Attributed to Corneille de Lyon (Netherlandish, active by 1533, died 1575)
Oil on wood
6 3/4 x 6 1/4 in. (17.1 x 15.9 cm)
Bequest of George D. Pratt, 1935 (1978.301.6)
Corneille de Lyon, now often referred to as Corneille de La Haye, was a celebrated portrait painter in his lifetime. Born in the Hague at the beginning of the sixteenth century, he is documented in Lyon from 1533 to 1575. In 1544, the poet Eustorge de Beaulieu wrote in praise of his art. Giovanni Vapelli, the Venetian ambassador to the French court, describes a visit to Corneille's house, where he saw "many small, lifelike portraits of the lords and ladies of the French court." Catherine de Médicis was shown around his studio in Lyon in 1564, and admired a number of portraits, including one of herself.
It is unknown where Corneille received his training. Since none of the 200-odd portraits associated with Corneille's name is signed, and it is known that he employed several assistants, attributions to the master himself are highly subjective. The style of Corneille's studio was relatively consistent throughout his forty-year career. Most portraits are small and rectangular, with the sitter shown en buste or half-length in a frontal or three-quarter pose. Some look out at the viewer, and in a few cases, one or both hands can be seen. The background in nearly all these paintings is plain green or blue, with the light coming from the left. Their appeal lies in the delicate execution, carefully chosen colors, and, in the best examples such as this one, in their psychological intensity.