Hotel Le Bois des Chambres & Restaurant Le Grand Chaume

The so-called Catherine de Medici room

published at 19/10/2022

This room is named as such by the de Broglie family to commemorate the acquisition of the Château by the queen in 1550. In the 16th century, it could serve as a state room, a dining room, a bathroom or a reception room.

The room boasts the oldest tapestry in the Château’s collections, woven in Tournai in the late 15th century (The Story of Perseus and Pegasus). We can also admire the full-length portrait of Catherine de Medici (copy created in the 19th century), a late 16th century tapestry from the Flanders factory (The Story of David and Abigail) and a remarkable 19th century Henri II style bed elaborately carved. This room is also furnished with a 16th century throne, as well as a wardrobe close to the bed whose façade, which dates back to the 15th century, evokes iconography typical of this period; on the upper part, the three theological virtues (faith, hope and charity) and the four seasons, and on the lower part, the five senses.

Also on display in this room are seventy medallions and eight moulds made in the 18th century by the Italian artist Jean-Baptiste Nini. He painted the portrait of a great many famous figures of his time (Louis XV, Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Benjamin Franklin and all the members of the Leray family) as well as more modest townsfolk (doctor, solicitor, registrar). Today, this collection is recognised to be the world’s largest and most prestigious.


Tapestry depicting The Story of Perseus and Pegasus

This tapestry of Perseus and Pegasus, the oldest in the Château, was owned by the Prince and Princess de Broglie, as were the two others hanging in this room. They put together a sumptuous collection of tapestries, dating from the 15th to the 18th century, as part of their idea of reconstructing the original decoration in this part of the Château. This collection is now considered to be one of the most important in the Loire Valley. Woven in the late 15th century in Tournai, the tapestry depicts The Story of Perseus and Pegasus.

Perseus is armed with a scythe and a shield, which the goddess Athena is handing him in the top-left corner. In order to avoid the Gorgon Medusa's gaze, which would turn him to stone, Perseus has cut off her head. Blood spurts from her neck and gives birth to Pegasus, the winged horse of the gods in Greek mythology. Then, in the centre, is a singing contest between the daughters of Pierus and the nine muses of Apollo. Mount Helicon, overjoyed by the sweet music, swells and threatens to reach the sky. Pegasus, on the orders of Zeus, the king of the gods, strikes Helicon with its hoof to restrain the mountain and force it to return to its original size. The mountain obeys and spouts a new spring which encourages poetic inspiration. The spring gives birth to the poet Orpheus, who's visible in the bottom-right-hand corner of the tapestry.


Nini's medallions
In 1750, wealthy aristocrat Jacques-Donatien Leray, who had made his fortune in trade, became the owner of the Domain of Chaumont. Wanting to provide locals with work, close to the Château he founded a manufactory with two workshops, one for pottery, the other for crystal ware.
In 1772, he entrusted the general management of the firm to Giovanni Battista Nini. Nini was born in Urbino in Italy in 1717. At a young age, he began engraving landscapes with his father Domenico Nini. He went on to study sculpture at the Academia Clementina in Bologna. Working from engravings and from life, he began making portraits in terra cotta in the form of medallions. These miniature sculptures, due to their accurate likenesses to real people, their elegance, and the detail in the rendering of textures, would earn him renown and be widely imitated. At Chaumont, until 1786, the year of his death, he produced medallions of his loved-ones and the Leray family, as well as royal and imperial highnesses such as Catherine the Second of Russia.
In 1884, the de Broglies began terracing work for a landscape garden. A worker found broken pieces of medallions of the kings Louis the Fifteenth, Louis the Sixteenth, Queen Marie-Antoinette and the ecclesiastic Aimé-Louis des Moulins de Lisle. The Prince de Broglie became passionate about this find and often called in restorers and bought antiques to help him build his collection. Comprising 70 medallions and eight casts, it's considered the largest and most prestigious in the world.