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The Play Element of Architecture: Games and Social Space in the French Château

Sat, March 24, 11:00am to 12:30pm, Hilton Riverside, 1st Level - Grand Salon Breakout 13


The early modern château was a site of diplomacy and ceremony, however its interior and exterior spaces also hosted quotidian activities like play which, although it has largely escaped the attention of art historians as an arbitrator of social and architectural meaning, was nonetheless central to these buildings’ existences. This paper examines games including jeu de paume and tournaments, as well as communal sports like hunting, that were exercised by children and adults alike at royal châteaux during the early sixteenth century. In doing so, it re-assesses the identity of spaces that have hitherto only been analyzed formally, with the goal of more fully addressing the lived experience of them. In addressing the material culture of early modern play, this paper argues that games mediated the social life of the court and continually redefined the significance of architectural spaces based on the particular exigencies of each game’s participants.


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