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Jean Clouet (c.1486-1541)

( Originally Published 1955 )

French court painter, primarily of portraits. Father of Francois Clouet (see). Born in Flanders, Jean served from 1516 as court painter to Francis I at Tours and Fontainebleau, earning the title of valet de chambre. Certain portraits and religious paintings by Jean are recorded in documents, but no sure or signed work has come down to us. However, it has been possible to associate a distinctive style with him. It was customary in those days for the wealthy to collect and distribute crayon portraits of themselves, largely executed in red and black chalk and sometimes serving as models for oil paintings. Such a collection of 130 items of homogeneous style is in the Museum of Chantilly, and as they represent Francis I and other important courtly figures of the period of Jean, it is assumed that they were done by Jean as painter to the king. They reveal that he practiced an accomplished, detailed style, somewhat less elegant than that of his son or the Italianate Fontainebleau painters, but more delicate than contemporary Flemings. Several portraits in oil follow the style of these drawings and can be attributed to Jean. These include a bust of Francis I (Louvre), an equestrian portrait of Francis I (Uffizi), the dauphin Francis (Museum Antwerp), Charlotte of France (privately owned), Claude due de Guise (Pitti), Louis Monsieur de Nevers (Museum Bergamo) and an unknown Scholar (Hampton Court, England). Jean is clearly the point of orgin of French Mannerist portraiture of the sixteenth century.

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