Portrait of Francoix de Foix, ATTRIBUTED TO CORNEILLE DE LYON (THE HAGUE, C. 1500/10-LYON, 1575)
A SUPERB PORTRAIT OF THE FIRST MISTRESS OF FRANCIS I
ATTRIBUTED TO CORNEILLE DE LYON (THE HAGUE, C. 1500/10-LYON, 1575)
Portrait of Francoix de Foix
Oil on panel
6 5/8 x 5 ½ in.
Provenance: With Schaffer Galleries, New York; From whom acquired by George and Ilse Nelsonin the early 1950s.
In portraiture, as in life, likeness and expression seem lodged in the visage. The meticulously rendered faces of long-dead sitters in sixteenth-century portraits reflect qualities often associated with Renaissance art: individualism and psychological presence. In this painting the artist’s sense of naturalism, combined with a characteristically Northern Renaissance flair for line and precision, is clearly demonstrated. The work offers a subtle blend of smooth precision, the psychological realism of the French portrait, and an approach to light and facial contour reflecting the recent influence of the Italian Renaissance painters. Typical of French court portraits of the mid-sixteenth century, the subject’s facial features are precisely recorded with exactitude and without flattery, and the sitter seems withdrawn into a world of his own thoughts.
Corneille de Lyon was a Netherlandish-born painter who became a French citizen in 1547. He was a native of The Hague (in France he is still known as Corneille de La Haye), but he has settled in Lyons by 1533 (the first record of him) and in 1540 he became court painter to the dauphin, later Henry II. Contemporary references to Corneille indicate that he has a considerable reputation as a court painter, but only one work survives that is unquestionably from his hand, a portrait of Pierre Aymeric (Louvre, Paris), authenticated by an inscription in the sitter’s handwriting on the back of the picture. Many other works in a similar style go under his name. They are mostly small in scale and sharply naturalistic in manner, with the sitter usually set against a green or blue background. The National Gallery, London, has four examples of the type, catalogued as “attributed to” or “Style of Corneille de Lyon.”