The new Museum of the Horse at France’s famous Chantilly Estate – home to the grandest stables ever built – will be inaugurated on June 15.
Covering 6500 sqare feet, the museum will be housed in the different rooms of the Cour des Remises – the carriage garage complex from the 1700s – which has been entirely restored since 2011. The rooms form a half-circle next to the world famous Great Stables.
The collections will be displayed in 15 connected rooms and will cover everything from the evolution of the horse and breeds of horses worldwide; technical progress in equine equipment and the use of horse power; and the horse’s role in relation to prestige, to war and to hunting.
Horse sports and games, and especially racing, which put Chantilly on the map since 1834, will also occupy three rooms.
Finally, a large room will be dedicated to the horse in art, with works by great artists such as Dürer, Mantegna, Rubens, Poussin, Oudry, Géricault, Dufy, and others.
The last two rooms will show an exceptional ensemble of carousel horses.
In the western part of the Great Stables, two of the most important French historical carriages will be on show, both recently restored: the Imperial ladies’ brougham and the Berlin of the duc de Condé.
The museum will house nearly 200 objects in all, recounting the importance of the horse’s history: paintings, prints, textiles, sculptures, audiovisual displays, and equipment for horses.
The collections will include treasures from the reserves of the Musée Condé as well as loans from important collectors.
The different artworks exhibited will enable both adults and children to understand the extent to which the horse was, and still is, involved with man.
Particular care is given to children so the museum can be a destination for families and friends of the horse – often called man’s noblest conquest.
The Grand Stables were the design of architect Jean Aubert. He designed them at the request of Louis-Henri de Bourbon, the seventh prince of Condé.
Legend has it that the prince was convinced he would be reincarnated as a horse and therefore wished for stables worthy of his rank.
He left France one of the 18th century’s architectural masterpieces.
The stable complex is more than 180 metres long and covers the area of about two football pitches.
The stables sheltered, in those days, 240 horses and 150 dogs, dispatched in different packs for the daily hunts held throughout the year.
De Bourbon was proud of his stables and hosted sumptuous dinners under the 28 metre-high monumental dome.
Louis XV, the future tsar Paul Ier and Frederic II of Prussia even had supper there, to the sound of hunting-horns.
The French Revolution marked the brutal end of this era , but the Grand Stables were saved, thanks to its occupation by the army.
At the end of the 19th century, in 1886, the Duke of Aumale, fifth son of King Louis-Philippe and last resident of the Chantilly Estate, donated his property – the château, hippodrome, stables, forest, Condé Museum, library and archives – to the French Institute under the condition that everything be maintained in its state.
The work on the rooms housing the museum and the Grand Stables is part of a $US3.3 million makeover led by the fourth Aga Khan.
The work he supported included desperately needed roof repairs and work to address problems with water seepage from the nearby lake.
The Chantilly Estate already attracts 160,000 visitors a year, drawn to its so-called “Live Horse Museum”, which is home to 30 breeds of horses, including 10-year-old Dilraj – the only Indian Marwari horse in Europe.