Monkey business at Chantilly
I am referring to the Grande Singerie, the Great Monkey Room of the Chateau de Chantilly, one of the residences of the Bourbon-Condé family.
This room began with a white and gold rococo paneling, characteristic of the first half of 18th century. But in the 1730s the Duc de Bourbon decided to use this particular salon to display his collection of Chinese porcelain, which had become the height of fashion. He therefore commissioned the painter Christophe Huet to create a uniquely fanciful and exotic decor as a setting worthy of his treasures.
Huet worked on the existing panelling, and painted all the white surfaces with monkey motifs. The animals even invaded the doors and ceilings.
One can read many things in these images: allegories of the four seasons, of the five senses, of the favorite pastimes of the Duc de Bourbon, or more cryptic allusions. All we know for sure is that some scenes represent monkeys as servants, people as masters, and in other parts the roles are reversed.
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