Exhibition "The art of celebration at the Valois court

From 8 April to 4 July 2022

Fontainebleau will bring to life the sumptuous festivities held at the court of the Valois, from the reign of François I to that of Henri III. Around a hundred works from the greatest museums in Europe will help visitors understand the course of these festivities and capture all their splendour. 

In the 16th century, the Château de Fontainebleau was a major venue for festivals. Masquerades in the Cour Ovale, nautical shows on the Carp Pond, jousts and tournaments in the Cour du Cheval Blanc, banquets and performances in the château's park have left their mark on the memory. By nature ephemeral, once the festival is over, it leaves behind only a few remnants of paper, memories or the enthusiastic testimonies of those who were lucky enough to attend.

This exhibition, presented in the Salle de la Belle Cheminée designed by Primaticcio, will bring together some one hundred works produced to prepare for or evoke these celebrations. Paintings, tapestries, parade weapons, costume designs and commemorative booklets will provide a glimpse behind the scenes of the 16th century festivities. This exhibition will also show the central role played by Catherine de Medici in the establishment of a genuine diplomacy through entertainment. Leonardo da Vinci, Rosso Fiorentino, Primaticcio, Philibert Delorme, Antoine Caron, the greatest artists of the Renaissance were all involved in designing sets, programmes and costumes, from the most solemn to the most extravagant: this was the art of the party.

The castle has therefore solicited the contribution of the greatest institutions in Europe, such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the English Royal Collections and the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. As a tribute to Queen Catherine de Medici, a unique partnership with the city of Florence and its museum institutions, the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti, will allow three pieces of the famous "Valois Festival Hanging" to be shown for the first time in the castle, one of which is set in Fontainebleau. Finally, an exceptional collection of drawings, from Leonardo da Vinci to Primaticcio, will revive the abundant inventiveness that presided over the elaboration of
costumes and masquerade decorations. This exceptional ensemble, which will bring together for the first time works from museums all over Europe, will echo the decorations of the castle, a major artistic centre of the Renaissance.

The exhibition will invite visitors to discover the Ballroom from a new angle. The Cour Ovale, a privileged witness to the festivities over the reigns, will be exceptionally open for the occasion.