Gallery of past work

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Catherine de Medici and black and white

I may not have posted much this summer but I have been busy stitching and holidaying - and holidays set me off working in a surprising way.

During a visit to France in early July, we visited the Chateau at Chenonceau in the Loire Valley region. This extraordinary building, surrounded almost completely by a moat, is in fact on the banks of the River Cher, a tributary of the Loire and has a unique history.


Known as the Chateau des Dames because of its association with a series of powerful women (often the wives of kings) from the 16th century onwards, it is a beautiful and surprisingly intimate chateau with an arched gallery which completely crosses the river.


In the mid 1500s, it was presided over by Catherine de Medici, wife of Henry II of France, and, in his life-time, by his mistress and favourite, Diane de Poitiers, both of whom made alterations and improvements to the original structure. They both also initated work on formal gardens on the banks of the river either side of the chateau.

It was these two features that caught my eye, particularly with Brunel Broderers' upcoming Bloom exhibition in mind, but I was especially amused by the fact that the mistress's garden was several times the size of that regarded as belonging to the wife! After the king's death Catherine de Medici didn't hesitate to bannish his mistress and regain control of the whole property.

I found the simple structure of Catherine's garden delightful. At the time of our visit, it was planted out with a very restricted colour palette. Black (or as near black as is possible) and white-flowered bedding plants were laid out along with acid or blue-green foliage between the permanent standard rose bushes. I found the height difference fascinating and the predominantly black and white colour scheme calming and original.


The colour palette was chosen to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Catherine de Medici's birth in 1519. She is known as the Black Queen, partly because of her habit of wearing black throughout her life after her husband's death but also, perhaps, referencing her (disputed) reputation as a harsh and manipulative queen.

Visiting this garden diverted me from my original thoughts for Bloom onto a much more rewarding and interesting path. I fortunately took many photographs. These have formed the basis of a small series of work exploring shape and the imagery of the height difference and the colour palette.

More will follow soon.

6 comments:

  1. nous allons à chaumont en septembre , expo jardins...biz

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    1. Je suis verte de jalousie! Amuse-toi bien...biz

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  2. What a beautiful Chateau and the garden sounds gorgeous. Was it busy in the Loire Valley? Here in the Dordogne, a popular tourist area, it has been a quiet summer with many French choosing to save their money and stay at home! xx

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    1. It was indeed lovely and the weather was great so we saw the gardens at their best and, although it was quite busy in the chateau itself, it wasn’t overrun by visitors. We love this area and will no doubt be back!

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    2. We really ought to make an effort to visit up that way. xx

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    3. You should indeed! Chenonceau is only one of so many chateaux to see.

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