The Château de Chantilly comprises two attached buildings: the Petit Château built around 1560 for Anne de Montmorency, and the Grand Château, which was destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the 1870s. Owned by the Institut de France, the château houses the Musée Condé. It is one of the finest art galleries in France and is open to the public.
The estate's connection with the Montmorency family began in 1484. The first mansion (now replaced by the Grand Château) was built in 1528–1531 for the Constable Anne de Montmorency by Pierre Chambiges. The Petit Château was also built for him, around 1560, probably by Jean Bullant. In 1632, after the death of Henri II, it passed to the Grand Condé who inherited it through his mother, Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency.
Several interesting pieces of history are associated with the château during the 17th century. Molière's play, Les Précieuses ridicules, received its first performance here in 1659. Madame de Sévigné relates in her memoirs that when Louis XIV visited in 1671, François Vatel, the maître d'hôtel to the Grand Condé, committed suicide when he feared the fish would be served late.
The original mansion was destroyed in the French Revolution. It was repaired in a modest way by the last Condé, but the entire property was confiscated from the Orléans family between the years 1853 and 1872, during which interval it was owned by Coutts, an English bank. Chantilly was entirely rebuilt in 1875–1881 by Henri d'Orléans, duc d'Aumale (1822–1897) to the designs of Honore Daumet. The new château met with mixed reviews. Boni de Castellane summed up one line of thought: 'What is today styled a marvel is one of the saddest specimens of the architecture of our era — one enters at the second floor and descends to the salons'. In the end, the Duc d'Aumale bequeathed the property to the Institut de France upon his death in 1897.
The château's art gallery, the Musée Condé, houses one of the finest collections of paintings in France (after the Louvre). It specializes in French paintings and book illuminations of the 15th and 16th centuries. Works in the art gallery include Sassetta's Mystic Marriage of St. Francis, Botticelli's Autumn, Piero di Cosimo's Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci, Raphael's Three Graces and Madonna of Loreto, Guercino's Pietà, Pierre Mignard's Portrait of Molière as well as four of Antoine Watteau's paintings and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's Le concert champêtre. Other paintings in the collection include works by Fra Angelico, Filippino Lippi, Hans Memling, 260 paintings and drawings by François and Jean Clouet, Veronese, Barocci, Annibale Carracci, Domenichino, Salvator Rosa, Nicolas Poussin, Philippe de Champaigne, Van Dyck, Guido Reni, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Joshua Reynolds, Eugène Delacroix, Ingres, Géricault.
The library of the Petit Château contains over 1500 manuscripts and 17,500 printed volumes, that is part of the collection of over 700 incunabula, and some 300 medieval manuscripts, including one page of the Registrum Gregorii (c. 983), the Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry, the Ingeborg Psalter and 40 miniatures from Jean Fouquet's Book of Hours of Etienne Chevalier.
The main French formal garden, featuring extensive parterres and water features, was laid out principally by André Le Nôtre for the Grand Condé. The park also contains a French landscape garden with a cascade, pavilions, and a rustic ersatz village, the Hameau de Chantilly. The latter inspired the Hameau de la reine of Marie Antoinette in the Gardens of Versailles.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.