Domaine de Chantilly, France, with Mystery of Fra Angelico Renaissance Masterpiece

Mary Skinner
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Fra Angelico, ‘Saint Romuald forbidden to enter the convent of Camaldules of the Emperor Otton III, charged with adultery’ Collection, The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium

The Domaine de Chantilly in France is honoring the prized collections of the Condé Museum with a special exhibition of 14th and 15th century Italian paintings. The exhibit, Fra Angelico, Botticelli…Rediscovered Masterpieces will be on view from September 8, 2014 to January 4, 2015. One of the highlights of the exhibition is the reunion of five of the six paintings that comprise the Fra Angelico Thebaïde (‘solitary retreat’).

But, one is still missing… xxxxxx


Art Gallery, Domaine de Chantilly

Twenty miles north of Paris, the Domaine de Chantilly houses the Condé Museum with a painting collection that makes it second only to the world famous Louvre Museum for ancient paintings (prior to 1850). Along with a significant art collection, the chateau features magnificent gardens, grand stables and a world-class hippodrome (horse race course).

The Domaine was given to the Institut de France by its last occupant, the Duke d’Aumale, son of the French King Louis Philippe. The domain has the largest historical stables in Europe which once housed 250 horses and 500 hunting hounds. Today the stables are home to the new Museum of Horse. Opened in June 2013, the museum features equestrian demonstrations, and colorful costumed horse shows.


Fra Angelico, ‘Saint Augustin’s Conversion’ Collection of Musée d’Art Thomas Henry, Cherbourg, France.

For the past decade, American Friends of Chantilly (AFC) has been committed to designing and developing promotional, educational and restoration projects to benefit the Domaine de Chantilly. Over the past year AFC has played an important role assisting the Condé Museum with the Fra Angelico, Botticelli … Rediscovered Masterpieces exhibition.

Fra Angelico (known during his lifetime as Fra Giovanni) was a Dominican friar and artist whose works were very influential in shaping the stylistic trends of the early Renaissance. He painted a number of altarpieces and devotional works. His work is now found in museums scattered throughout the world. Fra Angelico Thebaïde is one of his more ambitious works.


Fra Angelico,’Saint Benoit in the Desert’ Collection of Musée Condé, Domaine de Chantilly, France.

Only one of the paintings that comprise the Fra Angelico Thebaïde belongs to the Condé Museum. Saint Benedict in Ecstasy in the Desert was acquired by the Duke d’Aumale for his collection. The other four paintings will be on loan from three different museums (Anvers, Cherbourg and Philadelphia, PA) and one from a private collector. Gregory the Great Refusing the Pontifical Tiara (opening image) belongs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and needed to be conserved before it could be shipped to France. AFC helped facilitate the loan and raised funds for the painting to be sent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for conservation. AFC is also underwriting the expenses of insurance and transportation to bring the piece to Chantilly for the exhibition.


Nicole Garnier, Head Curator of the Condé Museum states, “American Friends of Chantilly support has been invaluable. The organizations’ assistance has allowed us to collaborate with the world’s most prestigious museums and to organize this very important exhibition.”

Left: Fra Angelico, ‘Thébaïde Scenes’. Private collection. Marseille, France.

“Florentine and Sienese painters of the Quattrocentro, formally known as the Italian Primitives, make up a significant part of the legacy of the Duke d’Aumale, conserved exclusively at the Domaine de Chantilly since his death,” Garnier goes on to say. “For this exhibition, the first retrospective that the Condé Museum has dedicated to this movement, thirty major works from its collections – including paintings and drawings by Fra Angelico, Lippi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci – will be presented in the reception hall of the Jeu de Paume, next to nine paintings on loan from leading international institutions.”www/

The Italian masterpiece, Simonetta de Vespuci by Renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo, is considered the crowned jewel of the Condé Museum’s collection. Painted in the late 15th century the tempura painting was in need of restoration. AFC underwrote the funds needed to send the piece to the Louvre for conservation. The newly restored painting will once again be on view in September 2014 as part of the Fra Angelico, Botticelli … Rediscovered Masterpieces exhibition.

Right: Piero di Cosimo, ‘Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as Cleopatra,’ tempera painting on canvas (57×42 cm), circa 1480 or 1490. Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.

Over the next year, the Condé Museum’s Gallery of Paintings is undergoing a major renovation. Most of the financial resources were earmarked for structural upgrades. Additional expenses are needed to assist with preservation of the artwork.

The Gallery of Paintings will reopen in spring 2015 (after 3 months of renovation) so there is a sense owww/artesmagazine.comf urgency in the search for funds and the restoration of the paintings.

Once again AFC rose to meet the challenge. The organization is working along side their French counterpart, Les Amis du Musée Condé (The French Friends of Condé Museum), to provide funding for the restoration of several paintings.

Left:‘Portrait of Henri II,’ (French monarch 1519-59) attributed to Francesco Primaticcio, Italian School, 16th Century, copyright RMN-Grand Palais (Domaine de Chantilly) / René-Gabriel Ojéda

In addition to the Simonetta, AFC has already raised the funds to restore the portrait of Henri II attributed to Francesco Primaticcio, an Italian Mannerist painter, architect and sculptor who spent most of his career in France.

By Mary Skinner, Contributing Writer


Domaine de Chantilly, Interior: Grand Stairway

To learn more about how you can help with conservation projects and to become a member of American Friends of Chantilly visit or contact Candice Nancel, President of AFC at And, if you have information concerning the missing painting from Fra Angelico Thebaïde, please contact us immediately.

About American Friends of Chantilly:

Created in 2003 by a group of American Francophiles who had been captivated by visits to Château de Chantilly, the 501 C (3) nonprofit volunteers organization was formed to raise tax-deductible contributions for the restoration and preservation of paintings, sculptures, books and historic manuscripts located at Chantilly. AFC encourages Americans to visit this beautiful and historic destination as individuals, families and with tour groups. AFC also provides tours and educational exchange opportunities with Domaine de Chantilly.


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