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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Portrait of Henri II; nearly half-length to left, wearing cap with feather, beard and pendant around neck. c.1550 Black chalk, with red chalk

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1547 (circa)
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 306 millimetres
    • Width: 216 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Inscribed: "le roi henri"
  • Curator's comments

    One of François Clouet's earliest mature works and also one of the first surviving portraits of Henri II as king, probably dating from shortly after his accession in 1547. Moreau-Nélaton suggested a date of 1555 and Dimier 1550, but Zvereva convincingly points out that the king's beard is cut in a fashion that places the portrait in the mid-1540s. In this drawing Henri was originally shown wearing armour, of which traces can still be discerned under his doublet. As noted by Zvereva, the portrait probably dates from much the same period as a profile portrait drawing of the king at Chantilly (inv. MN29; Zvereva 239), where he is shown bareheaded but wearing a very similar doublet, with the same ribbon around his neck.

    The costume is also similar to that in an earlier portrait drawing of Henri as dauphin, produced by Clouet and his studio in around 1545 (Private collection; Zvereva 8), although Clouet has adapted the composition. In the earlier drawing, Henri faces to the right; in the BM drawing, he faces left, and Zvereva sees this as a change instigated by the king, who felt it a stronger image. The BM drawing became the basis of Henri's official iconography and the composition reappears with minor changes, such as the shape of the beard, in a drawing datable to around 1553 in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Zvereva 241).


    Further lit.: E. Moreau-Nélaton, 'Crayons français du XVIe siècle conservés au Musée Condé à Chantilly: le portrait à la cour des Valois', Paris, 1908, III, no. 59; I. Adler, "Die Clouet: Versuch einer Stilkritik," 'Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien', Neue Folge, III, 1929, p. 244, no. 22; E. Jollet, "Jean et François Clouet", Paris, 1997,p. 219, illustrated p. 217; 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. 5.


  • Bibliography

    • Zvereva 2011 238 bibliographic details
    • Moreau-Nélaton 1909 25 bibliographic details
    • Dimier 1924-1926 444 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (French Roy XVIc)

  • Exhibition history

    2002 April-June, Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Mus of Art, 'French Drawings from the British Museum', no. 5 2002 July-Sep, Tokyo, NM of Western Art, 'French Drawings from the British Museum', no. 5
    2016-17 Sept-Jan, BM, 'French Portrait Drawings' (no cat)

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Portrait of Henri II; nearly HL to l, wearing cap with feather, beard and pendant around neck. c.1550 Black chalk, with red chalk


Portrait of Henri II; nearly HL to l, wearing cap with feather, beard and pendant around neck. c.1550 Black chalk, with red chalk

Image description



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Object reference number: PDO2098

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