The emblematic architectural decoration at the Château d'Anet of Diane de Poitiers : a catalogue and analysis
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The Château d'Anet, France was a hunting lodge and familial residence commissioned and built in the years 1547 to 1555 at the behest of Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Henri II. The architecture of the château incorporates a set of devices cultivated by Diane to establish an association between herself and Diana, the Roman goddess of the Hunt; these were the crescent moon, the bow and arrow, and Diane's own initials. Devices, which were personal marks chosen to distinguish an individual through the expression of some idealized element of character or aspirations, had primarily appeared at the French Renaissance court in jewelry, clothing, or art. Beginning in the late 15th century, the Valois kings Louis XII and François I took the practice a step further by weaving devices into the architectural fabric of their residences, where they appeared in entrances, walls, balustrades, and dormers; while drawing on this precedent, the Château d'Anet is the first example of a château commissioned by a woman that featured a program of personalized architectural decoration specific to her character, interests, and position. In this thesis, I will catalogue and analyze the emblematic architectural decorations that permeate both the exterior and interior of the structure, focusing on those examples embedded in the exterior stonework. This catalogue will, in turn, lead to an examination of the impact of this imagery on the overall experience of the château in the 16th century, and the influence the château may have had on the perception of Diane de Poitiers at court. By layering the qualities of the goddess over her own attributes, she was able to create a persona that meshed Diane with Diana; the skillful utilization of the aspects of the deity's otherworldly nature, such as her beauty, chastity, and mystique, was very useful in a court enamored with novelty and chivalric romance, where Diane's power and social position depended on her ability to retain the king's interest.