Sunday, June 29, 2008

Unknown No Longer

Meet Catherine ("kah-TRINE," in French), the main character of Book 2. I've adopted this portrait of an "unknown woman," sketched by court portraitist Jean Clouet (c.1485-1540), as her snapshot. I'm preparing posts on Clouet and his artist son François (c.1515-1572). These amazing artists, through several hundred chalk sketches and dozens of painted portraits, captured for posterity the nobles of the courts of four French kings. In the meantime, let me know what you think of Catherine. What does this portrait say to you of her character?

(The portrait comes from a book by Louis Dimier, Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVIe siècle (Paris 1924), courtesy of my daughter, who taught me how to use the nifty scanner!)

14 comments:

Sheramy said...

She looks shy and modest like she's supposed to--not making eye contact with the viewer--but she's got some life in her eyes, doesn't she? Lovely drawing: you can definitely let your imagination run with that image.

cindy said...

she's beautiful. she's quiet but strong and has a curious streak. she can keep secrets. she has a vivid imagination.

Sheramy said...

She looks like she has a secret right now...

Catherine Delors said...

Now what a great idea to name your heroine Catherine! A strong name. Think about Catherine of Sienna, Doctor of the Church and what we would call an activist.

About this Clouet portrait. What strikes me about it is this woman's intellectual curiosity. This Catherine looks very mentally alert.

Sheramy said...

She has a very Leonardo-esque quality (I thought immediately of Lady with an Ermine). Especially about the eyes.

I'm not up on Clouet: would he have known Leonardo during Leonardo's last years in France? Certainly they both knew Francois I well.

Sheramy said...

Well whaddya know. Google "Leonardo Clouet" and look what you get: http://arthistory.about.com/od/from_exhibitions/ig/Summer-2006-Exhibitions-List/Portrait-of-a-Young-Woman.htm

Julianne Douglas said...

Sheramy,

Amazing! My girl is destined to be famous. ;)

Clouet probably did know DaVinci during the few years Leonardo spent in France before he died. Clouet was on the account rolls as the King's painter from 1516 on; Leonardo arrived in France the same year and died there in 1519. No record survives of any collaboration between the artists, but it's hard to imagine that they didn't at least meet and discuss art together. Who knows? Perhaps Clouet did a portrait of Leonardo that has since been lost.

Julianne Douglas said...

Catherine, Sheramy, and Cindy--Thanks for all the comments about the woman in the portrait. I'm glad her picture says all these things to you, for you've done a great job of describing my MC's character! She definitely is intelligent, curious and strong, and DEFINITELY has secrets to keep.

And Sheramy--I do see the resemblance to Lady with an Ermine. I'll have to investigate the link further, although I'm pretty sure the sitter for Leo's portrait has been identified as an Italian woman. Very few of Clouet's portraits were of anyone not associated with the French court. I'll be posting about him soon (maybe later today if I can get my act together).

Sheramy said...

Lady with an Ermine was done in Milan, as I recall, and the sitter is known as an Italian court lady (gosh, wouldn't it be fun if...!). I don't think that painting was among those Leonardo took to France with him (or it'd be in the Louvre!). But Clouet, if he knew Leonardo, may well have absorbed aspects of Leonardo's style through drawings, etc. Da Vinci had with him. Such a thing would be considered homage not plagiarism back then!

dunnettreader said...

If you're exploring the works of Clouet pere et fils, you'll enjoy the huge collection of Clouet portraits on the French government's website "Joconde": CATALOGUE DES COLLECTIONS DES MUSEES DE FRANCE Archéologie, beaux-arts, arts décoratifs, ethnologie, histoire, sciences et techniques.

http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/joconde_fr

Julianne Douglas said...

Thank you, dunnettreader, for bringing the French museums website to the readers' attention! I have visited it, and it's a wonderful site. I'll link to it when I post about the Clouets.

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you'll come back!

Julianne Douglas said...

Good points, Sheramy. It's interesting to think about what might have transpired between the two artists. One reason historical fiction is so much fun to write/read!

Christopher W said...

If you want to put a Clouet in your novel and actually use the portrait itself, you could attribute it to Jehannet's brother Peter (thus Francois Clouet's uncle Pete), who was in the employ of Marguerite de Navarre. We really know nothing about him except that he existed and followed the family's metier. Not a single surviving work has been ascribed to him with certainty.

Julianne Douglas said...

Good point, Christopher. I was using the drawing more as inspiration, a way to visualize my MC. Actually, it turns out that Francois Clouet not only had an uncle, but a sister of about the same age, about whom equally little is known. But I think I'll stop here before I jinx myself... :)