Catherine de Medici thumbnail 1
Catherine de Medici thumbnail 2
+3
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F , Case RMC, Shelf 1, Box A

Catherine de Medici

Portrait Miniature
ca. 1555 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Miniature painting, the art of painting in watercolour on vellum, developed in the early 16th century out of the tradition of illuminating hand-written books. In England miniature was predominantly a portrait art, and was practised by specialist miniature painters such as Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619). On the Continent, miniature painting as a portrait art had a few great practitioners such as Jean Clouet (1516?-1572), who painted this wonderful portrait. But even Clouet was not a specialist; like Hans Holbein he worked in miniature and in large in oil.

This portrait confirms François Clouet’s reputation as one of the great miniature painters. Clouet succeeded his father, Jean, as portraitist to the French court, where he executed chalk drawings and oil paintings as well as miniatures. His method was to make a drawing (like his father, he was an exquisite draughtsman) and to work up the miniature portrait from that first accurate sketch. Catherine Medici (1519-1589) married the future French monarch Henri II in 1533. She became queen in 1547, and after the death of her husband in 1559 was made Regent. This miniature is a rare likeness of Catherine before she became a widow, an event that meant she invariably wore much more sombre clothes of mourning.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on vellum laid down on card
Brief Description
François Clouet, portrait miniature of Catherine de Medici, half-length, watercolour on vellum, mid-16th century.
Physical Description
Portrait of Catherine de Medici in an oval frame, half-length, holding a fan.



Dimensions
  • Vertical diameter: 95mm
  • Horizontal diameter: 95mm
Content description
Portrait of a woman, half-length, turned slightly to left, wearing a ruff and jewelled headdress and holding a fan in her right hand; the other hand is resting on the gold border surrounding the portrait.
Style
Object history
This miniature was received in one half of a 17th century turned wood box: in the other half was a portrait of James I by John Hoskins (P.27-1954).
Subjects depicted
Summary
Miniature painting, the art of painting in watercolour on vellum, developed in the early 16th century out of the tradition of illuminating hand-written books. In England miniature was predominantly a portrait art, and was practised by specialist miniature painters such as Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619). On the Continent, miniature painting as a portrait art had a few great practitioners such as Jean Clouet (1516?-1572), who painted this wonderful portrait. But even Clouet was not a specialist; like Hans Holbein he worked in miniature and in large in oil.



This portrait confirms François Clouet’s reputation as one of the great miniature painters. Clouet succeeded his father, Jean, as portraitist to the French court, where he executed chalk drawings and oil paintings as well as miniatures. His method was to make a drawing (like his father, he was an exquisite draughtsman) and to work up the miniature portrait from that first accurate sketch. Catherine Medici (1519-1589) married the future French monarch Henri II in 1533. She became queen in 1547, and after the death of her husband in 1559 was made Regent. This miniature is a rare likeness of Catherine before she became a widow, an event that meant she invariably wore much more sombre clothes of mourning.
Bibliographic References
  • Strong, Roy. Artists of the Tudor Court: the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620.. London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983. Cat. 70, pp. 68-69. Part Citation: Catherine Medici (1519-89), married the future Henry II of France in 1533. She became Queen in 1547 and subsequent to the death of her husband in 1559 became Regent. Francois Clouet (c.1515-72) succeeded his father, Jean, as being portraitist to the Valois court. He not only executed chalk drawings and oil paintings but also miniatures. The latter fact we known from a document dated 1572 in which he is mentioned as having painted a miniature of the Queen, Elizabeth of Austria: ‘Portrait qu’il peignit dans un petit tableau d’or” (L. Dimier, Historie de la Peinture de Portrait en France au XVIe siecle, Paris, 1924, I., p.99). This miniature of Catherine belongs to a small group attributable to Clouet which includes one of Mary, Queen of Scots (Royal Collection) and two of Catherine and her son, Charles IX, in a jewelled locket (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). The method of miniature painting practised by Francois Clouet followed that established by his father in being worked up from drawings. This miniature is probably based on a version of a drawing in the British Museum (Crayons Francais de la collection de M. G. Salting, ed. E. Moreau-Nelaton, pl. xxxii) which is attributed also to Clouet... Clouet aimed at a three-dimensional realistic effect: the features being loosely built up with little strokes of the brush over a brownish red flesh tone. There is no use of real gold and silver for the highlights or any attempt to simulate jewels, unlike the English miniature painter Nicholas Hilliard. The attitude to pictorial space is a Renaissance one, emphasized by the trick of the hands being extended over the gold border. The miniature is a rare likeness of Catherine before her widowhood after which she invariably dressed in widows weeds. She is depicted in a black dress trimmed with white fur, a lattic work of jewels over her partlet, a jewelled French hood and a feather fan in her hand."
  • p. 121, fig. 114Les Tudors sous la direction scientifique de Charlotte Bolland et Cécile Maisonneuve. Paris : Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand palais : Musée du Luxembourg-Sénat, c2015. ISBN: 9782711862368.
  • PP. 50-1Catharine MacLeod with Rab MacGibbon, Victoria Button, Katherine Coombs and Alan Derbyshire.‎ Elizabethan treasures : miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver. London : National Portrait Gallery, 2019.‎ ISBN: 9781855147027‎
Collection
Accession Number
P.26-1954

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record createdFebruary 21, 2003
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