Olga's Gallery

Francis I, King of France


Francis I (1494-1547) King of France from 1515 and notable patron of the Renaissance. He was the son of Charles, Count of Angouleme and nephew and son-in-law of Louis XII, whom he succeeded at a time when France's rivalry with the Austrian Habsburg dynasty was at its most intense. Within a few months of his accession he crossed the Alps and gained control of Milan by the victory of Marignano. On the death of the Emperor Maximilian I in 1519 he became a candidate for Holy Roman Emperor, but lost the election to the Habsburg Charles I of Spain (the Emperor Charles V). In 1520 he met Henry VIII of England in the Field of Cloth of Gold, an occasion that undermined the power and prosperity of France. From then on, Francis waged intermittent war against the Emperor Charles V. In 1525 he was taken prisoner at the battle of Pavia and only released the following year in return for renouncing Flanders, Artois, Burgundy and all his Italian possessions. In religious affairs he won control over the French church and in general he tried to act the part of a peacemaker; but in the later years of his reign, he allowed the persecution of heretics in 1534, and was involved in the massacre of the Vaudois. But he extended protection to Leonardo de Vinci, humanist scholars like Erasmus and the French humanists of the Cercle de Meaux. Brilliant, flamboyant and cultured, he promoted learning and the arts, and created the Palace of Fontainebleau.
See: Francois Clouet. Francis I on Hourseback.
It is possible that this little painting came to Florence as part of the dowry of Christine of Lorraine, the niece and heir of Catherine de’ Medici, wife of Henry II of France. Christine married Ferdinand de’Medici in 1589.
Jean Clouet. Portrait of Francis I.
Jean Clouet, who was the king’s court artist in 1516, must have first made a drawing portrait of the king.
Titian. Portrait of Francis I.
Titian’s portrait of Francis I was painted from a medal made by Benvenuto Cellini, without contact with the king, and represents a picturesque ideal rather than a specific likeness.

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