Catherine de' Medici's building projects
included the Valois
chapel at Saint-Denis
, the Tuileries Palace
, and the Hôtel de la Reine in Paris, and extensions to the château of Chenonceau
, near Blois
. Born in 1519 in Florence to an Italian father and a French mother, Catherine de' Medici
was a daughter of both the Italian
and the French Renaissance
. In 1533, at the age of fourteen, she left Italy and married Henry
, the second son of Francis I
and Queen Claude
of France. On doing so, she entered the greatest Renaissance court in northern Europe.
King Francis set his daughter-in-law an example of kingship and artistic patronage that she never forgot. She witnessed his huge architectural schemes at Chambord and Fontainebleau. She saw Italian and French craftsmen at work together, forging the style that became known as the first School of Fontainebleau. Francis died in 1547, and Catherine became queen consort of France. But it wasn't until her husband King Henry's death in 1559 that Catherine came into her own as a patron of architecture. Over the next three decades, she launched a series of costly building projects aimed at enhancing the grandeur of the monarchy.
Though she spent colossal sums on the building and embellishment of monuments and palaces, little remains of Catherine's investment today. Catherine de' Medici's reputation as a sponsor of buildings rests instead on the designs and treatises of her architects.
Honoré de Balzac
was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus
was a sequence
of short stories and novels collectively entitled, La Comédie humaine
, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon
Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multifaceted characters, who are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Many of Balzac's works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics.
An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was an apprentice in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.