Thursday, July 22, 2021

A Snapshot in Time: Clouet Portraits on Display at Azay-le-Rideau

Like any author, I love it when characters I have written about come into the public eye. Artist duo Jean and François Clouet, featured in my second novel, worked as portraitists at the courts of François I, Henri II, and Henri's sons. I posted previously about their work here and here. This summer, the Clouets take the spotlight in an exposition of Renaissance portraiture at the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire Valley.

A notable group of thirty-six French Renaissance portraits are on display at the château through September 19, 2021. The collection demonstrates the unique formula developed by Jean Clouet (c. 1485-c. 1541) and his son François (c. 1505-1572) over the course of their long careers. Working in modest dimensions against a neutral background at three-quarters view, the Clouets paired their truthfulness to the sitter's physical traits with an acute expression of psychology. Their exquisitely rendered portraits capture the personalities as well as the appearances of the French Renaissance's most compelling figures. Taken as a whole, the hundreds of chalk sketches and formal paintings the two Clouets produced provide a fascinating "who's who" of nearly a century's worth of French nobility.

In addition to presenting the Clouets and the individuals they painted, the exposition at Azay-le-Rideau explores the workings of a Renaissance portrait studio and the diplomatic, dynastic, and historical uses of portraits during the era. "Le retour des portraits de la Renaissance" is an exhibit not to miss if you're in the area before mid-September. Armchair travelers like me can enjoy scribeaccroupi's informative video, narrated by Mathieu Deldicque, curator of the Musée Condé: 

I can only imagine how awed contemporaries were at the Clouets' ability to capture their subjects so vividly on paper and canvas long before the advent of photography.

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