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Work The Battle of Ivry and the Surrender of Mantes

Department of Sculptures: France, Renaissance

The Battle of Ivry and the Surrender of Mantes

© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Thierry Ollivier

Sculptures
France, Renaissance

Author(s):
Montalbetti Valérie

In the foreground, Henry IV, king of France, is seen fighting energetically at the Battle of Ivry. Clad in antique-style armor, he sports a tall crest on his helmet, the famous white panache to which he rallied his troops and won the battle. In the background, the surrender of the city of Mantes is depicted. The bas-relief once adorned the huge chimneypiece commissioned by the king from Matthieu Jacquet for the so-called "Belle Cheminée" (beautiful chimney) at Fontainebleau.

A most handsome chimneypiece

In 1597 Henry IV awarded Mathieu Jacquet a commission for a colossal chimneypiece, six metres wide and seven metres high, to be put at the end of a wing built by Primaticcio at the Château of Fontainebleau. Universally acclaimed on its completion in 1600, it was soon dubbed the "Belle Cheminée." It was dismantled in 1725, when Louis XV decided to convert the gallery into a theatre, and the main elements of the sculpture were preserved. The original arrangement of the monument is known through a very precise drawing by François d'Orbay, architect to Louis XIV. The bas-relief depicting the Battle of Ivry is in the center, below the large bas-relief of Henry IV on horseback (Fontainebleau), the focal point of the composition. Stylistically, the chimneypiece is closely related to the one at the Château of Villeroy, executed a decade earlier. Henry IV, a regular guest at the home of his minister, Nicolas Neufville de Villeroy, had probably admired it.

The Battle of Ivry

In 1589, following the assassination of Henry III, the Protestant Henry of Navarre became king of France as Henry IV, but he was not recognized by the Catholics. He was compelled to fight against the League (a confederation of French Catholics), supported by King Philip II of Spain. The bas-relief commemorates Henry IV's brilliant victory at the Battle of Ivry (near Chartres) on 4 March 1590, over the troops led by the Duke of Mayenne, who wanted to prevent Henry from reaching the capital. Despite his military victories, Henry IV did not enter Paris until 1594, when he converted to Catholicism.

The design of the bas-relief

Jacquet's imagery is in line with battle scenes inspired by the Italian Renaissance. This composition resembles works by Pierre Bontemps, such as the Tomb of Francis I, at Saint-Denis, where the impression of large numbers of people is suggested by the repetition of lined-up figures. The composition of the bas-relief recalls a drawing of the Battle of Marignan (Louvre) by Antoine Caron, painter of Massacres of the Triumvirate and The Tiburtine Sibyl. Similarities also exist between other sculptures from the "Belle Cheminée" and Caron's drawings. This learned artist may have provided the design for the chimneypiece, which was then brilliantly executed by Matthieu Jacquet. The presence of Jupiter in the clouds, crowning the king dressed in antique costume with a laurel wreath, initiated the conventional theme of the triumphant sovereign. Louis XIV would make abundant use of the motif.

Bibliography

Édouard-Jacques Ciprut, "Le chef-d'oeuvre de Matthieu Jacquet de Grenoble : La Belle Cheminée du château de Fontainebleau", GBA, mai-juin 1959, pp. 271-282.
Édouard-Jacques Ciprut, Mathieu Jacquet, sculpteur d'Henri IV, Paris, 1967, pp. 54-62.
Victor Beyer et Geneviève Bresc, La Sculpture française du XVIIe siècle au musée du Louvre, Bergame, 1977.
Michèle Beaulieu, Description raisonnée des sculptures du musée du Louvre, tome 2 Renaissance française, Paris, 1978.
Jean Ehrmann, "La Belle Cheminée du château de Fontainebleau", L'art de Fontainebleau, actes du colloque oct. 1972, Paris, 1975, pp. 117-125.

Technical description

  • Matthieu Jacquet (c. 1545-c. 1611)

    The Battle of Ivry and the Surrender of Mantes

    1598

    From the "Belle Cheminée" at the Château of Fontainebleau, commissioned 1597 by Henry IV, completed 1600, dismantled 1725

  • Bas-relief, Carrara marble

    H. 46.60 cm; W. 66.70 cm; D. 5.30 cm

  • Musée des Monuments Français, 1795-1816; allocated to the Louvre by ministerial decree, 3 April 1817; entered the Louvre collection, 23 May 1818

    M.R. 2749, M.R. 2750, M.R. 2752, M.R. 1639, M.L. 97, M.R. 2751, R.F. 1181

  • Sculptures

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Francqueville
    Room 16

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