20 June 2009

A painting in Blois

Yesterday afternoon after lunch, we drove up to Blois to see the château there. CHM, who is visiting from Paris (but who lives in the U.S. most of the time) learned from a cousin earlier this year that a painting depicting Joan of Arc at Blois in 1429 — and painted by CHM's grandfather in 1901 — hangs in the chapel at the château.

An archtectural detail at the Blois castle

Blois is an old royal town that played a central role in French history for many centuries. The most powerful counts of Blois, in the Middle Ages, were grandchildren and great-grandchildren of William the Bastard — a.k.a William the Conqueror, after he defeated the English in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. At least one, Etienne (King Stephen in English), became king of England in 1135.

The Louis XII wing at the château de Blois

King Louis XII of France was born in Blois in 1462. He had a "new" wing built onto the château there — the earliest existing sections and buildings at the château date back to the 1100s. Then François 1er, the mastermind behind the nearby Château de Chambord, took up residence in Blois in the early 1500s and had another major wing constructed, in Italianate style. Finally, in the 1600s, a third big wing was built, in French Classical style.

François 1er's wing includes this famous staircase
dating back to the 1500s

So it's a long history. CHM's grandfather, who was a painter in Paris in the 1800s, finished the painting of Joan of Arc at Blois just a few years before he passed away. The family donated the painting to the city of Blois, and now it hangs in the chapel on the grounds of the château. That's what we went to see yesterday. It had been 53 years since CHM last laid eyes on his grandfather's painting.

Above: CHM's grandfather's painting on a wall in the chapel at Blois

Below: my photo of the painting modified to correct the perspective

Blois is only 25 miles north of Saint-Aignan. It takes 40 minutes or so to drive up there. While we were in the château, a big group of Americans came in. They were probably on a bus tour. It was interesting to listen to their English, which was definitely Southern.

The St-Nicolas church (ca. 1200) and the Loire River at Blois

As we were leaving the château, a 60-year-old American — obviously American because dressed in bermuda shorts — arrived at the door just as we did. CHM stepped back and let the man go through first. "Age before beauty," CHM said as he passed. The man looked surprised and then laughed at the joke. I don't think he expected to be spoken to in English.


  1. CHM's grandfather's painting is exquisite. There are so much history in it, plus the artwork is so detailed.

    The man for whom the door was held might be surprised that he is mentioned in your blog today.

    Your wanderings are fun to read about. Thanks.

  2. If it had been me, I would have replied (as an American once did, I believe) "Pearls before swine"....

  3. I echo Evelyn's comment :) I am in AWE of CHM's grandfather... where can we see other paintings of his? May we know his name? The painting is, in my eyes, reminiscent un peu of the Pre-Raphaelite style? or maybe we'd say the Victorian Classical period? Wow, it's really, really wonderful! I must see this in person! Thanks to you and CHM for sharing this with us! J'adore ce blog :)

    Regarding the famous staircase in François Ier's wing of Blois, is it largely a duplicate of the Chambord escalier, just modified to fit the setting of Blois?


  4. p.s. I'm curious: What size is the painting?
    Also, I loved the Blois sculpture that you showed. In which wing is that found?

  5. Gorgeous pictures Ken, as usual.
    CHM's grandpa was very talented.

  6. I am the anonymous one (again). Sorry!

  7. My grandfather would be pleased.

    Autolycus, would that be "Margaritas ante porcos"?

    My name is the same as my grandfather's, and vice versa.

    That painting is about ten feet by six feet.

  8. A magnificent painting, CHM! Please don't wait 53 years before visiting it again.


  9. Judy, the documents we have say that the François 1er wing at Blois was built between 1515 and 1520, and the construction at Chambord started in 1519. Alors the staircase at Chambord would be inspired by the one at Blois, if anything.

  10. Oh, and that sculpture of the man screaming is in the François 1er wing.

  11. Ken

    As usual, nice pics and very descriptive info on the château. I remembered getting a book on "les Châteaux de France" as a gift from Alliance Française when I was in elementary school and I used to go through all the pages to learn about them.
    The colours in the painting of CHM grand-papa are wonderful to look at. Thank you for showing it at different angles

    Je me demande si, vu que CHM est de descendance de la Franche Comté, il n'est pas "parenté" à Gustave Courbet par hasard :-)

  12. How I wish my grandfather had left me such a gift as CHM's grandfather! Wonderful photos... looking forward to hearing more about your adventures!

  13. I don't see a signature on the paining... was there one?

  14. Hi Cousine,
    My Franche-Comté ancestry is on my mother's side. I wish Courbet were a relative of mine. However, on the other side of the family, an uncle of mine, that same grandfather's son, was a very nice pastellist and in some ways might remind you of Courbet.

    Hi Cheryl,
    There's a signature, but it is very faint, because of the angle the photo was taken.

    Glad everybody enjoyed that painting.

  15. Loved the painting and the connection with CHM, and it was cool how you adjusted for the perspective.


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