Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Anne de Montmorency and August I

Where is the hunt?
You know me, I relish a good connection. I went looking for a geographical connection between Elector August I in Dresden and the current home of his wire drawing bench in Ecouen. It was unlikely, I admit, but I was rewarded for perseverance so I thought I'd quickly share.

Although the bench is no longer in its original location, and separated from the Dresden art and books with which it would have initially sat, its current geographic location is wholly appropriate. The country chateau which houses the museum in Ecouen was once the home of French aristocrat Anne de Montmorency, (1493-1567) Constable of France under Francis I. He spent his entire life in the service of the French kings and for Catholicism, and was well-known for his martial abilities, usually against Francis’s great rival, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.

Montmorency was instrumental in devising the Treaty of Chambord (1555) which enabled a Charles’s temporary defeat at the hands of the French and various German princes, which included August I’s slippery predecessor Maurice of Saxony.[1] Inevitably, during a career which spanned some of the most turbulent years of the French court, there were moments of temporary political disgrace. 

It was such period in the 1540s when he built the chateau at Ecouen, where he also employed French architect and sculpture Jean Goujon and the ceramicist Bernard Palissy. Just as August liked to surround himself with creative people, so did Montmorency. He was just contemporary with August and the bench; he died from horrific battle wounds two years after the bench was made, in 1567.

I was dubious about having to go to France to see the bench for a second time because having been to Dresden I couldn't imagine it being anywhere else. Let's say I had my Parthenon Marbles face on. However, having reassessed the chateau which he commissioned, wandered through the remnants of the garden, and ventured quietly in to the lush green park land, I feel reassured about the bench's home. The museum, with its incredible tapestries, technological marvels, the fragments of Palissy's ceramic wonders which imitated the natural world, is a gem. And the landscape, via the ancient German wild forest, around it has inspired the next section of my essay.  

[1] André Thevet, Portraits from the French Renaissance and the Wars of Religion (Truman State University Press, 2009), p. 103-114.

No comments:

Post a Comment