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Work Portrait of François I, king of France (1494-1547)

Department of Paintings: French painting

Portrait of François I, King of France (1494-1547)

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

French painting

Vincent Pomarède

Son of Charles d'Angoulême and Louise de Savoie, and cousin of King Louis XII whom he succeeded to the throne in 1515, François I wears the pendant of the Order of Saint Michael, which he served as Grand Master. The king's face is identical to an existing drawing by Clouet (Musée Condé, Chantilly). The modernity of the portrait is evident in the monumental and physical character of the bust, as well as the importance given to the hands; the date of execution has been judged at 1527-30.

Flemish realism and Italian influence

Following the example of the composition of Fouquet's Portrait of Charles VII, Jean Clouet depicts François I fully facing the viewer and casting a noble gaze. The king is richly attired in Italian style, but depicted without crown or scepter, the emblems of his station. The head, very slightly stylized, is precise in its details, painted after a drawing by Jean Clouet found today in the Chantilly museum. Despite the persistent realism of the Flemish school, everything in this painting is reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance artists: the subtle light, the shading of the face and hands, the realism of the folds in the clothing, the brilliance of the jewelry, and, of course, the framing - inspired as much by Fouquet as by Raphael or Leonardo da Vinci.

The Fontainebleau school

The Fontainebleau school, whose aesthetics were partly imported from Italy by Louis XII and François I, became the dominant influence in the French court of the 16th century. The school is characterized by a taste for the decorative, for ornament, mythological scenes, and sensual depictions of the female body. Its beginnings can be traced to the presence of the Italian artists Rosso Fiorentino, Francesco Primaticcio and Niccolo dell'Abbate during the construction of the Château de Fontainebleau, from 1526. Two Fontainebleau schools are generally distinguished: the first was influential during the reign of François I and Henri II, while the second corresponds to the artistic renewal that took place under Henri IV.

François I, patron of the arts

During the period when this portrait of François I (1494-1547) was painted, probably around 1535, the conqueror of Marignan had already surmounted the political difficulties ensuing from his defeat at Pavia and his imprisonment at the hands of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. While reinforcing his political power, François I established a patronage of a breadth never before seen in France. The portrait remained in the Royal Collections after its commission from Clouet and subsequent delivery to the king. It entered the Louvre with the Royal Collections at the formation of the Muséum Central des Arts in 1793. It is customarily believed that the portrait was painted with the collaboration of François Clouet, the artist's son.

Technical description

  • Jean CLOUET (?, c. 1480 - ?, 1540-41)

    Portrait of François I, King of France (1494-1547)

    c. 1530

  • H. 0.96 m; W. 0.74 m

  • Collection of François I

    Inv. 3256

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    16th-century portrait painters
    Room 822

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