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François Clouet (c. 1520-1572)

Charles IX King of France (1550-1574) as a boy c. 1561

Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum laid on playing card | 4.3 cm (Diameter) (support, diameter) | RCIN 420931

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  • The incorrect identification of this miniature of Charles IX (1550-74), King of France, as his brother, Francis II, stems from the first record of its existence in the Royal Collection, when Abraham van der Doort described it in his inventory of Charles I’s collection as ‘The - Picture of the Dolphin ffrancis of ffraunce in a - black Capp and white feather in a black habitt lined with white furr adorn’d wth gould which Dolphin was the first husband to Queene Mary - of Scotland’. Perceived as a portrait of the short-lived Francis II, the work was displayed by Charles I in a framed group of miniatures of his ancestors that was kept in the Cabinet Room at Whitehall Palace on the basis that it represented the first husband of his grandmother Mary, Queen of Scots.

    Although Francis II and Charles IX shared a strong family resemblance, Charles IX’s appearance from boyhood through to maturity is recorded in portraits of him by François Clouet in oil on panel, in black and red chalk on paper and in miniature during the period of the King’s reign, which lasted from 1559 to 1574. The basis for the present miniature has been established as a red and black chalk drawing in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, depicting Charles IX in 1561. The details of the costume and physiognomy depicted in the drawing accord closely with those in the miniature. It is also clear that the present sitter is the same subject depicted in a later full-length oil portrait by François Clouet in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (inv. 572), identified beyond doubt as Charles IX.

    Very few portrait miniatures by François Clouet survive, but these include three further miniatures of Charles IX, as well as the miniature of Mary, Queen of Scots also in the Royal Collection. One of the miniatures of Charles IX is mounted jointly with another of his mother, Catherine de Médicis, in a highly elaborate gold portrait box in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Both miniatures are generally accepted as Clouet’s work. The box has been associated with a recorded gift made by Charles IX to Queen Anna Maria of Spain in 1572 and is therefore some ten years later than the example in the Royal Collection. In this late work by Clouet in Vienna can be seen the clearest evidence of his influence on the young Nicholas Hilliard. Hilliard travelled to France in the entourage of the English Ambassador Sir Amyas Paulet in late 1576, and produced there a number of miniatures of Charles IX’s brother, François, duc d’Alençon, in connection with Alençon’s marriage negotiations with Elizabeth I. Hilliard must have been aware before his arrival in Paris of the work of Clouet, who had furnished several portrait drawings for the English court in connection with these same protracted marriage negotiations. Although Clouet had died in 1572, and the two artists could never have met in France, it has been argued that Hilliard’s miniatures of this period demonstrate a stylistic affinity with Clouet’s work that could only have come from exposure to Clouet’s drawings and miniatures during this visit to France.

    Catalogue entry adapted from The Northern Renaissance. Dürer to Holbein, London 2011

    Charles I, by c.1639; Charles II

  • Medium and techniques

    Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum laid on playing card


    4.3 cm (Diameter) (support, diameter)

    5.4 cm (frame (miniature), with ring closed/down)

    0.9 cm (sight diameter)

    5.9 cm (frame (miniature), with ring open/up)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Francis, Dauphin of France (1518-1536)

    François II, King of France (1543-1560), previously identified as

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