Thursday, June 19, 2008

Abounding Abundance

I apologize for the slow pace of my blogging lately. Excuses abound: the kids are home from school for the summer; the baby hardly ever naps anymore; I've been helping my eldest research colleges. The main reason, though, is that I've been caught up in research for my next book. I swear, I'm like a little kid at Christmas when books I've requested arrive through interlibrary loan. Of course I always request too many at once and then have to scramble to get through them all before the due date. You'd think I'd learn to pace myself and not request a new book until I've finished with the current one, but no. I have to have a pile eight books thick, all due within days of each other.

Right now I'm learning all I can about the construction of the fabulous Grande Galerie, now known as the Galerie François I, at the château of Fontainebleau. The Galerie--a long room decorated with frescoes, stuccoed ornaments, and woodwork--is considered the masterpiece of French mannerism. Begun about 1533 and completed by the end of 1539, the room features twelve large frescoes surrounded by exuberant stucco frames depicting putti, nymphs, garlands of fruit, grotesque masks, and emblems. The walls beneath the artwork and the ceiling are paneled with fine woodwork. Rosso Fiorentino, an Italian artist who came to work at the French court in the early 1530's after the sack of Rome, oversaw work on the Galerie. Teams of Italian, French, and Flemish artists specializing in the various media worked under his supervision; he headed the group of artists and humanist scholars who, aided by the king himself, designed and coordinated the iconographic content of the room as an expression of political ideology. The interplay between the frescoes, many of which depict obscure mythological stories, and the lavish stucco frames continues to intrigue cultural historians today. Intriguing for me is the fact that the gallery was part of the king's private chambers and accessible only by key and royal invitation. François would take honored guests on a tour, engaging them in learned discussion and impressing them with the room's secret splendor.

I'll have more to say about the Galerie in later posts, as it is the principal backdrop for my work-in-progress. For now, here are a few photographs to arouse your admiration and pique your curiosity: 

For anyone interested in pursuing the subject, Rebecca Zorach's Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold: Abundance and Excess in the French Renaissance (U Chicago P 2005), is a fascinating interpretation of the luxurious abundance of the Galerie and of French Renaissance art in general.


cindy said...

yes, the summer schedule (or lack there of) is hard. i'm trying to potty rain my three year old who needs to be in six weeks time for camp, and he is NOT interested like my girl was. ack!

yay on reading research!

lucy said...

Hey Julianne, Rebecca is a very dear friend of mine! She teaches art history here and she's one of the few who has read my whole novel ms. --- she's in my writing group, though usually we read more academic things! She'll be so happy that you like her book.

Julianne Douglas said...

Cindy--The summer non-schedule must be especially hard for you, now that you have so many book things to do! Luckily for us, we're almost done with the potty training, and it wasn't too difficult.

Lucy--You know, I wondered when I typed the reference whether Rebecca was on the faculty. How exciting that she's in your writing group. Does she ever write fiction? Do tell her I love her book and am finding so many wonderful things in it. And now I know where to go when I have any questions.... :)

Sheramy said...

I've never been to Fontainebleau -- your post makes me really want to go sometime. Beautiful.

You know what I like about researching a new project (of any sort) -- making a bibliography! It's one of the first things I do, start a bibliography of all the fabulous things I am going to find and read. It makes the project feel real to me. Yes indeedy, I heart bibliographies!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for your very interesting blog about Anne Boleyn.

I have been fond of books about her for long time.

The latest one I have read is sold on Amazon. The ebook is entitled "Anne Boleyn's Secret Love at the Court of Francis I". It is translated from French into English by Alice Warwick from a book written in the XIXth century.

In a few letters written by Anne Boleyn to her convent friend Anne Savage, you will learn about her early life as a maid of honour to Princess Mary Tudor then to Queen Claude. The portrait of young and witty Anne Boleyn is passionate.

I hope you will enjoy reading about her complete training in music and in the art of conversation at the sumptuous Court of King Francis I.