Portrait of Jeanne Clausse, Madame de Lesigni. FRANÇOIS CLOUET (1522–1572)

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Portrait of Jeanne Clausse, Madame de Lesigni
With inscription ‘Madame de lesigni’
Colored chalks, watermark crown on paper
13 1/2” x 9 1/8” sheet


Provenance: Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France, and by descent to her granddaughter, Christine of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany. Casa Medici, Florence. Ignazio Enrico Hugford, by 1738. Henry Oppenheimer, London, by 1908. Private collection, Kent, England with Richard Nagy Fine Art, 1981, from whom acquired by James Fairfax, Bowral, New South Wales.

Literature: L. Dimier, Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVIe siècle, Paris, 1925, II, p. 398, no. 1; A. Zvereva, Les Clouet de Catherine de Médicis: chefs-d’oeuvres graphiques du Musée Condé,
exh. cat., Chantilly, Musée Condé, 2002, p. 18, n. 61.

Exhibited: London, Obach & Co., 1908, no. 27. Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, The James Fairfax Collection of Old Masters, 1992, unnumbered. Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, The James Fairfax Collection of Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and Prints, 17 April–20 July 2003, no. 12.

From 1540 through 1570, Catherine de’ Medici commissioned from father and son artists Jean and François Clouet (and their studio) over 500 portrait drawings of the French royal family and court. The inscription on the drawing is by the same hand as those on over 100 other portrait drawings, and the handwriting is thought to be by one of Catherine de’ Medici’s secretaries.

This ethereal portrait of Jeanne Clausse, wife of Jean de Pierrevive, whose family, called Pierrevive or Pietraviva, were nobility of Piedmontese origin and were close to the French royal family. Jean-Michel de Pierrevive (d. 1501/02) was a doctor to King Charles VIII (1470-1498). Marie-Catherine de Pierrevive was married to Alberto Gondi, a member of the Italian banking family close to the Medicis, and she was also governess to Catherine de’ Medici’s children.

After Catherine de’ Medici’s death the collection of Clouet portrait drawings passed to her granddaughter, Christine of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, They then remained in storage, forgotten in the Uffizi, until they were unearthed by Ignazio Enric Hugford (1703-78), the English artist, collector and dealer. After his death his collection was sold to pay off his debts, and among the 3100 drawings sold at the Real Galleria degli Uffizi were the Clouet portraits.


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