The Condé Museum houses the exceptional library assembled by Henri d'Orléans, Duke of Aumale, one of the greatest bibliophiles of his time. In 1830, Aumale inherited the property of the last prince of Bourbon-Condé and thus became the owner of both the Château de Chantilly and a collection of manuscripts dating back to the Montmorency period. Exiled in England from 1848, he devoted himself to enriching this collection and, during the second half of the nineteenth century, he passionately collected a collection of books that were exceptional in their content, decoration and provenance.
Back in France in 1871, he had the Château de Chantilly rebuilt and built an intact cabinet for its rarest 20,000 books. It is in this prestigious setting that a selection of remarkable works is presented, allowing the theme of the book to be applied to women. The collections of the Duke of Aumale are an exceptional source for perceiving the evolution of the taste for books in princely families from the 15th to the 19th century and more particularly during the Renaissance. On the occasion of the exhibition La Joconde nue, which celebrates a certain ideal of female beauty, the book cabinet highlights another ideal, that of knowledge among women.
The fifty books presented evoke the difficult access to intellectual life of the women of the Renaissance (1400-1600) as well as the essential contribution of some of them to the civilization of the book. As authors, letter-writers, booksellers, bibliophiles, educators, inspirers or dedicators, women often combine several roles in a single book. While they once made a significant contribution to the development, conservation and use of books, the works on display today speak volumes about their culture, image and condition.
The library of the Condé Museum offers, through the books, a gallery of portraits of great readers. Women of letters, women of knowledge, women of power and influence, some have sometimes found a place of equality with men: Louise de Savoie, Marguerite de Navarre, Catherine de Médicis, Diane de Poitiers or Marguerite d'Autriche are distinguished by their refined readings or outstanding writings. Other lesser-known women all bear witness to a diversified culture, such as Catherine de Coëtivy (around 1460-1529), niece of Louis XI, whose Condé Museum houses a library of more than forty books bearing a beautiful motto: "Là demeure".
Marie-Pierre Dion, General Curator of Libraries, responsible
of the library and archives of the Condé Museum
Place: Cabinet des Livres du château
Exhibition included in the Domaine ticket at no extra charge