François Clouet

François Clouet

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François Clouet son of Jean Clouet
Jean Clouet
Jean Clouet was a miniaturist and painter who worked in France during the Renaissance. He was the father of François Clouet.-Biography:Clouet was allegedly born in Brussels....

, was a French Renaissance
French Renaissance
French Renaissance is a recent term used to describe a cultural and artistic movement in France from the late 15th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that many cultural historians believe originated in northern Italy in the fourteenth century...

 miniaturist and painter, particularly known for his detailed portraits of the French ruling family.

Historical references


Clouet was born in Tours
Tours
Tours is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department.It is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the...

.

The earliest reference to him is a document dated December 1541 (see Jean Clouet
Jean Clouet
Jean Clouet was a miniaturist and painter who worked in France during the Renaissance. He was the father of François Clouet.-Biography:Clouet was allegedly born in Brussels....

), in which the king renounces for the benefit of François his father's estate, which had escheated to the crown as the estate of a foreigner. In this document, the younger Clouet is said to have followed his father very closely in his art. Like his father, he held the office of groom of the chamber
Valet de chambre
Valet de chambre , or varlet de chambre, was a court appointment introduced in the late Middle Ages, common from the 14th century onwards. Royal Households had many persons appointed at any time...

 and painter in ordinary
Court painter
A court painter was an artist who painted for the members of a royal or noble family, sometimes on a fixed salary and on an exclusive basis where the artist was not supposed to undertake other work. Especially in the late Middle Ages, they were often given the office of valet de chambre...

 to the king, and so far as salary is concerned, he started where his father left off. Many drawings are attributed to this artist, often without perfect certainty. There is, however, more to go upon than there is in the case of his father.

As the praises of François Clouet were sung by the writers of the day, his name was carefully preserved from reign to reign, and there is an ancient and unbroken tradition in the attribution of many of his pictures. There are not, however, any original attestations of his works, nor are any documents known which would guarantee the ascriptions usually accepted. To him are attributed the portraits of Francis I
Francis I of France
Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death. During his reign, huge cultural changes took place in France and he has been called France's original Renaissance monarch...

 at the Uffizi
Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery , is a museum in Florence, Italy. It is one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western world.-History:...

 and at the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

, and various drawings relating to them. He probably also painted the portrait of Catherine de' Medici
Catherine de' Medici
Catherine de' Medici was an Italian noblewoman who was Queen consort of France from 1547 until 1559, as the wife of King Henry II of France....

 at Versailles
Versailles
Versailles , a city renowned for its château, the Palace of Versailles, was the de facto capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. It is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and remains an important administrative and judicial centre...

 and other works, and in all probability a large number of the drawings ascribed to him were from his hand. One of his most remarkable portraits is that of Mary, Queen of Scots, a drawing in chalks in the Bibliothèque Nationale, and of similar character are the two portraits of Charles IX
Charles IX of France
Charles IX was King of France, ruling from 1560 until his death. His reign was dominated by the Wars of Religion. He is best known as king at the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.-Childhood:...

 and the one at Chantilly of Marguerite of France. Perhaps his masterpiece is the portrait of Elizabeth of Austria
Elisabeth of Austria (1554-1592)
Elisabeth of Austria was a German princess member of the House of Habsburg, by birth Archduchess of Austria and by marriage Queen of France.She was the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II and Maria of Spain....

 in the Louvre. This piece made an important impression on Claude Lévi-Strauss
Claude Lévi-Strauss
Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer, the "father of modern anthropology"....

. In particular it helped inspire his theory of the modèle réduit, or of works of art as 'miniature models', and other theories of artworks, in his book The Savage Mind.


Clouet resided in Paris in the rue de Ste Avoye in the Temple quarter, close to the Hotel de Guise, and in 1568 is known to have been under the patronage of Claude Gouffier de Boisy, Seigneur d'Oiron, and his wife Claude de Baune. Another ascertained fact concerning François Clouet is that in 1571 he was summoned to the office of the Court of the Mint, and his opinion was taken on the likeness to the king of a portrait struck by the mint. He prepared the death-mask of Henry II
Henry II of France
Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559.-Early years:Henry was born in the royal Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, the son of Francis I and Claude, Duchess of Brittany .His father was captured at the Battle of Pavia in 1525 by his sworn enemy,...

, as in 1547 he had taken a similar mask of the face and hands of Francis I., in order that the effigy to be used at the funeral might be prepared from his drawings; and on each of these occasions he executed the painting to be used in the decorations of the church and the banners for the great ceremony.

Several miniatures are believed to be his work, one very remarkable portrait being the half-length figure of Henry II in the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan. Another of his portraits is that of François, duc d'Alençon
François, Duke of Anjou
Francis, Duke of Anjou and Alençon was the youngest son of Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici.-Early years:...

 in the Jones collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Catherine de Medici described the efforts of Maistre Jamet (he used his father's name) on Alençon's portrait to the ambassador in London, Mothe Fénélon.
Certain representations of members of the royal family which were in the Hamilton Palace collection and the Magniac sale are usually ascribed to him. He died on 22 December 1572, shortly after the massacre of St Bartholomew, and his will, mentioning his sister and his two illegitimate daughters, and dealing with the disposition of a considerable amount of property, is still in existence. His daughters subsequently became nuns.

His work is remarkable for the elaborate finish of all the details, the extreme accuracy of the drawing, and the exquisite completeness of the whole portrait. He must have been a man of high intelligence, and of great penetration, intensely interested in his work, and with considerable ability to represent the character of his sitter in his portraits. His coloring is perhaps not specially remarkable, nor from the point of style can his pictures be considered very fairly beautiful, but in perfection of drawing he has hardly any equal.