Everything Gourmet

The Sacred in Sarthe

The Visitation, attributed to Mathurin Bonnecamp, circa 1635, oil on canvas. Photo ©Simon Lagoarde – Studio WAAP. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

The unique religious paintings of France’s historical province of Haut-Maine retained their rich provincial characteristics yet were influenced and nurtured by northern Europe, the School of Fontainebleau and Italy. This art, known as Mancelle Painting, in reference to the geographic location, reached its apogee in the 17th century. The 13th century Royal Abbey of Epau, whose exhibition space has been recently restored, is showcasing these works in an exhibition entitled Treasures of Sacred Art, underscoring the development of this regional movement. The Royal Abbey of Epau is located west of Paris in the Sartre region on the outskirts of the city of Le Mans, famous for its automobile race.
If you can’t be in France right now, The Gourmet Gazette brings the show to you.

The exhibition Treasures of Sacred Art at the Royal Abbey of Epau. Photo ©Sarthe Culture. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

These paintings in the exhibition are rare, unique and precious yet little known to the public at large. The show, held beneath the majestic arches of the abbey, is illuminated by candle light to mirror how the paintings were seen when they were created in the 17th century. The show also evokes the techniques used by these painters in a special educational tunnel that was an integral part of the space’s restoration.

The movement accelerated during the 17th century after an increase in the demand for religious art to replace that lost during the French Wars of Religion. The paintings explore various religious themes notably the Wisemen, the Assumption, Christ on the Cross, The Last Supper and the Visitation.

The Royal Abbey of Epau is regarded as one of the finest ensembles of Cistercian architecture in France and is in and of itself worthy of a visit. For one hundred years the Order of the Cistercians was regarded as the most powerful monastic order in Western Europe until the first quarter of the 13th century. Their monasteries and churches, constructed in a deliberately pure style, are seen as being among the most beautiful relics of the Middle Ages. The Royal Abbey of Epau was founded by the Queen Consort to Richard I (The Lionhearted) of England, Queen Berengaria of Navarre in 1229. The show is running through September 19th
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
Abbaye Royale de l’Epau
Route de Changé
72530 Yvré-l’évêque. France
+(33) (0)2 43 84 22 29

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