Palace of Fontainebleau

Palace of Fontainebleau
Palace and Park of Fontainebleau *
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The central range of Fontainebleau: patterned parterres have been replaced with lawn.
Country France
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, vi
Reference 160
Region ** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1981 (5th Session)
Palace of Fontainebleau is located in France
Location of Palace of Fontainebleau in France
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List
** Region as classified by UNESCO

The Palace of Fontainebleau, located 55 kilometres from the centre of Paris, is one of the largest French royal châteaux. The palace as it is today is the work of many French monarchs, building on an early 16th century structure of Francis I. The building is arranged around a series of courtyards. The city of Fontainebleau has grown up around the remainder of the Forest of Fontainebleau, a former royal hunting park.This forest is now home to many endangered species of Europe and many people[who?] are trying to keep the forest safe from hunters and loggers.



Royal palace

King Louis XIV hunting near the Palace of Fontainebleau
Napoleon saying goodbye to his troops outside the Palace of Fontainebleau (1814)
Napoleon III receiving the Siamese embassy at Fontainebleau (1864)

The older château on this site was already used in the latter part of the 12th century by King Louis VII, for whom Thomas Becket consecrated the chapel. Fontainebleau was a favourite residence of Philip Augustus (Philip II) and Louis IX. The creator of the present edifice was Francis I, under whom the architect Gilles le Breton erected most of the buildings of the Cour Ovale, including the Porte Dorée, its southern entrance. The king also invited the architect Sebastiano Serlio to France, and Leonardo da Vinci. The Gallery of Francis I, with its frescoes framed in stucco by Rosso Fiorentino, carried out between 1522 and 1540, was the first great decorated gallery built in France. Broadly speaking, at Fontainebleau the Renaissance was introduced to France. The Salle des Fêtes, in the reign of Henry II, was decorated by the Italian Mannerist painters, Francesco Primaticcio and Niccolò dell'Abbate. Benvenuto Cellini's "Nymph of Fontainebleau", commissioned for the château, is at the Louvre.

Another campaign of extensive construction was undertaken by King Henry II and Catherine de' Medici, who commissioned architects Philibert Delorme and Jean Bullant. To the Fontainebleau of François I and Henry II, King Henry IV added the court that carries his name, the Cour des Princes, with the adjoining Galerie de Diane de Poitiers and the Galerie des Cerfs, used as a library. A "second school of Fontainebleau" decorators, less ambitious and original than the first, evolved from these additional projects. Henry IV pierced the wooded park with a 1200m canal (which can be fished today) and ordered the planting of pines, elms and fruit trees. The park stretches of an area more than 80 hectares, enclosed by walls and pierced rectilinear paths. Henry IV's gardener, Claude Mollet, trained at Château d'Anet, laid out patterned parterres. Preserved on the grounds is Henry IV's jeu de paume (real tennis court). It is the largest such court in the world, and one of the few publicly owned.[1]

Philip the Fair (Philip IV), Henry III and Louis XIII were all born in the palace, and Philip died there. Christina of Sweden lived there for years, following her abdication in 1654. In 1685 Fontainebleau saw the signing of the Edict of Fontainebleau, which revoked the Edict of Nantes (1598). Royal guests of the Bourbon kings were housed at Fontainebleau, including Peter the Great of Russia and Christian VII of Denmark.

Revolution and Empire

By the late 18th century, the château had fallen into disrepair; during the French Revolution many of the original furnishings were sold, in the long Revolutionary sales of the contents of all the royal châteaux, intended as a way of raising money for the nation and ensuring that the Bourbons could not return to their comforts. Nevertheless, within a decade Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte began to transform the Château de Fontainebleau into a symbol of his grandeur, as an alternative to the empty Palace of Versailles, with its Bourbon connotations. Napoleon hosted Pope Pius VII there in 1804, when he came to consecrate the emperor, and again in 1812–1814, when he was Napoleon's prisoner. With modifications of the château's structure, including the cobblestone entrance wide enough for his carriage, Napoleon helped make the château the place that visitors see today. At Fontainebleau Napoleon bade farewell to his Old Guard and went into exile in 1814. Fontainebleau was also the setting of the Second Empire court of his nephew Napoleon III.[2]


Today part of the château is home to the Écoles d'Art Américaines, a school of art, architecture, and music for students from the United States. The school was founded by General Pershing when his men were stationed there during the First World War.


Fontainebleau from the lake
The famous library at Fontainebleau

The palace introduced to France the Italian Mannerist style in interior decoration and in gardens, and transformed them in the translation. The French Mannerist style of interior decoration of the 16th century is known as the "Fontainebleau style": it combined sculpture, metalwork, painting, stucco and woodwork, and outdoors introduced the patterned garden parterre. The Fontainebleau style combined allegorical paintings in moulded plasterwork where the framing was treated as if it were leather or paper, slashed and rolled into scrolls and combined with arabesques and grotesques. Fontainebleau ideals of female beauty are Mannerist: a small neat head on a long neck, exaggeratedly long torso and limbs, small high breasts—almost a return to Late Gothic beauties. The new works at Fontainebleau were recorded in refined and detailed engravings that circulated among connoisseurs and artists. Through the engravings by the "School of Fontainebleau" this new style was transmitted to other northern European centres, Antwerp especially, and Germany, and eventually London.

Cultural references

  • Jazz pianist and composer Tadd Dameron wrote the composition "Fontainebleau" upon visiting the palace.
  • The artist Madonna refers in her song "Secret Garden" from the album Erotica to it being located somewhere in Fontainebleau.

See also


Cour d'Honneur of the palace


  1. ^ "Histoire de la salle de jeu de paume de Fontainebleau". Retrieved March 19, 2007. 
  2. ^ Walter Bruyère-Ostells, Napoléon III et le Second Empire, Vuibert, 2004, page 184

External links

Media related to Palace of Fontainebleau at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 48°24′08″N 2°42′02″E / 48.40222°N 2.70056°E / 48.40222; 2.70056

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • FONTAINEBLEAU —    a town on the left bank of the Seine, 35 m. SE. of Paris, and famous for a château or palace of the kings of France, and the forest that surrounds it. This château, founded towards the end of the 10th century, was enlarged and embellished by… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia