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Bouclier de parement du roi Charles IX

© 1997 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
Renaissance

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

In the 16th century, fine weaponry became popular in the great courts of Europe. The house of Valois spent lavishly on ceremonial weapons. The helmet (MR 426) and shield belonging to Charles IX (1550–1574) were made by the goldsmith Pierre Redon. They are among the few surviving examples of fine weaponry from the French Renaissance.

The goldsmith's art

The shield and matching helmet were the work of Pierre Redon, who was goldsmith to the Valois court and valet to the king. We know they are the work of Pierre Redon thanks to records showing that his widow, Marie de Fourcroy, received payment for them in 1572. Both the shield and the helmet are outstanding examples of the goldsmith's art. The shield is made of embossed iron, plated with gold and decorated in places with enamels in translucent green, red, and blue and opaque white. The enameled ornamentation is applied in light touches on the raised parts of the embossed shield. The reverse side is covered in crimson velvet embroidered with arabesques of gold thread.

Battle scene

In the center of the shield is a medallion depicting a battle scene, with soldiers on horseback in combat outside a besieged citadel and a camp. This is a depiction of the final battle between Marius (157–86 BC) and Jugurtha (160–104 BC), as the Latin inscription indicates. The Roman consul defeated the Numidian army, and King Jugurtha, abandoned by his supporters, was captured and taken to Rome. The choice of this scene is a reminder of the influence of Greek and Roman antiquity on the Renaissance. Apart from the battle scene, the whole shield is edged with a frieze of a laurel garland interspersed with thirty-two cloisonné enamel and gold medallions featuring alternately flowers and the letter K for Karolus (Charles in Latin).

Ornamentation borrowed from the School of Fontainebleau

Between the central medallion and the trim round the edge, the shield is decorated with various motifs: scrolls, intertwining patterns, war trophies, rinceaux, sprays of fruit, grotesque masks, and friezes. Above the medallion are the head of the Medusa and two groups of defeated warriors on cannons taken as trophies. Typical of Mannerism and the first School of Fontainebleau, these motifs match the historical depiction of the battle. The model for this ornamentation is unknown, although it is very similar to engravings by Etienne Delaune.

Bibliography

Reverseau H., « Le morion et le bouclier du Roi Charles IX », Les Arquebusiers de France, n°56, 1975, p.5-6.

Technical description

  • Pierre REDON, orfèvre

    Bouclier de parement du roi Charles IX

    Vers 1572

    Paris

  • Fer repoussé et ciselé plaqué d'or ; émaux translucides et opaques Revers : velours brodé d'or

    H. : 68 cm. ; L. : 49 cm.

  • Acquis en 1793 pour le museum central des Arts (futur musée du louvre) , 1793

    Ceremonial shield belonging to King Charles IX

    MR 427

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Charles Quint
    Room 24

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Additional information about the work

Romanus consul numidam certamine tandem / Ancipit vincit. Rex partim fraude suorum / Partim armis capitur, Romanam doctus in urbem / Vincla sibi mortemque parit marioque triumphum