samedi 11 décembre 2010

Tours 2

Aujourd’hui ma famille de Blois va sans doute nous rendre visite. L’après-midi nous irons peut-être nous promener. Cet été je suis allée à Blois (ici) et il m’en reste quelques images. Henry James a visité le château, John Evelyn aussi, mais ce dernier est aussi allé chasser le loup dans les bois environnants. Tous les deux ont des opinions différentes sur l’aile Gaston d’Orléans. John Evelyn l’a vue en construction, lui.
The Chateau de Blois is one of the most beautiful and elaborate of all the old royal residences of this part of France. As you cross its threshold, you step straight into the brilliant movement of the French Renaissance. Gaston's wing, taken by itself, has much of the bel air which was to belong to the architecture of Louis XIV; but, taken in contrast to its flowering, laughing, living neighbor, it marks the difference between inspiration and calculation.Delightful, at any rate, was the refreshed facade of Louis XII as I stood and looked at it one bright September morning. In that soft, clear, merry light of Touraine, everything shows, everything speaks. Charming are the taste, the happy proportions, the color of this beautiful front, to which the new feeling for a purely domestic architecture - an architecture of security and tranquillity, in which art could indulge itself - gave an air of youth and gladness.Pass beneath it into the court, and the sixteenth century closes round you. It is a pardonable flight of fancy to say that the expressive faces of an age in which human passions lay very near the surface seem to look out at you from the windows, from the balconies, from the thick foliage of the sculpture. The portion of the wing of Louis XII that looks toward the court is supported on a deep arcade. On your right is the wing erected by Francis I, the reverse of the mass of building which you see on approaching the castle. This exquisite, this extravagant, this transcendent piece of architecture is the most joyous utterance of the French Renaissance. It is covered with an embroidery of sculpture, in which every detail is worthy of the hand of a goldsmith. In the middle of it, or rather a little to the left, rises the famous winding staircase. It forms a kind of chiseled cylinder, with wide interstices, so that the stairs are open to the air. Every inch of this structure, of its balconies, its pillars, its great central columns, is wrought over with lovely images, strange and ingenious devices, prime among which is the great heraldic salamander of Francis I. The salamander is everywhere at Blois, - over the chimneys, over the doors, on the walls. The running cornice along the top of the front is like all unfolded, an elongated, bracelet. The windows of the attic are like shrines for saints. The gargoyles, the medallions, the statuettes, the festoons, are like the elaboration of some precious cabinet rather than the details of a building exposed to the weather and to the ages. The front of Louis XII is of red brick, crossed here and there with purple; and the purple slate of the high roof, relieved with chimneys beautifully treated, and with the embroidered caps of pinnacles and arches, with the porcupine of Louis, the ermine and the festooned rope which formed the devices of Anne of Brittany, - the tone of this rich-looking roof carries out the mild glow of the wall. The wide, fair windows look as if they had expanded to let in the rosy dawn of the Renaissance.The low door of this front is crowned by a high, deep niche, in which, under a splendid canopy, stiffly astride of a stiffly draped charger, sits in profile an image of the good King Louis. Good as he had been, - the father of his people, as he was called (I believe he remitted various taxes), - he was not good enough to pass muster at the Revolution; and the effigy I have just described is no more than a reproduction of the primitive statue demolished at that period. Every spot connected with the murder of the Duke of Guise is pointed out by a small, shrill boy, who takes you from room to room, and who has learned his lesson in perfection. The place is full of Catherine de Medici, of Henry III, of memories, of ghosts, of echoes, of possible evocations and revivals. It is covered with crimson and gold. The fireplaces and the ceilings are magnificent; they look like expensive "sets" at the grand opera.
A Little tour in France de Henry James (1900)
Henry James me donne envie de retourner visiter le château ! Mais cette fois-ci c’est les Blois qui viennent à Tours... et pas le contraire. Dans le dernier film de Bertrand Tavernier, La Princesse de Montpensier, la caméra prend bien soin de ne filmer que les ailes que Henri III a pu connaître pour éviter les anachronismes. We arrived at Blois, in the evening. The town is hilly, uneven, and rugged, standing on the side of the Loire, having suburbs joined by a stately stone bridge. At the entrance of the castle is a stone statue of Louis XII on horseback, as large as life. Under this is a very wide pair of gates, nailed full of wolves and wild-boars' heads. Behind the castle the present Duke Gaston had begun a fair building, through which we walked into a large garden, esteemed for its furniture one of the fairest, especially for simples and exotic plants, in which he takes extraordinary delight.
On Sunday, being May-day, we walked up into Pall Mall, very long, and so noble shaded with tall trees (being in the midst of a great wood), that unless that of Tours, I had not seen a statelier. From hence, we proceeded with a friend of mine through the adjoining forest, to see if we could meet any wolves, which are here in such numbers that they often come and take children out of the very streets; yet will not the Duke, who is sovereign here, permits them to be destroyed. We walked five or six miles outright; but met with none; yet a gentleman, who was resting himself under a tree, with his horse grazing by him, told us that, half an hour before, two wolves had set upon his horse, and had in probability devoured him, but for a dog which lay by him.
Journal de John Evelyn, 1644

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