- Museum number
Portrait of King Charles IX; as a young boy, half-length to right, wearing fur-trimmed tunic and cap with feather, his left hand slightly raised from the surface on which he leans. c.1555
Black chalk, with red chalk
- Production date
Height: 327 millimetres
Width: 225 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- On the death of his father Jean (see 1908,0714.46) in 1540, François Clouet succeeded to his position at court and the salary that accompanied it. The French law dictating that the estate of a foreigner dying on French soil became the property of the crown was waived in this case by François I (1494-1547), who also granted letters of naturalization to François Clouet for 'ttrès bien imyté' his father.(n.1) Although formed in the style of his father, François Clouet's draughtsmanship can ultimately be distinguished by its more sculptural conception of the face, with less prominent diagonal hatching and greater detail in the treatment of the clothing. In part, these changes were a function of the interest of Catherine de Médicis (1519-89), Henry II's wife, in collecting portrait drawings and the attendant shifts in artistic style that brought about the rise of the portrait drawing as a finished autonomous work in France from around 1560.
As a collector, Catherine followed the model of François I, commissioning portraits of the royal family and members of the court, although her particular passion for drawings ultimately led her to amass 551 portraits on paper. François Clouet was a favoured portraitist, but Catherine also patronized a number of his contemporaries as well as acquiring the drawings of his father Jean. She was driven by personal, genealogical and artistic interests and spent much of the 1560s arranging, annotating and building her collection, which she kept unbound in special boxes in a private chamber.(n.2)
Annotations on the drawings, giving the name and title of the sitter, offer some evidence of Catherine's organization of the collection. Alexandra Zvereva has divided the annotated sheets into five groups, of which three seem arbitrary while two are much larger and present rational compilations of members of the royal family and the French court. The latter are termed 'group M' and 'group A' and each bears inscriptions by a single hand. For 'group M' to which the present sheet undoubtedly belongs, Zvereva hypothesized that the secretary making the annotations may have been Italian.(n.3)
From the apparent age of the sitter the British Museum portrait of Charles IX (1550-74) must have been part of a group of portraits that Catherine commissioned of her children around 1556. The inscription, however, would have been added years later, as it refers to Charles IX as king - therefore after his coronation in 1561 - but describes the sitter as 'when he was duc d'Orléans', a title he gained as a young child following the death of his elder brother Louis. The present drawing can be connected to two portraits of Charles IX's brothers, Hercule-François (fig.I) and François II (private collection, Switzerland), done at the same time, perhaps part of a larger commission for effigies of the royal children.(n.4) As half-length views, they are unusual among the Clouet portrait drawings both for their inclusion of the sitter's hands and for their detailed and pictorial treatment of the elaborate clothing. Zvereva catalogued 'Hercule-François' as 'François Clouet?'. The high quality of the group and the importance the commission must have had for Catherine certainly support the possibility that they are autograph works.
Text by P. Stein, 2005 as cited below.
Fig.1 FRANÇOIS CLOUET (?), 'Hercule-François, Duc d'Alençon', c.1556, red and black chalk, 332 x 227 mm, Musée Condé, Chantilly (inv.MN 40).
1 Quoted in Chantilly, 2002, p.23.
2 For Catherine de Medicis as a collector of drawings; see Chantilly, 2002, pp.6-11.
3 Ibid., pp .56-7 and 59.
4 Ibid., no.23, pp.68-70. Mediocre copies of these and others, which may conceivably have been part of this group, are included in the Recueil Brisacier in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; see Jean Adhèmar, 'Les portraits dessines du XVIe siècle au Cabinet des Estampes', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, LXXXII, no.1236 (September 1973), pp.136-41.
Lit.: E. Moreau-Nélaton, 'Le Portrait en France à la cour de Valois; Crayons Français du XVIe siècle conservés dans la Collection de M.G. Salting à Londres', Paris, 1908, p.15, pl. VI; Idem, 'Crayons français du XVIe siècle conservés au Musée Condé à Chantilly: le portrait à la cour des Valois', Paris, 1908, III, no. 40; H. Kurita and M. Koshikawa, in exhib. cat., Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art and Tokyo, National Museum of Western Art, 'French drawings from the British Museum: from Fontainebleau to Versailles', 2002, no. 6; P. Stein, in exhib. cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art and London, BM, 'French Drawings from Clouet to Seurat', 2005, no. 2; A. Zvereva, 'Portraits dessinés de la cour des Valois: Les Clouet de Catherine de Médicis', Paris, 2011, no. 257.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2002 April-June, Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Mus of Art, 'French Drawings from the British Museum', no.6
2002 July-Sep, Tokyo, Nat Mus of Western Art, 'French Drawings from the British Museum', no. 6
2005/6 Nov-Jan, New York, Met Mus of Art, Clouet to Seurat/BM
2006 June-Oct, BM, Clouet to Seurat/BM
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number