It’s been a while since you last heard from the Château de Fontainebleau, and I’d like to fill you in on the most exciting developments you’ve helped make possible in recent months. As you know, the Château de Fontainebleau is a decidedly artistic place. Since the time of Francis I, the Château has hosted artists of every genre – from sculptors, painters, and architects to musicians, dancers, and more. And as this summer of spectacular arts has shown, Fontainebleau’s artistic tradition remains vibrant and diverse.
RE-OPENING OF THE IMPERIAL THEATRE
The crowning moment of this season at Fontainebleau was the complete re-opening of the Imperial Theatre in late June. After 12 years of preliminary studies and restoration works, this architectural masterpiece from the Second Empire is finally ready to reveal its glittering auditorium, lush rooms, and original stage sets to the public. The Theatre’s restoration was made possible through the generous sponsorship of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Fontainebleau’s Imperial Theatre is the last example of an authentic court theatre in France. Designed for Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, its unique style combines Marie Antoinette-inspired pomp with a new sense of comfort that gained popularity in the mid-19th century. During guided and dramatized tours, you can discover the performing and decorative arts of the Second Empire in a breathtaking place.
An annual highlight, the Festival de l’histoire de l’artthis year celebrated its ninth edition under the theme of “People”, with the Nordic countries attending as guests of honor. The Festival brings together specialists and non-specialists in an inclusive and intergenerational dialogue on art history and cultural studies. It takes place in the Château, its gardens, and various sites around the city of Fontainebleau.
The Festival is an occasion for the Château to open up unique spaces rarely seen by the public. This year, festival-goers had a chance to explore the graffiti of the castle’s lofts, get acquainted with distinctive rooms like Napoleon III’s study or the Stag Gallery, and enjoy a special exhibition of art by young students in the Second-Empire style Fumoir Carnot. All of the visits, events, and exhibitions were entirely free during the weekend, allowing for wide participation.
We look forward to welcoming you in June 2020 for the Festival’s next edition, an ode to Japan and pleasure!
The performing arts also have a permanent home at Fontainebleau. Since 1921, the Château has welcomed annually the faculty and students of the Fontainebleau Schools – two institutions from the United States rich in history, where the French tradition of excellence in musical and architectural training is carried on. The Château and the Fondation des Écoles d’Art Américaines created a music festival where this impressive artistic talent could be shared with the public. The extremely rich program of this second edition features concerts, master classes, conferences, workshops, competitions, and auditions. See how the beauty of the palace and the arts of the Fontainebleau Schools marry in this teaser video.
A jazzier side of Fontainebleau was heard during the Festival Django Reinhardt, which since 2017 has been staged near the domain’s Grand Canal. Casual listeners and enthusiasts experienced the leisure of Fontainebleau to the sounds of gypsy jazz and more contemporary styles. We might be biased, but one would be hard-pressed to find a better setting for musical inspiration!
Did you know? The French Revolution and the Château de Fontainebleau
On 14 July, France celebrates la Fête nationale – the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison on that day in 1789 and a critical moment in the French Revolution. The Revolution had an immediate effect on the Fontainebleau palace: though it was left standing, a substantial part of its furnishings were sold off, and symbols of the monarchy were destroyed. In the following years, the new government began to integrate the Château into the city of Fontainebleau, using the buildings as a prison, barracks, a grain warehouse, and eventually a “central school” for the department. The royal palace was thus transformed into a “republican palace”.
Still, the most important holiday at Fontainebleau today is the feast day of Saint Louis (25 August). As Louis’s majestic fireworks display suggests, Fontainebleau is still profoundly attached to its royal heritage!
HORSESHOE STAIRCASE: RESTORATION WORKS BEGIN
Thanks to the generosity of Fontainebleau’s friends and the success of the #ungestehistorique / #ahistoricalstep campaign, the restoration of the horseshoe staircase is officially underway! This landmark project will restore the beauty of one of the Château’s most iconic elements, designed by architect Du Cerceau for Louis XIII in 1632. The structure is made of several types of stone, including incredibly susceptible sandstone that is prone to algae growth and has blackened over time.
In June, Kärcher, manufacturer of high-pressure cleaners and patron of the restoration project, performed several cleaning tests on the staircase’s surfaces. This will help them select the most effective cleaning techniques for the materials present at Fontainebleau. It also gives us a preview of the beautiful results we can expect. Over the next two years, the staircase will be restored along with its upper terrace and sculpted ornamentation. Thank you for your overwhelming support during the fundraising campaign. We hope you will share in the feeling of accomplishment as we witness the next stages of the restoration!
We’d like to commend the 498 students who completed their MBAs at INSEAD and graduated on 5 July! We congratulate you for this achievement and wish you all the best for the future.
INSEAD is of the world’s leading graduate business schools, with a reputation for producing top-tier students. The Château de Fontainebleau and INSEAD have a special relationship – the school was founded at the Château in 1957 and for several years used the palace for its classrooms. Today, the two institutions enjoy a strong partnership with a commitment to education and international dialogue.
Following a busy summer season, the Château de Fontainebleau is looking forward to the exciting projects the future holds. Staging projects like these would be impossible without friends like you, and on behalf of the Château de Fontainebleau, I’d like to let you know how much we value our relationship. Thank you for your fidelity and support of one of Europe’s most prized and authentic heritage sites.
Giving is a personal act, and we want you to be as enthusiastic as we are about what your gift will accomplish. That’s why I’d like to present our major fundraising projects for the coming months. These four projects exemplify Fontainebleau’s royal and imperial history and the many layers of art and architecture it has inspired.
Minerva beautifies Ulysses
Bring back a missing piece of Fontainebleau!
This painting is:
A rare image of the palace’s magnificent, long-lost Ulysses Gallery
A window into the polished art of the 16th century French court
Autumn 2020: Fontainebleau will welcome an unprecedented display of Renaissance masterpieces created for the festivities of the Valois court. The support of the Château’s friends will be crucial for transporting artwork from across the continent!
Your generous support allows the Château de Fontainebleau to fulfill its mission of safeguarding centuries of cultural heritage and welcoming the broadest public possible to the domain. I hope you will find inspiration in our current projects, and I will be happy to provide you with more information about any of our projects.
Thank you for being a friend of the Château de Fontainebleau and for making a difference.
Eric Grebille Head of Sponsorship Château de Fontainebleau
P.S. Did you know there’s a painless way to make a long-lasting contribution to the Château de Fontainebleau? By leaving a gift to the Château in your will, you can ensure that future generations experience the magic of Fontainebleau. I’m available to discuss all of your giving options.