CLOUET, Francois

(CLOUET, Jean (c. 1485-1540/41) and Francois (c. 1516-1572)
The Clouets, father and son, dominated the production of portraiture in draw­ing and painting in sixteenth-century France. Probably influenced by Italian art, they exploited the possibilities of colored chalk to achieve more lifelike effects. Their portraits, produced to meet an increasing demand, provide a uniquely extensive visual record of the royal family and courtiers.
Jean Clouet was court painter to Francois I.* His individual style first appears in portrait heads decorating illuminated manuscripts. Jean also produced inde­pendent portraits, primarily bust-length drawings, although a few documented painted portraits exist. Clouet typically made sketches from life and then pro­duced highly finished drawings (incorporating different colors of chalk) in the studio.
Clouet's drawings, known as crayons, were frequently copied. Demand for portraits at court increased during the Renaissance. Catherine de' Medici,* whose handwriting identifying the sitter appears on some drawings, actively promoted dynastic marriages for her children. Portraits were exchanged as part of such negotiations. Collectors also sought portraits for inclusion in albums. Jean Clouet painted portraits near the end of his career. One of the best known - possibly influenced by Hans Holbein's* portrait of Desiderius Erasmus* - depicts the humanist scholar Guillaume Bude* (New York, Metropolitan Mu­seum). Holbein and Clouet may have met during one of the former's trips to the Continent.
Francois Clouet assumed his father's position in 1540. To satisfy demand, he ran a large workshop with many assistants. Although this workshop continued to produce crayons, the younger Clouet made significant large-scale painted portraits, including an equestrian Francois I (Paris, Louvre), as well as allegor­ical portraits, such as Lady in Her Bath (Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art).
The Clouets moved portraiture from the manuscript to the independent draw­ing to large-scale painting. They developed the potential of the chalk medium and extended the boundaries of the portrait genre. The extensive number of drawings by the Clouet circle document the personalities of the French court in the Renaissance.
Bibliography
A. Blunt, Art and Architecture in France, 1500 to 1700, 1973.
L. Campbell, Renaissance Portraits, 1990.
P. Mellen, Jean Clouet: Complete Edition of the Drawings, Miniatures, and Paintings, 1971.
Sheila ffolliott

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

Look at other dictionaries:

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