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Visitor trails Decorative Arts, European Renaissance

Decorative Arts - Length: 1 hr 30 mins - Tour days: Monday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

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Portrait du connétable de Montmorency (détail)
Portrait du connétable de Montmorency (détail)

© R.M.N.

00Introduction

The Louvre collection of Renaissance decorative arts offers visitors an introduction to fifteenth-century Italian innovations, and to their diffusion and assimilation in other European countries.

In the early fifteenth-century Tuscany saw a revival of interest in antiquity, initiated by architects, sculptors and painters. This revival marked a decisive break with the conventions of International Gothic art, and first emerged in Florence at the very beginning of the fifteenth century. The Renaissance was thus originally an Italian movement, manifested in the field of the decorative arts in workshops making tapestries, ceramics and bronzes.
Objects in new and inventive forms, re-creating the splendours of antiquity, were commissioned by illustrious princes, collectors and patrons of art. Throughout the sixteenth century, Italian stylistic innovations spread across the rest of Europe, in France, Germany and Flanders. Italian Mannerism then conquered the whole of Europe, evolving differently in each artistic centre. These gradually threw off the Italian influence and began to produce more autonomous works. All the princes of Europe commissioned tapestries, glazed pottery, bronzes and painted enamels to embellish their castles and palaces.
Although the Renaissance is known above all for its paintings, the decorative arts proved to be among its most sumptuous manifestations.

 

How to get to the next stop:
Beneath the Pyramid, follow signs for the Richelieu wing. After ticket barrier, turn right and go up to the first floor. Walk through the medieval decorative arts rooms, then turn right and continue to Room 12.

La Crucifixion
La Crucifixion

© 1990 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

01The Crucifixion

Sculptors played a fundamental role in the birth of this new art, carving small works which were then cast in bronze. There was renewed interest in bronze sculpture from the early 15th century onwards, owing to the revival of interest in Antiquity, a thriving period for bronze statuettes. This bronze bas-relief depicting the Crucifixion is attributed to Donatello (1386-1466). Here the canons of Gothic International art have been abandoned, the handling of the figures is far more monumental and the scene is represented in perspective. Although he himself was not a bronzesmith, Donatello carved numerous works that were to be cast in bronze. He worked mainly in Florence, but also received major commissions from Siena, Rome and Padua. This Crucifixion was attributed to him after comparison with the bas-reliefs he executed in the 1430s, which explains its dating.

How to get to the next stop:

Continue to Room 16. The tapestry of St Mammès giving himself up to the court of the governor of Cappadocia hangs on the left-hand wall.

Saint Mammès venant se livrer au tribunal du gouverneur de la Cappadocede la tenture L'Histoire de saint Mammès
Saint Mammès venant se livrer au tribunal du gouverneur de la Cappadocede la tenture L'Histoire de saint Mammès

© 1999 Musée du Louvre / Thierry Malty

02Renaissance decorative arts

Saint Mammès giving himself up to the court of the governor of Cappadocia is one of the tapestries in the life of Saint Mammès series, executed for Langres Cathedral in France. It was woven in Paris in 1544, after cartoons by the painter Jean Cousin the Elder (c.1490-c.1560). The Louvre tapestry from this set is representative of the revival in tapestry-weaving that took place in Paris at the end of the reign of François I. The life of St Mammès series was commissioned by Cardinal de Givry from the weavers Pierre Blasse and Jacques Langlois. Jean Cousin the Elder, who designed the cartoons, was an artist closely related to the First School of Fontainebleau, whose characteristic decorative motifs can be seen here, such as strapwork and swags of fruit. The depiction of architectural perspectives and the treatment of the figures and drapery, meanwhile, recall the Italian influence that dominated Europe in the sixteenth century.

How to get to the next stop:

Now go into Room 18. In front of you, on the far wall, you will see a gilded and enamelled drinking cup in coloured glass.

Coupe avec cortège allégorique
Coupe avec cortège allégorique

© 2011 RMN / Franck Raux

03Goblet decorated with an allegorical procession

The glass collection at the Louvre is unusually large, and consists essentially of Venetian glass. Fifteenth-century Venetian glassmakers succeeded in creating a form of glass that was both very white and highly polished. Purged of metallic oxides, this glass also enabled them to obtain colour effects, particularly blue. This broad chalice is an example of coloured Venetian glassware. It is decorated with an allegorical procession inspired by Petrach's Trionfi, allegorical poems on the subject of Desire, Chastity, Glory, Death, Time and Eternity. Drinking cups such as this were generally given as wedding presents and embellished with medallions bearing the bridegroom's profile, which is not the case here. It is nevertheless possible that this is also a wedding cup. It is attributed to Angelo Barovier (1405-60), regarded as a master enamellist in the fifteenth century.

How to get to the next stop:

Go into Room 19.

Assiette aux armes d'Isabelle d'Este-Gonzague, marquise de Mantoue (1474 - 1539) : <i>Abimélech épiant Isaac et Rébecca</i>,
Assiette aux armes d'Isabelle d'Este-Gonzague, marquise de Mantoue (1474 - 1539) : <i>Abimélech épiant Isaac et Rébecca</i>,

© 2010 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

04Plate with the coat of arms of Isabella d'Este-Gonzaga, Marchioness of Mantua

In the late fifteenth century a type of ceramic with painted decoration appeared in Faenze, the town which would give its name to "faience". The art of faience, or tin-glazed earthenware, developed very rapidly in Italy under the name "majolica" (from Majorca, the island via which Italian commissions of Spanish faience were transported). Some majolica ware was adorned with historiated scenes and thus became known as "istoriati". The art of "istoriato" reached its peak in Urbino, in the Italian Marches, in the early sixteenth century. It is from Urbino that this plate from the dinner service of Isabella d'Este originated, the work of one of the most renowned Italian faience makers, Nicola da Urbino (1480-1538), who completed it c.1525. Inspired by Raphael's composition for the Vatican Loggia, the scene depicts Abimelech spying on Isaac and Rebekah. The coat of arms of Isabella d'Este (1474-1539), margravine of Mantua, can be seen on the right, while her motto, "Nec spe nec metu" ("neither through hope nor through fear"), appears at the bottom. Isabella d'Este was a great patron of the arts and a discerning collector. The exact date of the service to which this plate belongs remains unknown, but it may have been contemporary with the marriage of Isabella d'Este's daughter, Eleonora, to Francesco Maria della Rovere, duke of Urbino, which would explain the choice of Nicola da Urbino for this commission.

How to get to the next stop:

Look at the other tapestries from the Maximilian hunting series in this room.

The month of March (sign of Aries)
The month of March (sign of Aries)

© R.M.N.

05The month of March (sign of Aries)

The tapestries of the Maximilian hunting series demonstrate the impact made by Italian art on the rest of Europe, especially the Netherlands and Germany. The series was woven in Brussels, after cartoons by Bernard van Orley (c.1492-1542), one of the painters who worked for the Habsburg court. The Maximilian hunting scenes consist of twelve tapestries, all depicting hunting scenes set in the forest of Soignes, outside Brussels. In the centre of the upper border of each tapestry, a medallion in grisaille bears the sign of the zodiac corresponding to the month depicted. The series begins with the month of March, the first month of the year in the Julian calendar, which remained in use in Brussels until 1575. The landscape offers a unique panoramic view of the city of Brussels. In the foreground, the horseman clad in red is thought to represent Emperor Charles V (1500-58). The exact date of execution is known from a contract agreed in 1533 between the weaver Guillaume Dermoyen and two tapestry merchants. The identity of the person who commissioned the tapestries remains uncertain, but it was probably somebody close to the court of Brussels.

How to get to the next stop:

Walk through Room 20 and into Room 21. Head for the vitrine on the left.

06Portrait of High Constable Anne de Montmorency

In the mid-16th century, the Limoges workshops specializing in painted enamel on copper were in their heyday. Léonard Limosin (1505-77), the greatest of the Limoges enamellists, executed this portrait of Anne de Montmorency (1493-1567), who had been appointed High Constable of France by François I in 1538. Her likeness, painted in 1556, is one of Léonard Limosin's finest oval portraits. It still has its original frame, made up of eight different-shaped plaques, with satyrs and the high constable's device. The frame was inspired by the Galerie François I at Fontainebleau, as depicted in engravings by Fantuzzi. Limosin painted a number of portraits in enamel, all bearing witness to the finesse of his technique.

How to get to the next stop:

Turn around and proceed to the central vitrine.

Aiguière au chiffre de Gilles de Montmorency-Laval
Aiguière au chiffre de Gilles de Montmorency-Laval

© 1996 Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

07Ewer bearing the monogram of Gilles de Montmorency-Laval

The Louvre has an impressive collection of French Renaissance ceramics. Italian models had a considerable influence on the development of ceramics in France, but it was not long before French artists began to assert their independence. In the1550s, they produced white earthenware with brown decorations known as Saint-Porchaire pottery. The singular technique used for the decoration involved inlaying fine strips of brown clay in a hollow-cut design made with the a stamp. This was the technique used for the ewer now in the Louvre. Its shape, as in other examples of Saint-Porchaire ware, was inherited from metalwork. The decoration was inspired by the arabesques and interlacing motifs with which Renaissance bookbinders embellished their work. The belly of the Louvre ewer also bears the letter "G", the first initial of Gilles de Montmorency-Laval. The other applied motifs forming the handle, such as the masks and two-headed serpent, are characteristic of 1550s Mannerism.

How to get to the next stop:

Go into Room 24 and proceed to the vitrine in the middle of the room.

Aiguière et bassin dits de Charles Quint
Aiguière et bassin dits de Charles Quint

© 2010 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

08Charles V's ewer and basin

The so-called Charles V ewer and basin were made by a goldsmith from Antwerp in partially enamelled silver gilt. Depicted in low relief on the basin are various episodes from the capture of Tunis by Charles V in 1535. On the ewer, the neck and spout of which are formed by a female bust crowned with a shell, a frieze shows the embarkation of Charles V's troops after the victory. These objects recall not only the might of Emperor Charles V (1500-58) but also the virtuoso skill of Renaissance Antwerp's goldsmiths, who, like other European artists, were influenced by developments from Italy.

How to get to the next stop:

Go into Room 25, where you will find a highly Mannerist porcelain ewer in a vitrine on the right.

Ewer
Ewer

© R.M.N.

09Ewer

With their taste for rarity and luxury, the great Italian princes could not fail to admire Chinese porcelain. This fascination for porcelain explains the emergence of Medici porcelain, a sumptuous imitation of white Chinese porcelain with blue decoration. The Florentine porcelain workshop was founded by Francesco de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in 1575. It remained active until 1613, but most of its works were produced before the grand duke's death in 1587. Only sixty or so surviving pieces of Medici porcelain are known in the world today. Like the Louvre ewer, they often bear a hallmark under the base. This gadrooned ewer, highly Mannerist in form and with its spout in the form of a mask, shows the direction adopted by the Medici workshop, which shook off Far Eastern influences in order to espouse highly typical sixteenth-century Italian forms. Medici porcelain was the first chapter in the history of European porcelain.

How to get to the next stop:

Continue into Room 26,  "Salle Jean Bologne", where you will find two large tapestries hanging on the walls.

La chute de Phaéton
La chute de Phaéton

© 1993 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

10Tapestry depicting scenes from Ovid's Metamorphoses

In 1545, Ercole d'Este II persuaded the Flemish weaver Hans Karcher to settle in Ferrara, where he executed a set of tapestries on subjects taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The cartoons were by the painter Battista Dossi (c.1490-1542), and the subject matter was used as a pretext for depicting the gardens of Italian noblemen. This tapestry depicts the Fall of Phaethon. The set as a whole demonstrates the Italians' fondness for the art of tapestry-weaving. They did not hestitate to invite Flemish craftsmen such as Hans Karcher to come and run their tapestry workshops, and the Ferrara workshop is a good example of this policy.

How to get to the next stop:

Return to the Jean Bologne rotonda and carry on until you come to a bronze statue on a pedestal opposite a window.

Nessus enlevant Déjanire.
Nessus enlevant Déjanire.

© 1993 RMN

11The Abduction of Deianira

In 1561, the Frenchman Jean Boulogne (1529-1608) settled in Florence under the patronage of the Medici. Known as Giovanni da Bologna or Giambologna, he was to spend his entire career in Italy, and in around 1580 executed a bronze masterpiece entitled The Abduction of Dejanira by the Centaur Nessus. He made numerous models for small bronzes, which the princes of Europe liked to collect or use as diplomatic gifts. Untrained as a founder, Giovanni da Bologna entrusted his assistants with the task of casting his works in bronze. But some of them bear his signature or initials: the Louvre bronze is one of these extremely rare pieces. The artist's signature (IOA BOLONGIE) can be seen on the centaur's headband. The subject, the abduction of Dejanira, Hercules' wife, by the centaur Nessus, was a pretext for depicting a group of figures in action. Its spiral movement is typical of the work of Giovanni da Bologna and of Mannerist art.

How to get to the next stop:

Go into Room 27, "Salle Henri III", and head for the central vitrine furthest to the right.

Mace
Mace

© R.M.N./Chuzeville

12Mace

In 1578, the Ordre du Saint Esprit (Order of the Holy Ghost) was founded by Henri III (who had become king of France in 1574) in order to bring together the French nobility, agitated by the Wars of Religion and the delicate quesion of the succession to the throne of France. Henri III endowed the order with a treasure, composed partly of pieces dating from the Middle Ages and the first half of the sixteenth century, and partly of works specially commissioned for the occasion. Among these new pieces, made between 1579 and 1585, was the mace of the order. Executed by the Parisian goldsmith Jean Dujardin in 1584-5, it is far more elaborate in style than the other objects in the collection. It is adorned with four bas-reliefs showing episodes in the order's ceremonies: procession, admission of a knight, communion and a banquet. These were chased after drawings by the painter Toussaint Dubreuil. This and the other surviving works from the order's collection of treasures are rare examples of the skills of late sixteenth-century Parisian goldsmiths.

How to get to the next stop:

In another vitrine in this room you will find the helmet and shield of Charles IX.

Morion du roi Charles IX
Morion du roi Charles IX

© 1987 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

13Helmet

The helmet and shield of Charles IX (1550-74) were made in embossed, gold-plated iron and embellished with a rich decoration of pink and white opaque enamel and red, green and blue translucent enamel. The helmet was delivered with a scimitar (now lost) by Pierre Redon, goldsmith and valet de chambre to the king; the shield was completed in 1572. Two scenes from ancient history are depicted on the helmet, which is bordered with ova and entrelacs. Around the edge of the shield, the royal monogram "K" alternates with oval medallions in cloisonné enamel. In the centre is a bas-relief depicting the Victory of Marius over Jugurtha, King of Numidia (107 BC). Drawing imagery from ancient history like this was characteristic of the Renaissance. The masks, strapwork and floral bouquets on these objects were frequently used in the decorative arts of the period and show the influence of the School of Fontainebleau.

How to get to the next stop:

Carry on to Room 29.

Armoire
Armoire

© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Philippe Fuzeau

14Armoire said to be by Hugues Sambin

The second half of the sixteenth century was a period of profound regeneration in French furniture design. Numerous architects provided models for armoires. Whether Hugues Sambin (c.1520-1601), an architect from Dijon, designed this example remains uncertain, but his influence is clear to see. The three terms with heads of satyrs and faunesses are similar to those that appeared in his famous anthology published in 1572. On the other hand, the figure of Hercules carved on the left-hand door panel is based on an engraving from the Gods in Niches series after Rosso Fiorentino. Characteristic as it was of Fontainebleau Mannerism, this series was very popular in France. This armoire demonstrates the development of furniture design in the French provinces, particularly in Burgundy around the influential personality of Hugues Sambin.

How to get to the next stop:

Go into Room 30, "Salle Bernard Palissy". Find the vitrine containing frogs, snakes and dishes decorated with animal motifs.

Bassin « rustique »
Bassin « rustique »

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola

15Dish with "rustic figulines"

Whereas the Italians had definitively adopted faience, French craftsmen developed the technique of glazed pottery, also known as Palissy ware. Relief decoration was added to terracotta pieces and then enhanced with coloured glazes. Among the most original creations of this type were the works of the celebrated French potter Bernard Palissy (c.1510-90), hence the name. His technique involved moulding the different elements of his compositions from life (reptiles, fish, seaweed, etc.). The dish shown here is a fine illustration of his working method. The tiny lifelike animals were known as "rustic figulines" and Palissy was awarded the title "Royal Inventor of Rustic Figulines". The strange aquatic imagery of these dishes was inspired by Francesco Colonna's Dream of Poliphilus, published to immediate acclaim in 1499. This love of nature combined with advances in the field of ceramics perfectly epitomizes the humanist ideals of the Renaissance.

How to get to the next stop:

Retrace your steps back to the Hall Napoléon under the Pyramid.

 

Author(s) :

Muriel Barbier, département des Objets d'art