The Gallery of Painting, the heart of the Condé Museum
The Gallery of Painting, which is the largest room in the château, was designed by the Duke of Aumale to enchant his guests by the wealth of works exhibited in the typical layout of the period. Almost 85 paintings are exhibited in the gallery, laid out over several levels, frame to frame, on dark, Pompeii red walls. All the canvasses are lit by natural light via the glass roof.
An Unchanged Layout
The Duke of Aumale hung his paintings to suit his own personal taste. As stipulated in his will, the layout of the works was not changed, the Gallery of Painting looks the same as it did the day the Duke of Aumale died.
The layout is in fact closely intertwined with the Duke of Aumale's personal history. On the left wall the works exhibited are mainly Italian, reminders of his family background, especially on his mother's side. On the right wall, opposite, is the French wall, exhibiting works relating to his background on the side of his father, Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, the last King of France.
There are paintings here from the Palais Royal gallery, including portraits of cardinals Mazarin and Richelieu by Philippe de Champaigne. There are also military paintings by Meissonier and Alphonse de Neuville, evoking the Duke of Aumale's military past.
The Duke of Aumale's Italian painting collection comes mainly from the collection of his father-in-law and uncle, the Prince of Salerno, which he bought after 1850.
Made up essentially of religious and mythological paintings, this collection brings together works by the great Italian painters of the 16th and 17th centuries: Veronese, the Caracci academy in Bologna, which drew its inspiration from Antiquity and the Renaissance, marking the development of Classicism.
Orientalist painting has pride of place on the wall devoted to French painting.
The Duke of Aumale, who had lived in Algeria, liked Orientalism, especially the work of Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, who is considered as the Master of the 19th century Orientalist school, but also that of Horace Vernet, Marilhat, Ziem and Fromentin (The Heron Hunt in Algeria, 1865).
At the far end of the gallery is the Rotunda, where masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance are exhibited, including The Madonna of Loreto by Raphael and Simonetta Vespucci by Piero di Cosimo.