Galerie François I de Fontainebleau!!!

Now this one is a masterpiece in a hugely beautiful historical and architecturally stunning castle. I have been here many times and to cut it short, I am a member of Friends of the castle for many years now. I like to update this memorable post on the Francis I gallery in the Castle of Fontainebleau. My treat on the Galerie François I  Château de Fontainebleau!

So this is Fontainebleau, yes lovely town and wonderful immense castle on the entire history of France, well almost we are very old indeed. As said, my first castle ever on the region of my dear late wife Martine, so therefore, a personal favorite.  The Castle is huge and many things to see, I have already told you of my favorite on previous post, however, there are more. The Galerie François I or Francis I gallery is another not to be missed under any cirscumtances. I like to tell you a bit more on it.

The Francis I gallery  or Galerie François I is a large ceremonial gallery located on the first floor of the Royal Castle of Fontainebleau , dept 77 Seine-et-Marne ,in the ïle de France region. The intervention in the 1530’s of Italian artists Rosso Fiorentino and the Primaticcio, makes this gallery the most representative decorative ensemble of the first school of Fontainebleau, and reflects the infatuation of François I for Italian art.


Built between 1528 and 1530, it is approximately 64 meters long and 6 meters wide, and was formerly a covered bridge with openings on both sides. King Francis I made it built and decorates, in order to connect his apartments to the Trinity Chapel (see other post). He kept the keys and made it visited by his chosen guests. The gallery was entrusted to the Italians Rosso Fiorentino and the Primaticcio who decorated it in an original way with paintings, paneling, frescoes and stuccoes. The works were done from March 1535 to May 1537 for the stuccos, starting from 1536 for the frescoes, and were completed just before the visit of Charles Quint at Christmas 1539.  The carved walnut woodwork realized from 1535 with rare essences, but turned almost exclusively to walnut wood from 1539, when the floor of the gallery is executed and the paneling.


In 1689, a door was pierced in the west wall to gain access to the horseshoe vestibule. Then, some stuccos are remodeled . In 1701, king Louis XIV replaced some subjects too daring with new compositions (now extinct), including Zephyr and Flore, and in the central room Minerva and the Arts. It was in 1710 that they would have realized the door top of the vestibule, with scenes illustrating the victory of François I, and the story writing his actions on the wings of time. From 1730 to 1731, a restoration is conducted and again the end of the gallery is refresh in 1757 with the restoration of the frescoes.

King Louis XVI split the wing in 1786 by adding apartments, depriving it of the opening on Diane’s garden, but making false windows to keep a symmetrical appearance.  Napoleon I transformed the gallery into a gallery of illustrious by placing busts of generals and drawings of his military campaigns. In 1846, a new restoration, quite heavy, is undertaken. The creation of a cardboard frieze was done while the paintings were restored. The chimney is removed and the gallery receives a new parquet. The renovations continue by repainting entirely the frescoes with the encaustic, and adding new paintings, including a view of the Fontainebleau pond and an argument of Minerva and Neptune.  The gallery draws a set of spans, punctuated by symmetrical openings and large painted panels. The coffered ceiling plays a rather secondary role in the decorative ensemble and displays a rather classic style. The King’s monogramme is found everywhere.


A bit on the decorations, and what is to see fully here! A must!!!  The paintings, divided into two groups of six frescoes separated by a central span, represent stories of Greco-Roman mythology and allegories whose meaning eludes us today.

In the first northern span is painted the so-called Sacrifice fresco, in which a mired priest dressed in black stands near an inflamed altar, surrounded by old men, women holding children and vase holders. The represented priest could be Saint Francis of Paula, or King Francis I himself, the fresco evoking the king’s religious role and his priestly skills, which he exercises as his sovereign function. The stuccoes around the fresco represent the sacrifice of a ram and that of a bull, always in the religious theme expressed by the central fresco.

In the second northern span, is the famous fresco of the Royal elephant , also known as the elephant at the flank (symbol of strength, sagacity, and durability of royalty) depicted in a square, bearing the royal figure on the forehead ,a salamander  and the fleurs-de-lis on the flank, thus representing King Francis I himself. At his feet are three allegories of the air, the Earth and the water (the man with lightning represents Jupiter, the man at the Trident Neptune, and the one accompanied by Cerberus Pluto, in reference to the three spaces on which reigns Francis I), as well as a stork who symbolize the loyal love , the latter representing the mother of the king, Louise of Savoy. On the sides are painted two frescoes on the theme of mythological abductions: right Saturn disguised as a horse removing Philyre, and left Jupiter, changed to Taurus, removing Europe. The stuccoes slightly illustrate the story of Alexander the Great, including Alexander cutting the Gordian knot, under the fresco.

In the third northern span is painted the fresco of the Fire in which two young men carry their fathers on their shoulders. It could be an evocation of the twins of Catania, or the myth of Aeneas leaving Trojan in flames and carrying his father Anchises on the shoulders. The stuccoes represent on the left a bearded man dressed in brays and on the right a young man wearing a loin cloth, these two characters evoking loyal love, while the fresco could refer to the dedication of the two sons of Francis I, the latter indulging in the Spanish enemy in exchange for the then prisoner king in Madrid.

In the fifth northern span is visible the Vengeance of Nauplii (also known as the shipwreck, or Destruction of the Greek Fleet), in which Nauplii, in the foreground, kills the panicked Greek sailors. The frescoes of the frames illustrate Neptune and Ammon, while the frescoes of the empty niches are arranged on both sides. The central fresco could symbolize the misfortunes caused by treachery and vengeance, punished by divine wrath. This fresco would thus be a direct evocation of the treachery of the constable of Bourbon, the latter having rallied to the Spanish enemies.

In the sixth northern span is painted a fresco dedicated to the education of Achilles by the Centaur Chiron, in which we observe the young Greek hero performing a series of exercises (fencing, swimming, hunting etc.) with to the left of prisoners locked in a cage. This fresco would illustrate the education of Francis I and thus the ideal education of a Prince, while the prisoners illustrate the form of slavery  that would constitute the lack of education. The side frescoes represent giants attached to trees.

In the seventh northern span is visible the scene of Venus and Love at the edge of a basin , while Mars is gone to war. Three loves wear a shield, a helmet, and a spear. The stuccoes represent a young man on the left and a young woman on the right. Low reliefs depict a naval battle on the left and a cavalry battery on the right. This ensemble could evoke the military chief king, and his sadness at the idea of leaving his house of Fontainebleau (symbolized by Venus). Under the fresco is installed a tableau tin made in 1540, and representing a view of the Château de Fontainebleau with the gallery François-Ier and the Golden Gate.

The central span is painted by two oval scenes: in the north, the nymph of Fontainebleau,  made in 1860-1861, and in the south, Danae, with stuccoes representing female figures bearing fruit baskets. The side frescoes depict the chariots of Apollo and Diane.


In the first southern span is painted the fresco of ignorance hunted, with on the right the representation of Francis I as Roman Emperor, crowned with a laurel, holding a sword and a book. Ignorance, represented by blindfolded characters, is driven away. The stucco framing the fresco depicts two male and female satyrs and their children. This fresco could evoke the cultural policy of Francis I, as it helps to keep away the ignorance and thus places the king as a guarantor of knowledge. The two satyrs illustrate the result of ignorance, leading to vice.

In the second southern span a fresco illustrates Francis I as emperor, holding in his hand a grenade, while a child kneels to him with other similar fruits. The king is surrounded by military, bourgeois and peasants, dressed in Roman and Gallo-Roman costumes. This scene would evoke the king as a defender of the unity of the State. He holds a grenade, reputed to contain many glitches, that the king thus gathered. The diversity of the social classes represented in his entourage would be a reference to the universal character of his government, applying to all his subjects, while the ancient costumes would place Francis I as a new Caesar. The stuccos represent two entwined couples.

In the third southern span is painted the fresco of Cléobis and Biton, in which the two young men carry their mother and lead her to a temple. Stucco reliefs represent on the left Side in the middle of the plague, on the right the death of Cléobis and Biton, and at the center Pera nourishing Simon. All these scenes symbolised the love of Francis I and Marguerite of Angoulême for their mother Louise of Savoy.

In the fifth southern span is painted  the fresco of the death of Adonis. Adonis is figured in the foreground. Love escapes with his clothes. Venus is depicted on his chariot in the midst of a cloud. In the vicinity are the allegories of Fortune, Love (Eros) and adversity. The stuccoes represent on the left Cybele on its chariot with lions and a lioness, on the right an orgy scene, and in the center a chariot race. This central fresco symbolizing death and misfortune, as well as a violent passion, could refer to the death of the Dauphin François in 1536. The framing frescoes illustrate two entwined couples.


In the sixth southern span is painted  a scene drawn from a fable of Nicander of Colophon and illustrating the perpetual youth lost by men. You can see in the top left the god Mercury coming in front of men announces that Jupiter agrees to give them eternal youth. On the left are a group of young people, in the center the donkey bearing the youth is being watered while the snake removes the youth represented by the traits of a young girl. To the right finally are represented old men. To the framing of the fresco are shown on the left: young people entering a temple, and to the right: allegories including the backbiting, a woman with three heads surrounded by bees.

In the seventh southern span is a fresco illustrating the Battle of the Centaurs and the Lapiths. The stuccos represent young men blowing in trumpets. To the east, on the side of the bust of Francis I are painted violent scenes: Defeat of Pavia, captivity of the king in Madrid.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here, and is a must are:

The city of Fontainebleau on the castle

The Fontainebleau tourist office on the castle:

The official Fontainebleau castle on the Francis I gallery

The Ministry of Culture of France on the Fontainebleau castle and Francis I gallery in French:

The Seine et Marne dept 77 tourist office on the castle

There you go folks, a splendid gallery for all the glory of my belle France, well it was another castle dear to me too but this one can fit in too. A must when visiting France, go to Fontainebleau.

Again , hope you enjoy the tour; it is a must I repeat… And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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