CARON, Antoine

The multifaceted Antoine Caron—painter, draughtsman, and deviser of court entertainments—typifies the court artist of the later sixteenth century. Caron began painting religious art in his birthplace, Beauvais. In the 1540s he found work at court under Henri II, principally at the Chateau of Fontainebleau, where, beginning under Francois I,* artists from Italy and France collaborated on lavish interior decoration projects. Caron, working with Francesco Primaticcio* and Niccolo dell'Abate,* absorbed the latest artistic ideas.
Caron remained at court throughout the Valois era. Among his most important works are two albums of drawings intended for enlargement into tapestries (Paris, Louvre and Bibliotheque Nationale). These were gifts to Henri II's widow, Catherine de' Medici,* from a courtier, Nicolas Houel. Caron made drawings to accompany a manuscript biography of the ancient queen Artemesia (a model for Catherine, the queen regent) that Houel composed in 1562. He also illustrated Houel's History of the Kings of France.
In the 1570s Caron helped organize Parisian entertainments for three of Cath­erine de' Medici's children, including the triumphal entry of Charles IX, the wedding of Henri and Marguerite de Valois,* and the reception of the Polish ambassadors come to offer their crown to the duke of Anjou. He also docu­mented such events in drawings.
Caron developed a personal style within the Mannerist idiom, his works fea­turing numerous elongated figures populating monumentally conceived theatrical spaces. He championed the Catholic cause, and paintings like The Massacre of the Triumvirate (Paris, Louvre) allegorize the contemporary religious wars in an antique setting. Caron's career as a painter, however, is less well defined than that as a draftsman. In addition to the models for tapestries, Caron furnished drawings for printmakers to market and to illustrate an influential publication on iconography. Caron not only helped invent the imagery of the Valois; his drawings of court festivals also provide important visual records of this ephem­eral, but significant aspect of Renaissance court culture.
R. Strong, Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals, 1450-1650, 1984.
S. J. Turner, "Antoine Caron," in The Dictionary of Art, 5:813-15, 1996.
F. Yates, The Valois Tapestries, 1959.
Sheila ffolliott

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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