CHARLET & JACOTIN Portrait of Cathérine de' Médicis (1519-1589) ca. 1860 [R/V] - x +
ChJa1860medi


CN: ChJa1860medi

MT: albumen print on paper mounted on card (9x5 / C:11x6)

TX: embossed at lower right of picture <C.J>, printed at lower left of margin in English <CHARLET & JACOTIN>, inscribed with fountain pen at lower center of margin <Cathérine de' Médicis>, inscribed with pencil at rear upper center <Cathérine de' Médicis>, printed at upper center <PHOTOGRAPHIE / CHARLET & JACOTIN / 37, Boult. de Strasbourg / PARIS.>, stamped below <MAISON / ALPH GIROUX>

PR: Maison Alphonse Giroux, Paris

DN: Mr. Megakles Rogakos - 2009

CM: Catherine de' Medici (13 April 1519 - 5 January 1589) was born in Florence, Italy, as Caterina Maria Romula di Lorenzo de' Medici. Both of her parents, Lorenzo II de' Medici, Duke of Urbino, and Madeleine de La Tour d'Auvergne, Countess of Boulogne, died within weeks of her birth. In 1533, at the age of fourteen, Caterina married Henry, second son of King Francis I of France and Queen Claude. Under the gallicised version of her name, Catherine de Médicis, she was queen consort of King Henry II of France from 1547 to 1559. § Throughout his reign, Henry excluded Catherine from influence and instead showered favours on his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Henry's death in 1559 thrust Catherine into the political arena as mother of the frail fifteen-year-old King Francis II. When he died in 1560, she became regent on behalf of her ten-year-old son King Charles IX and was granted sweeping powers. After Charles died in 1574, Catherine played a key role in the reign of her third son, Henry III. He dispensed with her advice only in the last months of her life. § Catherine's three sons reigned in an age of almost constant civil and religious war in France. The problems facing the monarchy were complex and daunting. At first, Catherine compromised and made concessions to the rebelling Protestants, or Huguenots, as they became known. She failed, however, to grasp the theological issues that drove their movement. Later, she resorted in frustration and anger to hard-line policies against them.[Knecht, Catherine de' Medici, 272] In return, she came to be blamed for the excessive persecutions carried out under her sons' rule, in particular for the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572, in which thousands of Huguenots were killed in Paris and throughout France. § Some recent historians have excused Catherine from blame for the worst decisions of the crown, though evidence for her ruthlessness can be found in her letters.[Knecht, 272. For a summary of the fluctuations in Catherine's historical reputation, see the preface to R. J. Knecht's Catherine de' Medici, 1998: xi-xiv] In practice, her authority was always limited by the effects of the civil wars. Her policies, therefore, may be seen as desperate measures to keep the Valois monarchy on the throne at all costs, and her spectacular patronage of the arts as an attempt to glorify a monarchy whose prestige was in steep decline.[Sutherland, Ancien Régime, 20.; Frieda, 454–455] Without Catherine, it is unlikely that her sons would have remained in power.[Sutherland, Ancien Régime, 26] The years in which they reigned have been called "the age of Catherine de' Medici".[Thomson, 97; Sutherland, Ancien Régime, 3; Neale, The Age of Catherine de Medici] § Catherine believed in the humanist ideal of the learned Renaissance prince whose authority depended on letters as well as arms.[Hoogvliet, 109] She was inspired by the example of her father-in-law, King Francis I of France, who had hosted the leading artists of Europe at his court, and by her Medici ancestors. In an age of civil war and declining respect for the monarchy, she sought to bolster royal prestige through lavish cultural display. Once in control of the royal purse, she launched a programme of artistic patronage that lasted for three decades. During this time, she presided over a distinctive late French Renaissance culture in all branches of the arts.[Knecht, 220] § An inventory drawn up at the Hôtel de la Reine after Catherine's death shows her to have been a keen collector. Listed works of art included tapestries, hand-drawn maps, sculptures, rich fabrics, ebony furniture inlaid with ivory, sets of china, and Limoges pottery.[Knecht, 240-241] There were also hundreds of portraits, for which a vogue had developed during Catherine's lifetime. Many portraits in her collection were by Jean Clouet (1480-1541) and his son François Clouet (ca. 1510-1572). François Clouet drew and painted portraits of all Catherine's family and of many members of the court.[Dimier, 205-206] After Catherine's death, a decline in the quality of French portraiture set in. By 1610, the school patronised by the late Valois court and brought to its pinnacle by François Clouet had all but died out.[Dimier, 308-319; Jollet, 17-18] § Beyond portraiture, little is known about the painting at Catherine de' Medici's court.[Blunt, 98] In the last two decades of her life, only two painters stand out as recognisable personalities: Jean Cousin the Younger (ca. 1522 - ca. 1594), few of whose works survive, and Antoine Caron (c. 1521-1599), who became Catherine's official painter after working at Fontainebleau under Primaticcio. Caron's vivid Mannerism, with its love of ceremonial and its preoccupation with massacres, reflects the neurotic atmosphere of the French court during the Wars of Religion. § Many of Caron's paintings, such as those of the Triumphs of the Seasons, are of allegorical subjects that echo the festivities for which Catherine's court was famous. His designs for the Valois Tapestries celebrate the fêtes, picnics, and mock battles of the "magnificent" entertainments hosted by Catherine. They depict events held at Fontainebleau in 1564; at Bayonne in 1565 for the summit meeting with the Spanish court; and at the Tuileries in 1573 for the visit of the Polish ambassadors who presented the Polish crown to Catherine's son Henry of Anjou.[Blunt, 98] Biographer Leonie Frieda suggests that "Catherine, more than anyone, inaugurated the fantastic entertainments for which later French monarchs also became renowned".[Frieda, 225] § The musical shows in particular allowed Catherine to express her creative gifts. They were usually dedicated to the ideal of peace in the realm and based on mythological themes. To create the necessary dramas, music, and scenic effects for these events, Catherine employed the leading artists and architects of the day. Historian Frances Yates has called her "a great creative artist in festivals".[Yates, 68] Catherine gradually introduced changes to the traditional entertainments: for example, she increased the prominence of dance in the shows that climaxed each series of entertainments. A distinctive new art form, the ballet de cour, emerged from these creative advances.[Yates, 51; Strong, 102, 121-122] Owing to its synthesis of dance, music, verse, and setting, the production of the Ballet Comique de la Reine in 1581 is regarded by scholars as the first authentic ballet.[Lee, 44] § Catherine de' Medici's great love among the arts was architecture. "As the daughter of the Medici," suggests French art historian Jean-Pierre Babelon, "she was driven by a passion to build and a desire to leave great achievements behind her when she died." [Babelon, 263] After Henry II's death, Catherine set out to immortalise her husband's memory and to enhance the grandeur of the Valois monarchy through a series of costly building projects.[Frieda, 79, 455; Sutherland, Ancien Régime, 6] These included work on châteaux at Montceaux-en-Brie, Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, and Chenonceau. Catherine built two new palaces in Paris: the Tuileries and the Hôtel de la Reine. She was closely involved in the planning and supervising of all her architectural schemes.[Knecht, 228] § Catherine had emblems of her love and grief carved into the stonework of her buildings.[Knecht, 223] Poets lauded her as the new Artemisia, after Artemisia II of Caria, who built the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus as a tomb for her dead husband.[Frieda, 266; Hoogvliet, 108] As the centrepiece of an ambitious new chapel, she commissioned a magnificent tomb for Henry at the basilica of Saint Denis. It was designed by Francesco Primaticcio (1504-1570), with sculpture by Germain Pilon (1528-1590). Art historian Henri Zerner has called this monument "the last and most brilliant of the royal tombs of the Renaissance".[Zerner, 379] Catherine also commissioned Germain Pilon to carve the marble sculpture that contains Henry II's heart. A poem by Ronsard, engraved on its base, tells the reader not to wonder that so small a vase can hold so large a heart, since Henry's real heart resides in Catherine's breast.[Hoogvliet, 111] § Although Catherine spent ruinous sums on the arts,[Thomson, 168] most of her patronage left no permanent legacy.[Knecht, Catherine de' Medici, 244] The end of the Valois dynasty so soon after her death brought a change in priorities. Her art collections were dispersed, her palaces sold, and her buildings were mostly left unfinished or later destroyed. [Megakles Rogakos 12/2009]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
PIERRE NORA (Ed), JEAN-PIERRE BABELON The Louvre: Royal Residence and Temple of the Arts in Realms of Memory: The Construction of the French Past 1998 Columbia University Press, New York, Vol. III
BLUNT, ANTHONY Art and Architecture in France: 1500–1700 1999 Yale University Press, New Haven, CT
DIMIER, LOUIS French Painting in the XVI Century 1904 Duckworth, London
FRIEDA, LEONIE Catherine de Medici 2005 Phoenix, London
HOOGVLIET, MARGRIET Princely Culture and Catherine de Médicis in Princes and Princely Culture, 1450–1650 2003 Brill Academic, Leiden & Boston, MA KNECHT, ROBERT J. Catherine de' Medici 1998 Longman, London & New York
KNECHT, ROBERT J. The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France, 1483–1610 2001 Blackwell, Oxford
SUTHERLAND, NICOLA MARY Catherine de Medici and the Ancien Régime 1966 Historical Association, London
SUTHERLAND, NICOLA MARY The French Secretaries of State in the Age of Catherine de Medici 1962 Athlone Press, London
SUTHERLAND, NICOLA MARY The Massacre of St Bartholomew and the European Conflict, 1559–1572 1973 Macmillan, London
SUTHERLAND, NICOLA MARY Princes, Politics and Religion: 1547–1589 1984 Hambledon Press, London
THOMSON, DAVID Renaissance Paris: Architecture and Growth, 1475–1600 1984 University of California Press, Berkeley
YATES, FRANCES The Valois Tapestries 1959/1999 Routledge & Kegan Paul, London

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