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© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Erich Lessing

Italian painting

Philippe Costamagna

This figure represents the theological virtue of charity accompanied by her attributes: children to whom she offers protection, the burning jar at her feet, the pomegranate in the foreground. Undertaken at the court of Francis I, this is the sole work by Andrea del Sarto which is known for certain to have been painted in France. The pyramidal structure, the plasticity of the figures inspired by Michelangelo, and the style of the landscape are typical of early 16th-century Florentine culture.

An allegory of the royal family

The painting, complex in its iconography, is a reflection of the refined milieu which gravitated around the king of France. This is without doubt an allegory of the royal family: it celebrates in particular the birth of the Dauphin, the long-awaited successor to the throne. The nursing baby is an allusion to the recent maternity of Claude of France, while the face of Charity bears certain similarities to that of the queen. The infant who presents a cluster of hazelnuts is meant to be a girl - one of the daughters of the royal couple, probably Charlotte. The figure in the foreground is a symbol of "joyous France reposing in peace".

A painting for the collections of Francis I

Andrea del Sarto, called to the service of the king of France, departed for Amboise in June 1518 and returned to Florence in October of the following year. He painted for the royal court a portrait of the Dauphin and a St. Jerome (now lost), as well as this work, which was destined to adorn one of the rooms of the Château d'Amboise. Francis' collection then passed to the Château de Fontainebleau before entering the Louvre in 1666, the date at which the painting would be described by Félibien.

The influence of Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael

In Amboise, Andrea del Sarto rediscovered two artists he had known before his arrival in France: Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. He tried to rival Raphael's Holy Family and St. Michael, and Leonardo's The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, much admired by the king.
The work is composed according to a classical pyramid which integrates a complex system of divergent rhythms, very similar to Leonardo's, and demonstrates the latter's influence on the evolution of Andrea's style from the time of his French voyage.

Technical description

  • Andrea d'Agnolo di Francesco, known as ANDREA DEL SARTO (Florence, 1486 - Florence, 1530)


    Signed and dated bottom left on the cartellino: ANDREAS. SARTUS. FLORENTINUS. ME PINXIT MDXVIII [1518].

  • Oil on wood transferred to canvas in 1750

    H. 1.85 m; W. 1.37 m

  • Collection of François I

    INV. 712

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Grande Galerie
    Room 710, 712, 716

Practical information

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Additional information about the work

Signed and dated lower left on the cartellino: ANDREAS. SARTUS. FLORENTINUS. ME PINXIT MDXVIII [1518]