Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Charles de Cossé (1506–1563), Count of Brissac

Jean Clouet (French, active by 1516–died 1540/41 Paris)
ca. 1535
Diameter 1 1/2 in. (37 mm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1935
Accession Number:
Not on view
The Artist: Jean Clouet, who may have been born in the Low Countries, was a painter and draftsman at the court of Francis I (1494–1547), king of France. His name first appears in the French royal accounts in 1516, the year after the accession of Francis I, and he is known to have been married and living in Tours in 1521. By 1523 he is mentioned as the second court painter, after Jean Perréal, whose name disappears from the accounts after 1527. From that date Jean Clouet was the dominant painter. In 1540 he was succeeded in the royal accounts by his son, François Clouet.

Jean Clouet was a prolific portrait draftsman, and some fifteen oil paintings are also attributed to him, including one documented portrait, that of Guillaume Budé (MMA 46.68). He is credited with the origination of the portrait miniature, the earliest known examples being the "Preux de Marignan," seven roundels which illustrate the second volume of La guerre gallique, an illuminated manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (MS fr. 13429). These established the earliest norm for the portrait miniature: a three-quarter face, head-and-shoulders representation in a roundel, carried out in the limner's medium of watercolor and body color on vellum. The final stage in the development of the portrait miniature was to detach the image from the manuscript page and present it as a separate work of art. Clouet did this in two known examples: the present work and one in the British Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

The Miniature: The history of this miniature before it entered the Pierpont Morgan collection is not known, but the inscriptions on the reverse show that it had been in both a French and an English collection. The identification of the sitter as Henry II (1519–1559) of France was abandoned when it was pointed out by Dimier (1905) that the miniature is based upon a drawing by Jean Clouet in the Musée Condé, Chantilly (no. 169), which is inscribed "brisac depuis marichal" (also transcribed "brasac"). There are copies of the drawing in various albums (e.g., Heseltine, Destailleur, Hermitage, Fontette, and Valori).

The sitter, Charles de Cossé, was descended from one of the most illustrious noble families in France. Frail as a child, he was later known as "le beau Brissac" and is said to have been the favorite of Diane de Poitiers (1499–1566), thereby incurring the jealousy of Henry II. A soldier who first distinguished himself at the siege of Naples in 1528, Cossé-Brissac was marshal of France in 1550, governor of Picardy in 1560, and subsequently commandant of Paris and the Île-de-France.

With the sole exception of the miniature at Windsor Castle (Graham Reynolds, Catalogue of the Tudor and Stuart Miniatures in the Collection of H. M. the Queen, Cambridge, 1996, no. 1), this is the only known independent portrait miniature by Jean Clouet. Estimates for its date, which depends on the sitter's age, vary from 1531 (Dimier 1924) to 1540 (Moreau-Nélaton 1910). A median date of about 1535 seems plausible. The miniature at Windsor represents the dauphin Francis (1518–1536) and is datable to about 1526, rivaling Lucas Hornebolte's portraits of Henry VllI, of about 1525–27, for the distinction of being the first independent portrait miniature, outside the pages of a manuscript.

[2015; adapted from Reynolds and Baetjer 1996]
Inscription: Inscribed (reverse, on card): Henri II / Roi de France; Henri 2d; 766
J. Pierpont Morgan, London (by 1905–d. 1913; cat., vol. 3, 1907, no. 1); his son, J. P. Morgan, New York (1913–35; his sale, Christie's, London, June 24, 1935, no. 10, to Knoedler for MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 5, 1996–January 5, 1997, no. 1.

L[ouis]. Dimier. "Séance du 8 novembre." Bulletin de la société nationale des antiquaires de France (1905), pp. 306–8, associates it with a drawing inscribed "Brasac depuis maréchal" (Musée Condé, Chantilly) and with the Preux de Marignan portraits [see Notes]; calls it on this basis a portrait of Brissac by Jean Clouet and dates it 1535–40.

G[eorge]. C. Williamson. Catalogue of the Collection of Miniatures, the Property of J. Pierpont Morgan. Vol. 3, [deluxe edition]. London, 1907, pp. xi, 3–5, no. 383, pl. CXIII, no. 1, colorpl. 53.

G[eorge]. C. Williamson. "Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan's Pictures: The Foreign Miniatures, VI." Connoisseur 18 (August 1907), pp. 203–4, no. LXXXI, ill.

Étienne Moreau-Nélaton. Chantilly: Crayons français du XVIe siècle. Paris, 1910, p. 170, under no. 169, calls it an exact reproduction of the drawing in the Musée Condé.

George C. Williamson. The Miniature Collector: A Guide for the Amateur Collector of Portrait Miniatures. London, 1921, p. 9, pl. I, no. 5.

Louis Dimier. Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVIe siècle. Vol. 1, Paris, 1924, p. 25, pl. 2.

Étienne Moreau-Nélaton. Les Clouet et leurs émules. Paris, 1924, vol. 1, p. 57, fig. 13, dates it about 1535.

Louis Dimier. Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVIe siècle. Vol. 2, Paris, 1925, p. 38, no. 9, dates it about 1531.

Irene Adler. "Die Clouet: Verzuch einer Stilkritik." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 3 (1929), p. 242.

Harry B. Wehle. "Four Famous Miniatures." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 30 (October 1935), pp. 187–88, ill. on cover.

Anthony Blunt. Art and Architecture in France, 1500 to 1700. Baltimore, 1953, p. 38, erroneously as in the Morgan Library, New York.

Torben Holck Colding. Aspects of Miniature Painting: Its Origins and Development. Copenhagen, 1953, pp. 78, 87, 180 n. 28.

Peter Mellen. Jean Clouet: Complete Edition of the Drawings, Miniatures, and Paintings. London, 1971, pp. 39, 224–25, 234, no. 134, pl. 106, considers it the only miniature besides those of the Preux de Marignan that can definitely be attributed to Clouet.

Katharine Baetjer. "Pleasures and Problems of Early French Painting." Apollo 106 (November 1977), pp. 347, 349 n. 15, fig. 10.

Graham Reynolds. English Portrait Miniatures. rev. ed. [1st ed., 1952]. Cambridge, 1988, p. 2.

Graham Reynolds with the assistance of Katharine Baetjer. European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, pp. 10–12, 67–68, no. 1, colorpl. 1 and ill. p. 67, state that "a median date of about 1535 seems plausible".

Graham Reynolds. The Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Miniatures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen. London, 1999, p. 44.

Jean Strouse. "J. Pierpont Morgan, Financier and Collector." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Winter 2000), p. 25, fig. 25 (color).

Alexandra Zvereva. Portraits dessinés de la cour des Valois: Les Clouet de Catherine de Médicis. Paris, 2011, p. 244, under no. 109.

Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 274, no. 173, ill. pp. 177, 274 (color).

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