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Work Charles VII (1403-1461), King of France

Department of Paintings: French painting

Charles VII (1403-1461), King of France

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

Paintings
French painting

Author(s):
Pomarède Vincent

The inscription on the original frame may be a reference to either the truce of Tours (1444) or the victory at Formigny (1450). Fouquet is the earliest known European artist to have painted such an independent portrait in which the sitter is depicted life-size, half-length, and almost face-on. In the 18th century, the painting was in the Sainte Chapelle in Bourges.

Charles VII

Charles VII of France (1403-1461) claimed victory in the Hundred Years' War by winning back the lands held by the English in France. He is depicted almost face-on, as if seen through a window edged with white curtains. His hands are resting on a piece of furniture which could be a prie-dieu.

The Flemish influence

This painting clearly reveals the influence of Flemish portraits, especially those by Van Dyck, particularly in the detailed rendition of the king's royal garb and the realism of the facial features. It is possible that this portrait was painted prior to Fouquet's journey to Italy, when he discovered the work of leading Renaissance artists. This portrait must have been famous in its day: the portrait of François I of France by Jean Clouet was among the works influenced by it. The king is gazing out of the portrait, but seems to be royally ignoring the viewer. He is simply and soberly dressed, although the fabric is costly and elegant. He is not wearing any royal insignia.

A painting by Jean Fouquet

When this large painting was purchased for the Louvre in 1838, its author was unknown; the portrait was attributed to "an unknown Greek painter." The identity of the sitter, Charles VII, rapidly led experts to conclude that it was in fact the work of Jean Fouquet, who regularly worked for the king. Some art historians believe that it must be the portrait which Charles VII presented to the Sainte Chapelle in Bourges, with a portrait of the queen as a companion work. That portrait is known to have remained in the chapel until it was demolished in 1757. The inscription refers to a major political event of Charles VII's reign - either the truce of Tours (1444) or the victory at Formigny (April 15, 1450).

Technical description

  • Jean FOUQUET (Tours, c. 1415-20 - Tours, between 1478 and 1481)

    Charles VII (1403-1461), King of France

    c. 1445 or c. 1450

  • H. 0.85 m; W. 0.70 m

  • Acquired in 1838 , 1838

    Inv. 9106

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Jean Fouquet
    Room 6

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