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First Painter to King Henri IV

This exhibition, the first to be devoted to Toussaint Dubreuil, doyen of the Second School of Fontainebleau, comprises fifty drawings ranked among the finest ever to come out of France.

First Painter to Henri IV, a consummate lutenist, a passionate horseman —his father was a saddler— and as skilled a jouster as any scion of a great family, Dubreuil seems to have possessed all the nobility of character needed for a life of self-possessed happiness. 

His work must be seen in the context of a social life rooted in physical prowess and of a musical virtuosity which, wedded to song, sparks true poetry. He was much appreciated by his contemporaries, who spoke of his "handsome pictures" and considered him "singular in his art." Those awed by his talent stressed his determination "to paint and invent at the same time," as Francesco Primaticcio had done at Fontainebleau before him. Yet they would see him die young in 1602, aged 41 or perhaps 44, and leaving behind him the image of a painter "exceptionally intelligent and notably skilled in drawing and the nude."

In twenty years Dubreuil had mastered all the significant innovations of the Mannerists in Italy (Michelangelo, Tibaldi, Passerotti) and France (Primaticcio, Niccolò dell’Abate, Antoine Caron) ; and not content with being their brilliant heir, he had achieved recognition —outshining Martin Fréminet and Ambroise Dubois— as the uncontested master of the Second School of Fontainebleau. Late in his brief career, doubtless having learnt of the artistic reforms wrought by the Carracci in Bologna, he began working in a new, eloquently clear style which in France paved the way for the Classicism of Laurent de La Hyre, Simon Vouet and Nicolas Poussin.

Organized by: Dominique Cordellier, Department of Prints and Drawings, Musée du Louvre

Practical information


Denon wing, 1st floor, Salle Mollien

Included in the museum ticket: €9 ; €6 after 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday