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Work Saint Francis of Paola Prophesying the Birth of a Son (the Future Francis I, king of France, born in 1494) to Louise of Savoy

Department of Paintings: Flemish painting

Saint François de Paule (1416-1507) prophétisant un fils (le futur François Ier, roi de France, né en 1494) à Louise de Savoie

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Erich Lessing

Flemish painting

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Sketches for a series of paintings illustrating the life of Francis of Paola (1416-1507), a saint revered in France because Louis XI had him visit the country in 1482. The cycle of paintings may have been intended for a French monastery of the Order of Minim Brothers, which the saint founded.

Announcing the birth of the future Francis I

Theodoor van Thulden painted a mystic episode that was said to have occurred over a century earlier. Francis of Paola, a saint who was revered in France because he visited the country in 1482, appears at the bedside of Louise of Savoy to announce that she will give birth to the next king of France, the future Francis I. In 1515, Louis XII did die without a male heir, and the throne went to Francis I, of the royal family's Valois-Angoulême branch. Louise of Savoy and her spouse, the Count of Angoulême, who is almost certainly the figure depicted to the left of the bed, decided to name the child Francis in honor of the saint. The royal symbolism in this work foretells the distinguished fate of the child to be born. For example, a crowned dolphin just above Louise of Savoy decorates the headboard, and fleurs de lys adorn the cabled bedposts. Significantly, these symbols are lit up by the holy apparition.

A cycle for a Minim monastery

This picutre is part of a cycle that Theodoor van Thulden painted about the life of Saint Francis of Paola, of which several works (such as Saint Francis of Paola Healing Jean Caratello) and preparatory drawings in public and private collections survive. All the paintings have arched frames, which indicates that they were probably recessed into woodwork. The iconography suggests that the cycle might have been commissioned by the Minim Brothers, the order founded by the saint, which was particularly widespread in France and Flanders.

Between Mannerism and Rubenesque Baroque

Born in Bois-le-Duc, Theodoor van Thulden studied with Rubens and later a worked in the artist's thriving Antwerp studio. Rubens's particular sense of the Baroque can be found in the apparition's bright theatricality and the colorful, lavish decoration; however, some details, such as the Duke of Angoulême's somewhat extravagant pose, and, especially, the figures' distorted hands, are highly Mannerist. Although painted circa 1640, the work still bears the influence of Primaticcio and Niccolò dell'Abate's Mannerist decoration of the Château de Fontainebleau, which van Thulden copied when he was in Paris from 1631 to 1633. A somewhat naive charm makes up for the slightly awkward style and loose forms.


Exposition. Bois-le-Duc, Noordbrabants Museum, Strasbourg, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1991-1992. Theodoor van Thulden : un peintre baroque du cercle de Rubens / Alain Roy. - Zwolle : Waanders Uitgevers ; 'S-Hertogenbosch : Noordbrabant's Museum ; Strasbourg : Les Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg, 1991, pp. 161-162.Rubens and his world (Études, opgedragen aan Prof. Dr. Ir. R. A. d'Hulst...) - Antwerpen : Het Guldon Cabinet, 1985, pp. 227-233.

Technical description

  • Theodoor van THULDEN (Bois-le-Duc, 1606 - Bois-le-Duc, 1669)

    Saint François de Paule (1416-1507) prophétisant un fils (le futur François Ier, roi de France, né en 1494) à Louise de Savoie

  • H. : 0,73 m. ; L. : 0,61 m.

  • Donation Dr Louis La Caze, 1869 (comme école de Rubens : sujet inconnu)

    M.I. 974

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Rubens and 17th-century Flemish painting
    Room 802

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