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Work Henri IV as Jupiter

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

Henri IV as Jupiter

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert

Decorative Arts

Baratte Sophie

This statuette, both a portrait of the French king, Henri IV, and a representation of the Roman god Jupiter with his emblem, the eagle, is noteworthy for its having been signed by the artist. It has a pendant in a statuette of Marie de' Medici as Juno and can be dated to the first decade of the seventeenth century, before the king's assassination by Ravaillac.

Henri IV as Jupiter

The statuette and its pendant represent the royal couple as Roman deities. They were commissioned at a time when order had been restored to a France which, unwilling to accept a heretic as heir to the throne, had been riven by the Wars of Religion. Henri IV, however, had abjured the reformed religion in 1593 and, in 1594, had been crowned in Chartres Cathedral. In 1600, he married Marie de' Medici, who in 1601 provided him with an heir, assuring the future of the Bourbon line. The reorganization of the kingdom allowed the great building projects of the Renaissance to be taken in hand again. Mythological themes commonly featured in the ephemeral scenery put up for such events as the ceremonial entry of the king into Paris, and also in the decoration of more lasting constructions such as the Louvre.

The sculptor

This is the only known statuette signed by Barthélémy Prieur. He was a sculptor of funerary monuments, a number of which are in the sculpture department of the Louvre. One such is the Monument for the Heart of Constable Anne de Montmorency (d. 1569), for which he produced the two allegorical female figures in bronze, commissioned in 1571. The Louvre also has his bronze sculptures for the tomb of Christophe de Thou, produced between 1582 and 1585. Prieur was appointed Court Sculptor in 1594.
The first mention of the two little statuettes is in an inventory of 1742, which records their presence in the Grand Cabinet at the château de Bercy, an estate which had remained in the same family, inherited in the direct line, since Charles de Malon (1568-1638), rapporteur and president of the Grand Council in 1608, senior member of the Council of State in 1613 and Attorney General to the Crown in 1616. The ownership of the two bronzes cannot, however, be traced back with certainty to the early seventeenth century.

The art of the small bronze at the beginning of the seventeenth century

The art of bronzecasting, which had in fact been practiced without interruption from antiquity, enjoyed an astonishing revival in Florence in the early fifteenth century, becoming an essential aspect of Italian sculptural production. François I of France had been keen to have reproductions of the most famous antique sculptures cast for his château de Fontainebleau. This led, as in Italy, to the production of bronze statuettes to decorate furniture or to adorn the cabinets of scholars, works which in general remained anonymous. In the case of court sculptor Barthélémy Prieur there are two inventories, from 1583 and 1611, recording the presence in his workshop of a large number of statuettes of very diverse subjects, and it is clear that this great sculptor used to model figurines. But given the quantity of statuettes of rustic or "intimiste" subjects, and the variation in artistic quality, other bronzecasters, whose existence is documented in the archives, must have been responsible for the wide distribution throughout the first half of the seventeenth century of the subjects which Barthélémy Prieur had modeled and of which he had perhaps cast the first example.

Technical description

  • Barthélemy PRIEUR (Berzieux (Marne), 1536 - Paris, 1611)

    Henri IV as Jupiter

    C. 1600-10


  • Bronze

    H. 0.63 m

  • Acquired in 1986 , 1986

    OA 11054

  • Decorative Arts

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