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Work Portrait of High Constable Anne de Montmorency

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

Portrait of the Connétable de Montmorency

Decorative Arts
Renaissance

Author(s):
Baratte Sophie

This masterly portrait by the royal enameler Léonard Limosin was the first enamel painting designated for the new Louvre museum during the Revolutionary seizures. High Constable Anne de Montmorency (1493-1567), for whom the castle at Ecouen was built, was a confidant of the monarchs François I (1494-1547) and Henri II (1519-59). The original frame, with painted enamel plaques, has survived intact. This is one of the finest examples of Limoges enamelwork dating from the French Renaissance.

The portrait

Dated 1556, the portrait shows Anne de Montmorency at the relatively advanced age of sixty-three; his hair, moustache and beard are white in places, his forehead is wrinkled, his features worn and thin. Limosin has rendered his lively blue eyes with remarkable skill. The High Constable's black beret is adorned with a gold badge, and he wears the pendant of the French Order of St Michael over a black jerkin adorned with tiny buttons and gray moresque embroidery. A black, ermine-lined cloak covers his shoulders. He is standing behind a green balustrade topped by a white railing. His first name was that of his godmother, Anne de Bretagne. A noted soldier and courtier, he was a leading Catholic figure during the French Wars of Religion, and a renowned patron of the arts (the builder of the celebrated castles at Ecouen and Chantilly). Inventories drawn up in 1556 and 1568 reveal his interest in painted enamel items from Limoges, such as the altarpiece now in the Musée National de la Renaissance, at Ecouen.

The frame

The frame is composed of six plaques painted with monochrome or gold enamel on a black ground, and two repoussé copper heads coated with colored enamel. Hemispheric medallions in each of the four corners feature an arm holding a perpendicular sword. Entwined around the blades are scrolls inscribed with the high constable's motto, "Aplanos" ("without wandering or varying"). The wearing of an unsheathed sword in the king's presence was a privilege enjoyed by the high constable, the head of his army. Left and right of the portrait, the male and female satyrs supporting urns, accompanied by infant satyrs, are copied directly from stucco figures in the Galerie François I in the royal palace at Fontainebleau. Limosin may have sketched them himself in situ, rather than working from an engraved print, which would have inverted the figures.

Historical context

This portrait was seized in 1794 (on 22 Ventôse, year 2 of the French Revolutionary calendar) from the home of the Duke of Montmorency-Laval. Despite the similarity of their names, the latter was not descended from the High Constable, but from a chamberlain of Charles VIII. How this portrait came to be in his mansion remains an enigma. In 1804, the work went on display at the Louvre (Galerie d'Apollon) and served as a model for the frames of large oval portraits of court personalities.

Technical description

  • Léonard LIMOSIN

    Portrait of the Connétable de Montmorency

    1556

    Limoges

  • Painted enamel on copper, giltwood mount

    H. 72 cm; W. 54 cm

  • Confiscated during the Revolution, entered the Muséum Central des Arts in 1794

    N1254

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Léonard Limosin
    Room 21
    Display case 2

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Additional information about the work

Signed and dated in gold in the upper right corner, "LL 1556"