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Charles de Maigny

© 1994 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert

Sculptures
France, Renaissance

Author(s):
Montalbetti Valérie

Charles de Maigny has fallen into a neverending slumber. Portrayed in the armor of the captain of the King's Guards, he seems to be keeping watch over his sovereign for eternity. In the 16th century, the rigidity of the recumbent statue was superseded by more flexible depictions of the deceased on his tomb.

The tribulations of a statue

Charles de Maigny was captain of the King's Guards from 1540 until his death in 1556: that is, under Francis I and Henry II. His tomb was commissioned in 1557 by his sister. The statue was installed in the Église des Célestins in Paris, accompanied by an epitaph. It was seized during the French Revolution and placed in the Musée des Monuments français, then, after the museum's dissolution, it was allocated to the Louvre in 1818. It is the only known independent work by Bontemps, a sculptor little known today. He sculpted the bas-reliefs and recumbent figures on the tomb of Francis I in the basilica of Saint-Denis.

A more natural portrayal of the deceased

Charles de Maigny is portrayed sitting, asleep, supporting his bare head with his left hand. He is shown with all the attributes of his rank: in armor, sword at his side, spear in his right hand, elbow resting on his shield. This is not a depiction of a captain falling asleep on guard, though: he would never have been immortalized like this, in a moment of weakness. His sleep is the sleep of the dead. The sculptor is combining two symbolic registers, stating Maigny's social rank and tempering this by an evocation of his deceased state. He gives us the image of a captain keeping watch over his king for eternity.
His pose is representative of the evolution in funerary statuary during the Renaissance. The traditional rigid recumbent figure was replaced by more natural poses. The deceased was depicted leaning on an elbow (Tomb of Admiral Chabot, Louvre) or praying (Cardinal René de Birague, by Germain Pilon, Louvre). This attenuation of the starkness of death reflected an evolution in attitudes towards death, one tinged with regret for earthly life.

A decorative art

The execution is of a very high standard yet does not insist on the expressive. It is heightened by the care taken over the sculpture's decorative elements, which are delicately carved in a stone that was originally white: chain mail, ornate armor decorated with foliation, shirt cuffs protruding from beneath the armor, a sumptuous tasseled cushion, the lion-pawed legs of the stool. The statue dazzlingly illustrates the sculptor's talents as a decorative artist . Early in his career he had worked under Primaticcio on the decoration of the Château de Fontainebleau and had later sculpted an ornamental funerary urn for the heart of Francis I (Basilica of Saint-Denis).

Bibliography

Beaulieu Michèle, Description raisonnée des sculptures du musée
du Louvre, t. II Renaissance française, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1978, pp. 75-76.

Technical description

  • Pierre Bontemps (c. 1505-10-c. 1568-70)

    Charles de Maigny

    Commissioned by a contract signed by the sculptor and Martienne de Maigny, sister of the deceased, on June 24, 1557

    Église du couvent des Célestins, Paris

    Paris

  • Verdun stone

    H. 1.45 m; W. 0.7 m; D. 0.42 m

  • Seized during the Revolution; Dépôt des Augustins; Musée des Monuments français, 1795-1816; allocated to the Musée du Louvre by ministerial decision on July 6, 1818; entered the Louvre on February 15, 1819

    Capitaine des gardes de la porte du Roi à partir de 1540

    M.R. 1729

  • Sculptures

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Jean Goujon
    Room 14

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