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Work Virgin and child

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

La Vierge à l'Enfant

© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Philippe Fuzeau

Decorative Arts
Renaissance

Author(s):
Ducrot B.

Restoration work on the chapel in the Château de Vincennes was begun in 1549 by Henri II. The architect Philibert de L'Orme, who oversaw the work, employed the Parisian glazier Nicolas Beaurain. This fragment depicting the Virgin and Child is one of the few surviving pieces of stained glass from the chapel. Part of the five windows that shut off the chancel, it represents a new aesthetic and is thus a precious record of the of the development of French stained glass during the Renaissance.

Restoration work in the chapel of the Château de Vincennes

Successive monarchs made frequent visits to the royal residence in Vincennes, founded shortly before 1178. It was enlarged through the 14th century. The chapel was first built in 1379 by Charles V but the project was abandoned in the 15th century and was only completed during the reign of Henry II, who wished to use it as a meeting place for the knights of the Order of Saint Michael. The works were directed by the king's architect, Philibert de L'Orme (c. 1510-1570). He called on well known and respected artisans such as Francisque Scibec de Carpi for the carpentry and Nicolas Beaurain, a master glazier from Paris who was given a commission for five windows for the apse and six large windows in the nave, completed by 1559. Nicolas Beaurain also worked on other prestigious projects, including the chateaux of Anet, Fontainebleau, and Ecouen.

A complex history

The stained glass windows from the royal chapel in Vincennes had a complex history. They were substantially altered when the chapel was converted into a funerary chapel for the Duke of Enghien during the Restoration. Some remained in place, while others were dismantled and given to museums including the Louvre and the National Museum of the Renaissance in Ecouen. The chapel was restored from 1872 to 1877 by the architect Eugène Oudinot de La Faverie (died 1889). He donated the Virgin and Child to the Louvre in 1878. Recent studies have revealed that the iconography of the windows was in three parts. The upper part was illustrated with an imaginary architectural setting. The central part was devoted to a large composition depicting the Apocalypse over several windows, as was usual at the time. The lower part included portraits of kneeling monarchs praying to the Virgin and Child, who were positioned in line with the nave. A copy of the work has since been placed in the royal chapel.

A rare example of Parisian stained glass

In the 16th century, stained glass was considered a French specialty. Large amounts were produced but unfortunately much has since been lost. However, many examples survive outside Paris, while a few can still be seen in Paris itself, as in the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont. These examples are proof of the scale and quality of work by French glaziers during the Renaissance. Although only part of this Virgin and Child survives, the work displays two major advances in stained-glass manufacture from the first third of the 16th century: on the technical side, the increased use of grisaille, and in stylistic terms, the Italian influence among artists working for the royal court. The identity of the artist who drew the cartoons for the windows is not known with certainty. They may have been the work of Claude Badouin, although it has been suggested that they were drawn by Philibert de L'Orme himself.

Bibliography

Louvre. Guide du visiteur. Les Objets d'art. Moyen-Age et Renaissance, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des Musées nationaux, 1994, p. 128-129.

Technical description

  • Paris (1556)

    La Vierge à l'Enfant

  • H: 75 cm; L: 53.5 cm

  • Don Eugène-Stanislas Oudinot de la Faverie, 1878 , 1878

    OA 2453

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Henri II
    Room 22

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