Furniture Styles

Furniture > Terms > Decoration > Ornament > School of Fontainebleau

School of Fontainebleau

Turning from Italy to France, we resume the thread of national progress, interrupted by the introduction into the service of Francis I. (circa A.D. 1530) of those master Italian artists who formed what is familiarly known as the "School of Fontainebleau".

The leading and most popular member of that fraternity was Primaticcio, a master whose style of drawing was founded upon the Michael-Angelesque system of proportion, somewhat attenuated in limb, and moulded into a somewhat more artificial and serpentine line of grace.

The manner of arranging and defining drapery peculiar to the Fontainebleau masters exerted a singular influence upon the native French artists, and that not only in the corresponding department of art, but in ornament generally.

The peculiar crinkled folds of the garments, disposed not as they would obviously fall if left to themselves, but as they would best fill up voids in composition, induced a general levity in the treatment of similar elements, and led to that peculiarly fluttering style which may be recognised in the works of all those artists who reflected and reproduced the prevalent mode of the day.

Among the most remarkable of these, and, moreover, a man of singular originality of intellect, stands conspicuous the renowned Jean Goujon, who was born in France early in the sixteenth century. His principal works are (for, happily, they have for the most part survived to our days) the "Fontaine des Innocents", at Paris (1550); the gallery of the "Salle des Cent Suisses", now "des Caryatides", supported by four colossal female figures, which are considered among his best works.

The celebrated Diana of Poitiers, called "Diane Chasseresse", a small and very beautiful bas-relief of the same subject, his wooden doors to the Church of St. Maclou at Rouen, his carvings of the Court of the Louvre, and his "Christ at the Tomb", in the Museum of the Louvre. Goujon partook warmly of the enthusiasm the recovery of the writings of Vitruvius excited universally, and contributed an essay in respect to them in Martin's translation. He was unfortunately shot during the massacre of St. Bartholomew, whilst working on a scaffold at the Louvre, in 1572.

An artist who had imbibed even more of the Italian spirit of the School of Fontainebleau than did Jean Goujon, narrowly escaped sharing his fate. Barthelemy Prieur was only saved from immolation by the protection of the Constable Montmorency, whose monumental effigy he was ultimately destined to place upon its pedestal.

Contemporary with Goujon and Prieur was Jean Cousin, the most ardent disciple of the Michael-Angelesque form. He is principally known as the sculptor of the noble statue of Admiral Chabot, and, as we have already stated (Chapter XVII.), by his designs for stained glass.

Prominent, however, among the artistic band of the period was Germain Pilon, who was born at Loué, near Mans. The statues at the Convent of Soulesmes are among his earliest works. About the year 1550 his father sent him to Paris, and in 1557 his monument to Guillaume Langei du Bellay was placed in the Cathedral of Mans. About the same time he executed the monument of Henry II and Catherine de Medici, in the Church of St. Denis, near Paris, from a design by Philibert de Lorme. One of his best works was the monument to the Chancellor de Birague.

The beautiful and well-known group of the "Three Graces", cut out of one solid block of marble, was intended to support an urn containing the hearts of Henry II, and Catherine de Medici; it is now in the Louvre. In order to give an idea of the ornamental style of Pilon, we have engraved the base of this monument. See Plate LXXVI., Fig. 9. The statues and bas-reliefs on the monument of Francis I. are by Pilon and Pierre Bontemps. After 1590 no works of his are known, and Kuj gives it as the date of his death.

Renaissance Ornaments in Relief
Renaissance Ornaments in Relief, Plate LXXVI.

The length of limb and artificial grace peculiar to the school of Fontainebleau was pushed to farthest point of extravagance by Francavilla, or Pierre Francheville, of Cambray (born 1548), who introduced into France the even greater wiriness of the style of John of Bologna, whose pupil he had been during many years. The general characteristics of the style of ornament prevalent during first half of the seventeenth century, and which served as an induction into what is generally known as Louis XIV work, cannot be better studied than in the apartments of Marie de Medici, executed for her in the Palace of the Luxembourg, Paris, about 1620.

This manner was succeeded by that of Le Pautre, an aitist of great cleverness and fertility. woodcut gives an idea of his style.

Panel for a Ceiling, from a Design by LE PAUTRE
Panel for a Ceiling, from a Design by Le Pautre.

Copyright © 2004-12 International Styles
All Rights Reserved