Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Guillaume Budé (1467–1540)

Jean Clouet (French, active by 1516–died 1540/41 Paris)
ca. 1536
Oil on wood
15 5/8 x 13 1/2 in. (39.7 x 34.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 1946
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 644
Painter to King Francis I, Jean Clouet played a key role in establishing the Renaissance portraiture tradition in France, yet this is his only extant painted portrait. It depicts Guillaume Budé, librarian to Francis I and the leading humanist of sixteenth-century France. Similar to the sitter in Metsys’s Portrait of a Woman (32.100.47), Budé’s fingers hold his page, as if interrupted. With the quill in his right hand, he has written in Greek, "While it seems to be good to get what one desires, the greatest good is not to desire what one does not need" (Joannes Stobaeus, 3.5.18).
Jean Clouet, who came from a family of Franco-Flemish painters, was appointed painter-in-ordinary to King Francis I about 1516 and rose to chief painter a few years later. His son François eventually succeeded him as court painter. Little else is known about Clouet, and many of the works attributed to him may in fact have been painted by his son or someone else entirely, but it is known that his portraits were highly praised by his contemporaries and were notable for their delicacy and force of characterization.

This portrait of Guillaume Budé is definitely attributable to Clouet since it is mentioned in Budé's manuscript notes, from which it is datable to about 1536. A leading humanist of sixteenth-century France, Budé (1467–1540) acted as librarian to Francis I and was responsible for the founding of the library at Fontainebleau (now the Bibliothèque Nationale). He was also an ambassador, the chief magistrate of Paris, and the founder, in 1530, of the Collège de France. His writings spurred a revival of interest in Greek language and literature among scholars in France.

In this austere portrait, Budé looks up from a manuscript on which he has written (in Greek): "While it seems to be good to get what one desires, the greatest good is not to desire what one does not need." Inscribed in the upper left of the portrait is the name ORONCIO, a later addition incorrectly identifying the sitter as Oronce Fine, a French astronomer whom Clouet is known to have painted in 1530.

Inscription: Inscribed: (upper left) ORONCIO [later addition incorrectly identifying the sitter as Oronce Fine (1494–1555), whom Clouet is known to have painted in 1530]; (on book, in Greek) While it appears to be great to get what one desires, the greatest is not to desire what one does not need (Joannes Stobaeus, 3.5.18)
Sir Henry Hoyle Howorth, London (until d. 1923; his estate sale, Christie's, London, December 14, 1923, no. 68, as by Bruyn, for £162.15.0 to Smith); Leo S. Bing, New York (by 1927–46; sold for $11,825 to Kleinberger); [Kleinberger, New York, 1946; sold to MMA]
New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "Loan Exhibition of French Primitives and Objects of Art," October 17–November 12, 1927, no. 49 (lent by Leo S. Bing).

Rotterdam. Museum Boymans-van Beuningen. "Erasmus en zijn tijd," October 3–November 23, 1969, no. 265.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 17).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 235.

Rotterdam. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. "Images of Erasmus," November 8, 2008–February 8, 2009, no. 31.

Eugène de Budé. Revue bleue 5 (June 20, 1896), p. 774, col. 2 [see Ref. Dimier 1908], publishes for the first time the text of the manuscript note in the "Adversaria," in which Budé mentions that his portrait was painted by "Master Genet Clouet".

L. Delaruelle. Bibliothèque de l'École des Hautes Études. fasc. 162, Guillaume Budé. 1907, p. 276 [see Ref. Sterling 1955], dates the "Adversaria" note between 1534 and 1539, in the last few years of Budé's life.

Louis Dimier in "Séance du 10 Juin." Bulletin de la société nationale des antiquaires de France (1908), pp. 229–31, based on its placement in the text, dates the "Adversaria" note to 1536; adds that although he is familiar with a poor replica portrait in the Musée de Versailles, he does not know the original on which it is based; mentions, however, that an admirable chalk drawing of Budé, which follows the composition of the Versailles picture, and which is certainly original, is preserved at Chantilly among a group of stylistically similar drawings that he believes can now be attributed with confidence to Jean Clouet.

Joseph Meder. "Ein Jean Clouet?" Belvedere 1 (1922), pp. 1–5, ill. opp. p. 1, publishes a small (15 x 11 cm) bust portrait of Budé, a reduced copy of our painting, inscribed "Budeus," painted in tempera on linen, and recently moved from the Nationalbibliothek of Vienna to the Albertina; considers it the original portrait by Jean Clouet mentioned in the "Adversaria"; dates it about 1536, in accordance with the apparent age of the sitter, about sixty-five; mentions five copies: three at Versailles, one in the University Public Library at Geneva, and one belonging to the Budé family.

Arthur E. Popham. "A Portrait by Jehannet Clouet." Burlington Magazine 42 (January–June 1923), p. 129, ill. opp. p. 128, publishes our painting for the first time, identifying it as the portrait of Guillaume Budé mentioned in the "Adversaria" note; based on its location in the text, places the note about 1534–39; concludes that the portrait was produced during this period and observes that this would coincide with the apparent age of the sitter here, "between 60 and 70 years of age"; states that the inscription "ORONCIO" is erroneous; mentions the 16th century copy in Versailles and another, very poor one, at the Collège de France, Paris; notes that there is an engraved portrait of Budé as an older man in Th. Beza's "Icones," which seems to derive from our picture, although "the general resemblance between the two is not at first striking".

Louis Dimier. Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVIe siècle. Vol. 1, Paris, 1924, p. 24, calls our portrait a copy of a lost original, but superior to the one at Versailles; asserts that the original portrait of Budé was painted by Jean Clouet in 1536.

Étienne Moreau-Nélaton. Les Clouet et leurs émules. Paris, 1924, vol. 1, pp. 54–55 n. 1, considers the portrait of Budé in Versailles a very poor copy; mentions in a footnote that our portrait was published in Popham's 1923 article, but does not comment on its authenticity; insists that the spots of color on the drawing of Budé at Chantilly are a proof that it was used in Clouet's workshop as a model for a painted portrait.

Louis Dimier. Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVIe siècle. Vol. 2, Paris, 1925, p. 36, no. 153.

Frank E. Washburn Freund. "Kunstpflege in Amerika." Der Cicerone 19 (1927), pp. 733–34, ill.

Robert Allerton Parker. "Jean Clouet at the Court of Francis I." International Studio 89 (February 1928), pp. 35–36, 40, ill.

E. M. Sperling. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Flemish Primitives. Exh. cat., F. Kleinberger Galleries, Inc., New York. New York, 1929, p. 120, no. 49, ill., quotes a translation of the Greek text [somewhat different from ours].

Irene Adler. "Die Clouet: Verzuch einer Stilkritik." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 3 (1929), pp. 203–4, considers Clouet's original portrait of Budé no longer extant and calls ours a copy.

Anthony Blunt. Art and Architecture in France, 1500 to 1700. Baltimore, 1953, p. 38.

Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), ill. p. 19.

Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 27–30, ill., observes that our portrait appears to be the only authenticated work of Jean Clouet and dates it about 1536; notes that although the face has lost most of the top layers of paint, the drawing is so masterly and the quality of the workmanship so much higher than that of the other known versions, that this must be the original mentioned by Clouet in the "Adversaria"; suggests that the hands were been painted by a shop assistant and believes this is the case with certain other portraits by the master, such as his "Louis de Clèves" in the Museum at Bergamo [Accademia Carrara]; cannot trace the origin of the Greek text, but tranlates it as "It may seem a great thing to realize one's desires, but truly the greatest thing is not to desire what one shouldn't".

Maurice H. Goldblatt. Deux grands maîtres français: Le Maître de Moulins identifié; Jean Perréal, 40 portraits identifiés. Paris, 1961, p. 87, fig. 42, reproduces the chalk drawing of Budé at Chantilly (fig. 41).

Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier. French Painting from Fouquet to Poussin. Geneva, 1963, pp. 123–24, ill. p. 120 (color), call it the only fully documented Clouet in existance and date it "not earlier than 1535".

Charles Sterling. "Un portrait inconnu par Jean Clouet." Studies in Renaissance & Baroque Art Presented to Anthony Blunt on his 60th Birthday. London, 1967, pp. 86, 88, dates it about 1535 and considers it the most evolved of Clouet's known portraits.

Charles D. Cuttler. Northern Painting from Pucelle to Bruegel. New York, 1968, pp. 464–65, ill., dates it about 1535.

Erasmus en zijn tijd. Exh. cat., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Rotterdam, 1969, unpaginated, nos. 265, colorpl. 7.

Introduction by Kenneth Clark in Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 232, no. 235, ill.

Charles Sterling in "A Male Portrait by Jean Clouet." Museum Monographs II: Papers on Objects in the Collections of City Art Museum of Saint Louis. 1970, pp. 55, 59, 67 n. 7 [English translation of Ref. Sterling 1967].

Peter Mellen. Jean Clouet: Complete Edition of the Drawings, Miniatures, and Paintings. London, 1971, pp. 8, 25, 30–31, 43–46, 50–53, 71 nn. 48, 54, p. 75 nn. 52, 54, pp. 226, 240–41, no. 145, figs. 26, 30, 35, pl. 17 (overall and details), illustrates the fragment from an anonymous copy in the Albertina, the anonymous copy in Versailles, Thevet's engraving, and Clouet's drawing of Budé at Chantilly; dates our picture about 1536, calling it the last datable work by Jean Clouet and the only work supported by documentary evidence; suggests that the pose derives from Holbein's portraits of Erasmus, with which Clouet "must have been familiar" and notes that "the hands are clumsily painted, like those in most other portraits by Clouet".

Sylvie Béguin. "'Jean Clouet' par Peter Mellen." L'Oeil no. 204 (December 1971), pp. 28–29.

Paul Wescher. "New Light on Jean Clouet as a Portrait Painter." Apollo 103 (January 1976), pp. 19–20, fig. 5, erroneously states that the cleaning of this picture revealed Clouet's full signature.

Mary Ann Wurth Harris. "Letters to the editor." Apollo 103 (June 1976), p. 537, states that Wescher's mention of a full signature on this painting is incorrect.

Katharine Baetjer. "Pleasures and Problems of Early French Painting." Apollo 106 (November 1977), p. 347, fig. 9.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 263, 266, fig. 475 (color).

Larry Silver. "Early Northern European Paintings." Bulletin of the Saint Louis Art Museum, n.s., 16 (Summer 1982), p. 26.

John Rowlands. Holbein: The Paintings of Hans Holbein the Younger. Oxford, 1985, p. 275 n. 44.

Introduction by James Snyder in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Renaissance in the North. New York, 1987, pp. 16, 146–47, ill. (color).

Denys Sutton in Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. [Tokyo?], 1989, pp. 17, 19, fig. 3, dates it about 1536.

Charles McCorquodale. The Renaissance: European Painting, 1400–1600. London, 1994, p. 164, ill. (color).

Étienne Jollet. Jean & François Clouet. Paris, 1997, pp. 17, 159.

Ian Wardropper. "The Flowering of the French Renaissance." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Summer 2004), pp. 6–7, ill. (color).

Rudolf Kassel. Letter to Georg Nicolaus Knauer. February 1, 2005, identifies the source for the sentence in Budé's book as Ioannes Stobaeus (5th century A.D.), 3.5.18, ed. Otto Hense, 3 (Berlin 1894, reprinted 1958), p. 262.1–3.

Georg Nicolaus Knauer. Letter to Katharine Baetjer. June 5, 2005, reports the source for the inscription in Budé's book, noting that the identification was provided by Rudolf Kassel [see Ref. 2005]; supports the English translation as proposed by Dietrich von Bothmer [Ref. 1980].

Peter van der Coelen and Marjolijn Bol in Images of Erasmus. Exh. cat., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Rotterdam, 2008, pp. 100, 278, no. 31, ill. p. 117 (color), remarks that the design of the painting is "very like Holbein's late Erasmus portraits . . . [although] Budé looks the viewer straight in the eye".

Robert J. Knecht. The French Renaissance Court, 1483–1589. New Haven, 2008, p. 201, fig. 41.

Cécile Scailliérez in Joos van Cleve, Leonardo des Nordens. Ed. Peter van den Brink et al. Exh. cat., Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen. Stuttgart, 2011, pp. 91, 99, 191 n. 42, believes that Mellen's (1971) dating is too late, perhaps by a decade.

Alexandra Zvereva. Portraits dessinés de la cour des Valois: Les Clouet de Catherine de Médicis. Paris, 2011, p. 250, under no. 125.

A preparatory drawing for this portrait is in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, an anonymous copy is in the Château at Versailles (no. 4045), and a fragment of an anonymous copy is in the Albertina, Vienna (Mellen 1971, pl. 116 and figs. 23 and 24). It is through inscriptions on these copies (both datable about 1540) that the sitter for the MMA painting can be identified. Joseph Meder (1922) mentions two other copies in Versailles, one in the University Public Library of Geneva, and one belonging to the Budé family. Popham (1923) mentions a poor copy in the Collège de France, Paris.

The portrait was engraved by Théodore de Bèze (Icones, Geneva, 1580, pl. XIII) and by André Thevet (Pourtraits et Vies des Hommes illustres . . ., 1584, Livre VI, no. 551; see Mellen 1971, fig. 25).
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