Author(s) Dan, Pierre
Title Le tresor des merveilles de la maison royale de Fontainebleau...
Imprint Paris, S. Cramoisy, 1642.
Localisation Paris, Ensba, Les 1577
Subject Fontainebleau


     The author of the Tresor des merveilles de la maison royale de Fontainebleau (1642) is Pierre Dan, the Father Superior of the Convent of the Trinitarians which Saint Louis had founded in 1259 in his château of Fontainebleau. These Trinitarians or Mathurins, as they were called in France, served the chateau's chapel of the Holy Trinity. The author writes as an historian and a witness, but it does not seem that one could recognize him as historiographer. Indeed, if he had received the mission to establish the history of the château from royal authority, one would probably know this by the dedication he adresses to François Sublet de Noyers, the influential surintendant des Bâtiments.
The work is remarkable on many accounts. First by its organization, detailed at length in an extremely clear table of contents. Especially by the historical method, founded on quoting and criticizing texts coming from the royal archives; the author even often transcribes or translates them, when he suspects that the fact he is reporting might be contested. Indeed, Father Dan asserts after Saint Augustine "qu’il vaut mieux ne rien déterminer des choses cachées que d’affirmer des choses incertaines ou douteuses" (p. 11). He can only be reproached for a certain chauvinism, moreover very widespread in the publications on the treasures of the marvels of the kingdom. He presents the chateau as "le chef d’œuvre le plus parfait qui soit en Europe, qui pour cela remporte sans contredit l’honneur d’estre le plus accomply de toutes les belles maisons qui se voyent au reste du monde" (p. 18). These marvels are nonetheless attributed to the Italians. Le Rosso, Primaticcio and Serlio are the only ones cited, with the Italian painters of the collections of paintings of Francis I. Dan was unaware of the names of the entrepreneurs and artisans who carried out the Italians' estimates (they were only exhumed from the archives in the 19th century) and even that of French masters such as De l'Orme. For all that, must one disregard his attribution of the cour du Cheval Blanc to Serlio, which has been confirmed by the most recent discoveries? The chapters devoted to events which took place in the chateau are perhaps less useful than the critical descriptions made by the author, in distinguishing as well as possible the "anciennes" parts from the "modernes et nouvelles" parts, "la plupart entremeslez" (p. 27).

Jean-Marie Pérouse de Montclos (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) – 2009

Jean-Marie Pérouse de Montclos (Cnrs) – 2009


Critical bibliography

J.-M. Pérouse de Montclos, Fontainebleau, Paris, Scala, 1998.

F. Boudon, J. Blécon & C. Grodecki, Le château de Fontainebleau de François Ier à Henri IV: les bâtiments et leurs fonctions, Paris, Picard, 1998.