The topics of this blog are Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duke of Richelieu, and the IDEAL CITY built on his command next to his magnificent CHÂTEAU on the borders of Touraine, Anjou and Poitou, in France.

Friday 26 October 2007

François Girardon and the tomb of Richelieu in the Sorbonne Chapel.

François Girardon (March 17, 1628 - September 1, 1715) was a French sculptor.
He was born at Troyes. As a boy he had for master a joiner and wood-carver of his native town, named Baudesson, under whom he is said to have worked at the chateau of Liebault, where he attracted the notice of Chancellor Séguier. By the chancellor's influence Girardon was first removed to Paris and placed in the studio of François Anguier, and afterwards sent to Rome.
In 1652 he was back in France, and seems at once to have addressed himself with something like ignoble subserviency to the task of conciliating the court painter Charles Le Brun. Girardon is reported to have declared himself incapable of composing a group, whether with truth or from motives of policy it is impossible to say. This much is certain, that a very large proportion of his work was carried out from designs by Le Brun, and shows the merits and defects of Le Brun's manner--a great command of ceremonial pomp in presenting his subject, coupled with a large treatment of forms which if it were more expressive might be imposing.
The court which Girardon paid to the "premier peintre du roi" was rewarded. An immense quantity of work at Versailles was entrusted to him, and in recognition of the successful execution of four figures for the Bains d'Apollon, Le Brun induced the king to present his protege personally with a purse of 300 louis, as a distinguishing mark of royal favour. In 1650 Girardon was made member of the Académie française, in 1659 professor, in 1674 "adjoint au recteur," and finally in 1695 chancellor. Five years before (1690), on the death of Le Brun, he had also been appointed "inspecteur general des ouvrages de sculpture"--a place of power and profit.
In 1699 he completed the bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIV, erected by the town of Paris on the Place Louis le Grand. This statue was melted down during the Revolution, and is known to us only by a small bronze model (Louvre) finished by Girardon himself. His Tomb of Richelieu (church of the Sorbonne) was saved from destruction by Alexandre Lenoir, who received a bayonet thrust in protecting the head of the cardinal from mutilation. It is a capital example of Girardon's work, and the theatrical pomp of its style is typical of the funeral sculpture of the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV; but amongst other important specimens yet remaining may also be cited the Tomb of Louvois (St Eustache), that of Bignon, the king's librarian, executed in 1656 (St Nicolas du Chardonneret), and decorative sculptures in the Galerie d'Apollon and Chambre du roi in the Louvre.
Mention should not be omitted of the group, signed and dated 1699, "The Rape of Proserpine" at Versailles, which also contains the "Bull of Apollo." Although chiefly occupied at Paris Girardon never forgot his native Troyes, the museum of which town contains some of his best works, including the marble busts of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa. In the hôtel de ville is still shown a medallion of Louis XIV, and in the church of St Remy a bronze crucifix of some importance--both works by his hand. He died in Paris in 1715.

Thursday 25 October 2007

The NW corner tower of the town's walls

The town is surrounded by a girdle wall and moat. For each corner the King's architects, Jacques Lemercier and his brothers, designed a corner pavilion to act as symbolic guard towers to the New Town contained within. Today the most conspicuous pavilions are on the SW and NW corners, as they can be seen from the main road as it passes the town. While the SW pavilion is in good condition - it is now a house accessed from a street just within the walls - the NW pavilion is in a isolated, stranded location and in bad condition. It is isolated by being in the extreme NW corner of the part of the town that was originally the site of the Cardinal's nun's convent. This is also explains why the moat beyond the wall in this direction is open ground, rather than being infilled with garden encroachments from the houses constructed against the town's walls, as elsewhere on the perimeter. If the building's problem of access could be resolved, this corner pavilion that forms such a prominent part of the visitor's first impression of the town could easily be restored and put to use. It certainly is a pretty little building and completely original to the inception of the town in the 1630s.

Monday 8 October 2007

The Cellars and Orangery of the Cardinal's Château

Can any French architectural style surpass the measured masculine elegance of the time of the Mousquetaires? I THINK NOT. These photos of remaining parts of the Château of Cardinal Richelieu - especially the marvellous original carpentry - show that particular balance of Classical elegance, practicality and finessse that is so characteristic of the Louis XIII 'style', before the great Colbert of Louis XIV got all of Versailles' craftsmen progressively 'design co-ordinated' and effeminised.

Friday 5 October 2007

The genealogy of the eight Dukes of Richelieu 1629-1952.

The title of Duke of Richelieu, Peer of France, was created the 26 November 1629 for Armand-Jean du Plessis,  Cardinal of Richelieu by King Louis XIII of France.

The du Plessis family and thus the Cardinal of Richelieu’s coat of arms were :

A silver ground, with three chevrons of crimson.

Being an ecclesiastic and therefore a celibate, the Cardinal clearly could not transmit his titles to direct descendants, but got permission from the King that they should be passed to his elder grand-nephew, Armand Jean de Vignerot, grandson of his elder sister Francoise (1577-1615), who had married Rene de Vignerot, Lord of Pont-Courlay († 1625).
This young (then 3yrs) Armand Jean de Vignerot finally (at 18yrs) added to his name the family name of the Cardinal (du Plessis), adopted the Cardinal's coat of arms (silver with three chevrons of crimson “without the mixing of any others”), and accepted the title of Duke of Richelieu and Peer of France by letters patent from King Louis XIV in 1657.

Apart from direct successions, two other reversions of the ducal title took place; one in in 1822 and the other in 1879.
Armand Emmanuel of Plessis, 5th Duke of Richelieu, died in 1822 without heir, but had got permission that the title of Duke of Richelieu be passed to the son of his half-sister Simplicie and Antoine-Pierre de la Chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumihac, with reversion in descent to his younger brother in the case where he died without male heir, which did indeed occur in 1879. The title then passing to his nephew. The title became finally extinct in 1952.

First Duke
1629-1642: Armand Jean du Plessis (1585-1642), Cardinal, 1st Duke of Richelieu, principal Minister of State under Louis XIII.

Second Duke
1657-1715: Armand Jean de Vignerot du Plessis (1639-1715), 2nd Duke of Richelieu, grand-nephew of the precedent.

Third Duke
1715-1788: Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis (1696-1788), 3rd Duke of Richelieu, Marshall of France, son of the precedent.
A famous soldier, seducer and lothario. He is the inspiration for the Vicomte de Valmont in the 1782 epistolatory novel 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' by Laclos, and for Mr. Lovelace in the earlier 1748 novel 'Clarissa' by Richardson.

Fourth Duke
1788-1791: Louis Antoine Sophie de Vignerot of Plessis, Duke of Richelieu, son of the precedent.

Fifth Duke
1791-1822: Armand Emmanuel de Vignerot of Plessis (1766-1822), 5th Duke of Richelieu, president of the Council and minister of Foreign Affairs, then Prime Minister of France, son of the precedent.  
The Château is returned to the 5th Duke and the du Plessis family in 1805 in a damaged state after the Revolution. The 5th Duke had fled the guillotine to St. Petersburg, where he was delegated to found the new city of Odessa on the Black Sea for Catherine the Great, before returning finally to France to a major political career following the eventual defeat of Napoleon I.

Sixth Duke
1822-1879: Armand François Odet de la Chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumilhac (1804-1879), 6th Duke of Richelieu, great-nephew of the precedent.  
In 1832 the Château de Richelieu is demolished and sold off for building materials by a trader called Boutron, and the domaine falls into disrepair.

Seventh Duke
1879-1880: Marie Odet Richard Armand de la Chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumilhac (1847-1880), 7th Duke of Richelieu, nephew of the precedent. 
He is married to heiress Alice Heine of New Orleans USA.
Michael Heine, father of Alice, has restored what remained of the Château and Domaine for his now-enobled daughter and her short-lived first husband, the 7th Duke.  Later Alice marries into the royal family of Monaco and becomes the Princess of Monaco (preceding compatriot Grace Kelly in this rôle!).

Eigth Duke
1880-1952: Marie Odet Jean Armand de la chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumilhac (1875-1952), 8th and last Duke of Richelieu, son of the precedent.  Married Elinor Douglas Wise of Baltimore USA. No issue. In 1930 he donates the Château Park to the Universities of Paris and the  Sorbonne in memory of their foundation by the first Duke.

NB. : The name of Vignerot, original brother-in-law of Cardinal Richelieu, and of his
descendants, can also be spelt Vignerod.

Thursday 4 October 2007

Minister Sully's New Town at Henrichemont

Maximilien de Béthune, duke of Sully (December 13, 1560 – December 22, 1641) was the doughty soldier, French minister, staunch Protestant and faithful right-hand man who enabled Henry IV of France (father of Louis XIII) to accomplish so much.
In 1610 Sully created the Ideal Town of Henrichemont on his estates, named in honour of his king. The architect instructed was Salomon de Brosse. The estates were located in Berry, a hundred kilometres to the east of Richelieu, so the town's concept and design must have been precendental in the mind of the Cardinal in the aspiration to create his own idealised new town.
Today in Henrichement most of the original houses have been over-built in later styles, although one or two de Brosse houses remain, with their characteristic brick pilasters. The 'Union Jack' layout with a central main square dominates the town. The original town design was for a 'quincunx' plan with five squares on all, encircled with a wall with four entry gates with draw-bridges. This layout can be seen on the little concept plan. The four outer squares and the original external girdle wall have been largely over-built as well, although their 'shadows' remain in the town's street layout. The central square has recently been renovated and planted with plane trees, but unfortunately functions mainly as a generous traffic round-about. The fine square has largely been lost to cars and parking.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

The tabac on the Place du Marché

A panorama of the new place du Marché layout, photographed while sipping a one euro espresso outside the recently re-opened café/tabac.

Monday 1 October 2007

Fragments of the Cardinal's Château 're-used'

When Cardinal Richelieu's castle was demolished in the 1820s, the building fabric was sold on, as we would say now, to 'architectural salvage'.  Thus over a large area at the range of an ox-waggon from the Cité Idéale, fragments of the castle were incorporated into all sorts of buildings.  Cut stone-work would no doubt be found in many a farmhouse; a mantle from a fireplace in a country house; some fragments, for example a complete grand doorcase, are on show today in the town's museum. It is thought that these keystones, incorporated into one of the town's grander houses built at the time of demolition, were taken from the château.  
Le Magnifique Chasteau de Richelieu was encrusted with every sort of sculpture, a particular passion of the classically-obsessed Cardinal, and these re-used keystone blocks portray Classical or French heros of ancient times.