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Work Portrait of the future King François II

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

Plaque: The Dauphin, future François II

© 2008 RMN / Gérard Blot

Decorative Arts
Renaissance

Author(s):
Baratte Sophie

This large enameled portrait was one of the earliest costly enamel works acquired by the Louvre. It depicts the French king Henri II's eldest son, the Dauphin François (1544-60), who reigned from July 1559 until his death on 5 December 1560. The age of the child enables us to date this work to c.1553, when he was nine. This work is of the same dimensions and displays the same stylistic qualities as the portraits of influential courtiers painted by Limosin.

Description

Set against a blue background, the child, with blue eyes and brown hair, is clad in a white slashed doublet worn over a white shirt. He wears the pendant of the Order of Saint Michel, and a black cap studded with pearls and decorated with a white feather. He also wears a pearl in his pierced left ear. The edge of a fur-lined cloak is visible across his shoulders and on his right side. Like the other figures painted by Léonard Limosin, he is portrayed behind a sort of parapet, often green, but here blue.
The eldest son of Henri II, François II married Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland and niece of the Guise family, on 24 April 1558. Although he had reached his majority, the young king abrogated his duties as ruler to his mother, Catherine dei' Medici, although real power in fact lay in the hands of the Guise family. His reign was marked by the Amboise conspiracy, led by prominent members of the Protestant faith in March 1560 and put down with ruthless ferocity. Always of delicate health, François died of an illness that was probably an ear infection.

Oval portraits

Although the large oval portraits by Léonard Limosin are dated 1556 and 1557 (Louvre, Portrait of High Constable Anne de Montmorency; Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, The Bishop of Rieux), this seems rather late for this portrait of a nine-year-old child, in which Léonard Limosin's virtuoso skill in the technique of painted enamel technique is unmistakable. The counter-enameling, on the back, is in flux and has blackish traces.

Model and crown collections of Limoges enamel paintings

This enameled portrait bears similarities to the drawings attributed to François Clouet (c.1515-72), "valet de chambre and painter-in-ordinary to the king" from 1540 (Musée Condé, Chantilly, and Print Room, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris), but the actual drawing on which this magnificent portrait of a child was based remains unknown.
The inventory of the Crown Jewels, drawn up in 1561 at the château of Fontainebleau, listed, under no. 795, an enamel painting from Limoges of the "late King François II". The inventory made after the death of Catherine dei' Medici mentions a "cabinet of enamels" in her residence, listing, under no. 842, "thirty-nine small enamel paintings from Limoges, oval in shape, set within the wainscoting of the said cabinet", and, under no. 843, "thirty-two portraits some one-foot high of diverse princes, lords and ladies, similarly mounted in the said wainscoting". As a foot measures around 32 centimeters, this is only a rough estimate of the size, possibly rendered even more imprecise by the presence of highly ornate frames, such as the one on the Portrait of Anne de Montmorency (Louvre). The popularity of enameled portraits stemmed from the fashion at this time for collecting likenesses of contemporary figures, as testified by numerous books of portrait drawings, now in various public collections, such as the Musée Condé, Chantilly, or the library of the École des Arts et Métiers, Paris.

Technical description

  • Attributed to Léonard LIMOSIN

    Plaque: The Dauphin, future François II

    C. 1553

    Limoges

  • Painted enamel on copper

    H. 44.80 cm; W. 31.90 cm

  • Acquired in 1837 , 1837

    N 1253

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Gallery of The Hunts of Maximilian
    Room 19

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