At a time when the metastases of contemporary ugliness are spreading everywhere in our cities, suburbs and scenery, we could be tempted, like the philospher Cornélius Castoriadis, to characterise the modern period as that of a 'positive hatred of beauty'. Yet individual undertakings exist to save what can be saved, restore, and create places of pure beauty, against the current of fashions and ideologies. The work by Jacques Garcia at Chateau du Champ de Bataille fits into such an outlook.
This name which sounds like a declaration of war is due to the fact that the chateau is located on the site of a battle that took place in 935: William Long-Sword, second duke of Normandy, won a decisive battle here for the independence of Normandy. A few centuries later, in 1651, Alexandre de Créqui, a member of the Fronde and friend of Prince de Condé, was exiled to his estate by Mazarin. He then had this magnificent palace built to remind him of the lavish court lifestyle. The chateau was then bequeathed to his nephew, Anne-François d’Harcourt, duke of Beuvron and governor of Normandy. It was looted in 1795 at the time of the Revolution. Abandoned for many years, it then successively served as a hospice and a prison in the 20th century. What strikes you most in the architecture of this palace is the extremely theatrical layout of the two almost identical buildings placed parallelly on either side of a large courtyard. Built in stone and brick, one is the stately home and the other housed the stables.
Jacques Garcia is not a heir. He bought Champ de Bataille in 1992 and has not ceased since then to 'fill' it, embellish it and rediscover its soul: that of the 'grand' century when it was constructed. Unlike at most French chateaux, which were carved up and emptied of their furniture at the time of the Revolution or when they were passed on, Jacques Garcia has by no means sold anything off for repairs but has enriched his collections and furnished his stately home with exceptional works of art and items. A sumptuous and welcoming residence with no museum-type haughtiness. Rather than refer strictly to the past, Jacques Garcia seeks to reinstate its spirit: 'I dreamt that Champ de Bataille should recall a 17th and 18th century style but with a year 2000 interpretation. It's a good idea that someone should take a new look which, even if it moves slightly away from the original, has the same underlying philosophy'. Champ is a lesson in taste, a very French place inspired by Italy and ancient Greek and Roman times, as was the custom in the 17th century...
On visiting the few rooms open to the public, you are left in wonder at the opulence of the decor and the exceptional collections brought together in a thirty year period. The most spectacular room is no doubt the Hercules room inspired by the Colonna Palace and Villa Borghèse. The 17th century painted ceiling and the Baroque character of the room with its panelling and marble pilasters also recalls of course the Hercules room in Versailles: it houses moreover a bust from Mazarin's and then Louis XIV's collection of works of art dating from classical antiquity, of which the matching piece now appears in pride of place in the Galerie des Glaces in Versailles. Still in the 17th century apartments, the Parade chamber houses treasures including: an armchair that belonged to the Grand Dauphin, son of Louis XIV; curtains decorated with fleurs-de-lis that were saved from the Tuileries Palace fire in 1871; and a bust of Louis XV as a child.
The dining room, offering the finest view over the gardens, presents a magnificent end 18th century Sèvres table service and several Louis XV period chairs of royal origin. The Louis XVI stateroom, for its part, recalls the gentle way of life of the end of the 18th century with furniture stamped by the greatest cabinetmakers: Foliot, Boulard, Delanois, Carlier… In particular there's an armchair ordered from Foliot by Louis XV for Madame du Barry.
Château du Champ de Bataille
8, Château du Champ de Bataille