- Museum number
Portrait of Catherine de Médici (1519-1589); half-length turned slightly to left and looking l, wearing a beaded head-dress with train. c.1550
Black chalk, with red chalk
- Production date
- 1547 (circa)
Height: 308 millimetres
Width: 322 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The earliest surviving portrait of Catherine de' Medici by François Clouet. Both Moreau-Nélaton and Zvereva suggest a date of around 1550. While earlier portraits were made, nothing remains of them except a drawing from the School of Jean Clouet at Chantilly (inv. MN340), which Zvereva regards as a copy of a lost portrait from ten years earlier.
Catherine is shown wearing a buttoned gown, of a type often worn by pregnant women, covered by an open sleeved mantle known as a marlotte. Her costume and headdress are drawn with great detail to facilitate their replication in a painted portrait. It is likely that there is some later retouching to the portrait, probably by the artist's own hand. Certainly the original inscription 'La Royne caterine' was extended after Henri II's death, when another hand added, 'mere du roi' to reflect Catherine's new status.
This drawing seems to have served as the basis for a later portrait drawing of Catherine, by Clouet and studio, in the Derby Collection at Knowsley Hall (inv. W418.48; Zvereva DI.1). The Derby drawing was made in around 1558 and shows Catherine in more elaborate costume with a tightly corseted bodice, while touches at the corners of her eyes and mouth emphasise her aging. Another, still later, portrait drawing in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Zvereva 393) shows Catherine a year later, in the widow's weeds she adopted for the rest of her life following the death of Henri II.
A modest copy of the BM drawing is at Chantilly (MN30).
Lit.: Étienne Moreau-Nélaton, 'Crayons François de la Collection de M.G. Salting', no. 32; A. Zvereva, 'Portraits dessinés de la cour des Valois: Les Clouet de Catherine de Médicis', Paris, 2011, no. 242 (with previous literature).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2016-17 Sept-Jan, BM, 'French Portrait Drawings' (no cat)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number