François I’s taste for Italian art is well known; his patronage is essentially identified with the creation of an Italian school at Fontainebleau, but his reign was equally marked by a vigorous tradition of Dutch artists settling in France.
The best-known Northern artists active in France during his reign—Jean Clouet and Corneille de La Haye known as Corneille de Lyon—were portrait specialists. The exhibition offers an exceptional presentation of the painted oeuvre of Jean Clouet (only around twenty panels are confirmed to be by the artist), as well as a few rare preparatory drawings, sketched from life.
As well as Paris, the Norman, Picard, Champagne, and Burgundian centers were swept by a wave of Northern influences—from Antwerp, Brussels, Leiden, Haarlem—in the art of manuscript illumination and religious painting. Recent research has gradually revealed painters unjustly consigned to oblivion: Godefroy le Batave, Noel Bellemare, Grégoire Guérard, and Bartholomeus Pons are only some of the artists who excelled in media as diverse as illumination, painting, stained glass, tapestry, and sculpture. The king made extensive purchases of tapestries, gold and silver objets d’art, and Flemish paintings. A whole segment of the French Renaissance is now resurfacing; and this exhibition sets out to reveal its many and varied facets, its extravagance, and its monumental character.