Brussels 1470/ 1490 - Paris 1540
oil on panel
16 x 13 cm
Inventory number 33
This is the portrait of a crown prince aged four or five. His expression at once exudes childlike innocence and regal dignity. The Dauphin François, Son of François I was created by portrait and court painter Jean Clouet in the 1520s. It bears testimony to the artist's keen sense of detail and sophistication. The bright light is distributed evenly across the face of the young prince. The boy's blond hair and the feathers in his hat are worked out in strikingly fine detail. The deep green background enhances the golden yellow and reddish hues in the attire of the Dauphin, which in turn contrasts strongly with the child's pale complexion.
Brussels-born artist Jean Clouet is known for his series of portraits in black and red chalk of
princes and princesses, jesters and knights, courtiers and noblewomen. Around 1500, he emigrated to
France, where he became a court painter to Francis of Angoulême, the then French king.
This was not the first time Clouet portrayed the somewhat time-forgotten royal prince, who died prematurely at the age of only eighteen. He had previously produced a portrait of the dauphin in chalk, accompanied by the caption 'Mnsr.le daulfin Filz du Roy Francois', or 'Monseigneur the Dauphin, Son of King François'. It is on this basis that French art historian J. Moreau-Nélaton attributed the painting to Jean Clouet in 1901. Prior to that, opinions on the attribution had been divided.