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.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Art 'ancient and modern' at the château de Oiron - 34 km from Richelieu

le château de Oiron
Painted Gallery 1
To the west of Richelieu, past Loudun (see the map of locations on the right hand side), is to be found the château of Oiron.  These pictures show the long gallery that is located on the eastern wing of the château on the first floor.  It has original painted decorations on the walls depicting classical legends, and a florid floor of glazed coloured tiles. It is really very spectacular.  On a summer afternoon, the sun streams in and lights up the internal window shutters.  This sort of long gallery was a common feature of grand noble houses of the 16th and 17th centuries - there was one in the now disappeared château de Richelieu.

Painted Gallery 2
Painted Gallery 3

the profiles of the citizens of  Oiron & their place settings
As the castle now does not have any inhabitants, it has been used for a large display of modern art.  One of the installations, by Raoul Marek,  is a set of Sèvres porcelain that show the facial profiles of the inhabitants of the town when this particular installation was constructed.  These plates are mounted on the wall of one of the rooms ready to be used for an annual dinner that re-assembles the townsfolk in a repeating art event.
When's the annual supper, then?
The 30th of June each year.

"Look! It's me!"

Friday 13 September 2013

Meanwhile, smaller houses are being refurbished...

an early 19th century façade renovated
While big scale renovations are carried forward - la Halle or carriage-door painting by Terres et Coleurs for example - more modest projects transform previously sad and neglected façades.  While Richelieu still has many 17th century façades, some have been replaced by 18th and 19th century 'improvements'.  These elevations often have great charm too, and they complement the rather more formal and sober elevations of the original houses.  This particular house has very precise masonry detailing and has blossomed with the restoration efforts a proud owner and her locally-based stone masons.

Crisp newly-restored masonry after years of crumbling in the frost...

Next door, an older 17th century façade restored too.
A pretty colour palette!

"Painting the town red"

16 Grande Rue gets the treatment
On the Saturday, 7 September 2013, a large number of volunteers descended on the cité ideale of Richelieu to 'bring the good news' of ochre-based paints to the scruffy old buildings and their grand doorways.  The 'Association' of Terres et Couleurs was formed in 1995 by the manufacturers of ochre-based architectural paints, who seek to re-introduce these ancient products that have, until recently, been eclipsed by 'modern' paint technology.  While these 'modern' paints may have many merits for new construction, the qualities of these older earths-based paints have come to be overlooked.  In the same way, the merits of several lime-based building products had been smothered in the race to newer, cheaper, high-technology methods of building.  

So a group of architects, historians, building experts, and painters and manufacturers have come together to encourage the revival and use of these products.  In the UK, SPAB, the society formed by William Morris a hundred and fifty years ago, encourages the revival of 'ancient' construction practice, particularly that of lime-based mortars, in the very country where 'Portland' cement was invented.  Damp, non-porosity, mould, garish 'modern' chemical colours have all come to be seen as the problems of these newer construction methods.  This is of importance in protected historic towns such as Richelieu, whose buildings were all constructed 400 years ago.

The association's volunteers arrive in a new location (Richelieu is the 20th town chosen) for a day-long team effort to clean-off and re-paint doors and other chosen timber architectural features.  In this way the viability of the paints is demonstrated, while the old fabric gets a good 'wash and brush up'.  The paint itself and the volunteers' labour are supplied for nothing, while the building owners must prepare the base woodwork for the process. According to their condition, many doors  in Richelieu were sand-blasted clean of the former grime and coatings before the day started.

All the doors on the Grande Rue (save one, for witness of the former condition!) were painted in the same 'bull's blood' colour, while the town's ancient gates were coated in a 'yellow ochre' colour.

The project had the support of the Townhall - their own doors were repainted too! - and commanded the intellectual and historic support of Bâtiments de France.  That 'bull's blood' - a high ferrous oxide pigment colour - was indeed  an appropriate tint is shown by its widespead use at the Château de Thouars (also by Jacques Lemercier), and by some existing buildings in the domainal park of the cardinal-duc.

the brochure title page of terres et coleurs

16 Grande Rue after

Tuesday 10 September 2013

An evening sky over la halle

a dramatic cloudscape - over the restored Halle building
August turns to September 2013
vive la symmétrie!