing could make me happier! In December 2015 I took a trip to the Château and was overwhelmed! I had distant childhood memories of this uncommon edifice spanning the Cher River, but it needed adult eyes to fully appreciate the splendour of the place. Everything is extremely beautiful and breathtakingly refined. Like any inhabited home, there is a welcoming smell of wax, flowers all over the place and it is full of furniture. And of course there is an exceptional collection of works of art. This pattern chart is the result of my visit and my interpretation of this magnificent Château which exists thanks to many women, another positive point, as far as I am concerned.
I use different coloured linen for each of the large projects in this collection. The slate colour seemed the most appropriate for this one. It is also an allusion to the beautiful Châteaux in the Loire Valley with their slate-covered roofs.
It was not simple to arrange the design of this project. Even though the Château is bursting with beautiful objects, I had to keep in mind that the base of this collection is textiles. I also had to keep in mind the history of the place and all those lovely ladies who made the construction and conservation of this Château possible. It would be impossible to explain all the history of Chenonceau in this space, but if you embark on this project, a visit is essential.
THE TITLE OF THE EMBROIDERY
The Château dates from the 15th century, so it needed a Renaissance-style typography.
I created the letters and dropped initial in the style of illuminated manuscripts of the era.
Chenonceau is so identifiable that I could not resist the pleasure of placing the silhouette. It reminds me of the print rooms displaying architectural drawings of different periods of the Château in the Estampes Exhibition Room on the first floor.
THE LADIES OF CHENONCEAU
TBK are the initials of Thomas Bohier and his wife, Katherine Briçonnet. This couple were the instigators of the construction of Chenonceau, on the base of a château belonging to the Marques family. The motto translates as “If I manage to build Chenonceau, I shall be remembered”. Katherine Briçonnet had a key role in the architectural choices whilst her husband was in Italy alongside François I. This coat of arms and motto are found on the entrance to the castle and the initials can be found in several rooms of the building.
Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566) was given Chenonceau by her lover, King Henri II, although the estate belonged to the Crown. She transformed the gardens in a spectacular manner and had the famous bridge built across the Cher River. Henri II met with an untimely death during a jousting tournament in 1559 and Diane was obliged to abandon the estate in favour of Catherine de Médicis. This embroidery portraying Diane de Poitiers was inspired by a paining where she is wearing a dress covered in embroidery and enriched with the pearls she was so fond of. These pearls are embroidered using our Caudry thread. You will also notice the crescent-shape on her headdress, a reminder of her coat of arms.
As the legitimate wife of Henri II, Catherine de Médicis (1519-1589) obliged Diane de Poitiers to give Chenonceau back to the Crown, giving her the Château de Chaumont in exchange. On the death of her husband, she became Regent and ruled the kingdom from the Green Study (evoked in the embroidery). She constructed a spectacular gallery on top of the bridge built by her rival, making Chenonceau unique in the world. Catherine de Médicis is interpreted here based on the portraits representing her in widow’s costume, the only compromise to frivolity being the lace collar and cuffs. As was fashionable at the time, she is wearing a conch-shaped veil with a tip covering her forehead.
Daughter-in-law of Catherine de Médicis and wife of King Henri III, Louise de Lorraine (1553-1601) passed the end of her days in Chenonceau. Her husband was assassinated in 1589 by a religious fanatic, Jacques Clément – this was at the time of the French Religious Wars, the signing of the Edict of Nantes would take place in 1598. Louise de Lorraine is seen here in mourning, dressed in white as was the custom of the Court. She draped the walls of the ground floor of the Château in black and decorated her bedroom with signs of her circumstances (see The Symbols). Her demise marls the end of royal presence at Chenonceau. Louise de Lorraine is represented here from a portrait by Francois Clouet and another, conserved in the Czartoryskich museum in Crakow. She is wearing a spectacular dress with a collar made of three or four rows of fine lace. Her veil is decorated with pearls, which are embroidered using the Caudry thread, as with the lace collar, decorated with the same pearls.
Although Louise Dupin (1706-1799) is not of royal blood, she is no less regal in her manner: grace, intelligence, refined tastes and open-mindedness, not to mention a breath-taking wardrobe. She brought back joy to Chenonceau, which her husband had bought from Louis Henri, Duke of Bourbon. Her festive salons were animated by the likes of Montesquieu and Buffon, among others. Her kindness of heart, along with the complicity of the priest of Chenonceau, enabled her to save the Château from the troubled times of the Revolution. She passed away at the age of 93 and is the great grandmother of Aurore Dupin, better known as George Sand. Louise Dupin is represented here from a portrait by Nattier, still conserved in Chenonceau. This artist is famous for his blues, so it is naturally a blue dress she is wearing for this portrait. Unfortunately, because of the size of this embroidery, it cannot be fully represented here.
The French flags topped with the words “Hopital Militaire” are the emblems of another memorable moment at Chenonceau. After the death of Louise Dupin, the estate passed to her nephews, and was later bought by Marguerite Pelouze, who came from a 19th century middle class industrial family. She spent a large part of her fortune on sumptuous restorations, wishing to restore the Château to the glory of the Diane de Poitiers era. Caught up in a political scandal by her brother, Marguerite Pelouze transferred the Château to the Credit Foncier (French national mortgage bank). It was bought in 1913 by Henri Menier, the head of a famous French chocolate company. Gaston Menier became the owner when his brother died, and decided to transform the two large galleries into a military hospital, paying out of his own pocket for the most modern equipment of the time. Over 2000 wounded were treated here, sometimes alleviating their boredom by fishing from their beds in the River Cher! The last patient left Chenonceau the 31st December 1918. To this day, the Château still belongs to the Menier family.
To read the second part : Château de Chenonceau embroidery - second part
Visit the Château de Chenonceau website where you can make a panoramic visit.