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Tiles from the Ornamental Paving in the Chapel of La Bâtie d’Urfé (Loire)

Date : Around 1557

This ensemble of 220 tiles is part of the ornamental earthenware paving that covered the floor in the chapel of the Château de La Bâtie d’Urfé, near Saint-Etienne in the Forez. Claude d’Urfé (1501-1558), grandfather of Honoré d’Urfé, the author of L’Astrée, was a key figure in the first half of the 16th century. Bailiff of the Forez, Henri II’s chamberlain and friend of Anne de Montmorency, he became tutor to the king’s children and then superintendant of the Dauphin’s household on his return from Italy, where he had held the office of ambassador to the Holy See. Charmed by the decorative programmes he had seen during his stays in Italy, he decided to replicate them, in great splendour, at the Château d’Urfé.

The tiles show the initials of Claude d’Urfé and his wife, Jeanne de Balsac, alternating with their emblem: a sacrificial lamb burning on an altar inscribed with triangle bearing the word UNI (united). Looping ribbons and clusters of fruit and vegetables frame the octagonal panels. The paving would have perfectly matched the rich decor of carved panelling, marquetry, murals and grisaille stained glass created by Italian craftsmen. The tiles reproduced fairly faithfully the pattern of the gilded sunken panels of the vault, as if they were reflected in the floor.

The paving led to the right of the chapel’s altar which had a richly decorated earthenware altar step (currently in the Louvre). Some of the decoration in the chapel was dispersed during the 19th century.