Monumentality and miniature ... at Jean Clouet
Equestrian portraiture of Francis I

Study of François Murez -

Francis I, Equestrian portraiture - Jean Clouet (studio of) - XVIth

(Miniature, 10.62" x 8.66" - Musée du Louvre)

Jean Clouet's miniature is characterized by a strong vertical line given by the column to the right (vertical line for divine world) and by horizontal given by the ground (horizontal for ground world).
The sky of a royal blue, a blue bottom of infinity, belongs to the divine. The ground, whitish, with some hardly expressed herbs, belongs to the ground. The column which draws the run-up towards the divine, is made by a clear stone which links it to the ground; it is a link of passage between both worlds.
The king Francis I, draws up himself straight ahead, hieratic, and wears a blue armor which integrates him in fact into the sky. King, by this set of colors and vertical lines, participates in the divine. Only the gold-coloured ornaments of his armor maintain him visually on the front of the scene.
His royal, horizontal and white horse is linked to the ground.
King thus belongs to both worlds. The monumentality of this miniature ensures him a role dominating in this membership.

Monumentality obtained by the very rigorous treatment of the work, by the opposition of king very richly treated, and the decoration (Column, ground, sky) very bare. The nature (some herbs on the ground, some bundles on the column) fades completely in front of so much magnificence.

This Miniature was painted on a sheet in vellum, certainly cut in two as it was the use in this time, other half having maybe served To make the preparatory drawing in the same scale.

The composition rests on the golden section. The circle of diameter equal to the small side of the miniature, completed by both usual pentagons in these constructions gives the golden rhythms.

In this miniature, the circle is not arranged in the middle of the side but not slightly moved on the right. The lag towards the right of the horse represents the entrance of the mount and drives the set which would then be freezed if the composition was centred.
The vertical middle of the miniature gives the axis of the head of king Francis.

The second identical circle is placed in the same vertical axis but slightly moved under the middle of the height.
The lag downward this second circle moves closer to the horse of the ground and by opposition raise king.
The circle on the height of the miniature and moved on the right gives the position of the head of the horse, and of one leg. An axis drawn from pentagons gives the back of the horse.
Other circle on the bottom gives the position of the ground, places another leg, gives the height of the facings of the horse...

The cut of the width of the miniature according to golden reports (red lines) gives the positioning of numerous elements as well as the reliefs of the column. We could go farther to this approach to indicate the other elements of the miniature so positioned.
So, Jean Clouet introduces into all his details the divine proportion. The picture is put rhythm by this report in its verticality, what brings coherence, balances and monumentality...

All these lines of construction for a so small miniature...
For example, the orientation of the sword is given by a diagonal which leans on a vertical line given by pentagons and by a horizontal one given on the bottom of the circle...

For last example, a circle the diameter of which is the half-width of the miniature gives exactly croup of the horse...

The same composition meets in the other representation of Francis I which is to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

The work of Clouet was then of use to the other painters who were strongly inspired by it...
Or by copying and by returning the drawing...

Henri II - Anonymous - 2nd half XVIth

(Chantilly - Musée Condé)

Or by not keeping the ground and the column...

Henri III - Antoine Caron - 2nd half XVIth

(Chantilly - Musée Condé)

Or ... but we go away from the original quality

Bibliography :
Le portrait de la Renaissance française - Alexandra Zvereva - (

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