Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Henry II (1519–1559), King of France

Workshop of François Clouet (French, Tours (?), active by 1536–died 1572 Paris)
Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
61 1/2 x 53 in. (156.2 x 134.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Helen Hay Whitney, 1944
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 374
marquis de Biencourt, Azay-le-Rideau, near Tours (in 1890); [Lawrie, London, by 1904–5; sale, Christie's, London, January 28, 1905, no. 35, as by François Clouet, for £2,415.0.0 to Hodgkins]; Payne Whitney, New York (until d. 1927); Mrs. Payne (Helen Hay) Whitney, New York (1927–d. 1944)
Tours. Church of St. François. "Exposition Rétrospective de Tours," 1890, no catalogue? (lent by the marquis de Biencourt) [see Palustre 1891].

Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Exposition des primitifs français," April 12–July 14, 1904, no. 188 (as by François Clouet, lent by Lawrie, London).

Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "A Pageant of Canada," October 27, 1967–January 19, 1968, no. 14 (as Attributed to François Clouet).

Étienne Jodelle. Le recueil des inscriptions, figures, devises et masquarades ordonnées en l'hostel de ville à Paris, le jeudi 17 de Février 1558. Paris, 1558 [see Laborde 1855, Salmon 1855, and Graham and Johnson 1972], provides a series of literary inscriptions meant to accompany pictures to be seen at a royal party in the Grande Salle in Paris on the occasion of the recapture of Calais from the English in 1558; among the assemblage of royal portraits is one referred to in "Icon IX" of Jodelle's text: "Henrici equitantis domi, sic nuper à Ianetio pictore Parisiensi excellentisimi in maiore tabula depicti. . ." ([Equestrian portrait of] Henry riding at home, as lately depicted in a large painting by Janet, a most excellent Parisian artist. . .)[possibly this picture].

A. Salmon. Archives de l'art français 3 (1855), pp. 295–97 [see Sterling 1955], publishes Jodelle's text and interprets "equitantis domi" as meaning that the king rides "at home," or in his own courtyard; lists several equestrian portraits of Henry II [one of which could be the present picture].

comte de Laborde. La Renaissance des arts à la cour de France: Études sur le seizième siècle. Vol. 2, Paris, 1855, pp. 574–75, publishes Jodelle's "gallery" of royal portraits, noting that its emphasis is on the glory of the royalty and that an artist is mentioned in only one instance, in the case of the equestrian portrait of Henry II by "Janet"; believes this portrait was probably made by François Clouet in 1547, when Henry became king, noting that the artist continued the traditional type of royal equestrian portrait established in Jean Clouet's portrait of Francis I [of which versions exist in the Louvre, Paris, and Uffizi, Florence].

Léon Palustre. Album de l'exposition rétrospective de Tours (1890). Tours, 1891, pp. 13–14, pl. 7, notes that our picture, then belonging to the marquis de Biencourt at Azay-le-Rideau, had been transferred from wood to canvas a relatively short time before, and that a strip 6 1/4 in. (16 cm) high had been added at the top; considers it a work in the manner of François Clouet, from the middle of the 16th century.

Louis Auguste Bosseboeuf. L'art (1894), pp. 247–49, ill. [see Sterling 1955], connects our picture with Jodelle's text; translates "equitantis domi" as "riding for his pleasure in the court of a palace," and considers it an original by Clouet, with the face slightly repainted.

Henri Bouchot in Exposition des primitifs français. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1904, pp. 76–77, no. 188, attributes this picture to François Clouet in about 1559, the year of the king's death; describes the composition as an official formula, based on an equestrian portrait of Francis I, that would have been produced for relatives and friends.

E. Durand-Greville. "The Sixteenth Century at the Exhibition of French Primitives." Burlington Magazine 6 (November 1904), p. 155, erroneously as no. 198; attributes it to François Clouet, rejecting Dimier's suggestion that it is a copy of a lost original.

L. Dimier. French Painting in the Sixteenth Century. London, 1904, pp. 137–38, translates Jodelle's description "Henrici equitantis domi" as meaning that the king was not in armour but in court dress; observes that by means of this detail and the books date of publication, we may perhaps recognize this picture in an equestrian portrait formerly in the collection of Azay-le-rideau [and now MMA]; imagines that this portrait and a large equestrian portait of Francis I might have hung on opposite walls of the same gallery as the two horses are going in the same direction [i.e. in the smaller surviving versions of Francis I's equestrian portraits and this portrait].

L. Dimier. Chronique des arts et de la curiosité, supplément à la Gazette des beaux-arts no. 24 (June 18, 1904), p. 197, identifies this painting as a copy, not the original portrait of Henry II on horseback mentioned in 1558 by Jodelle.

Catalogue of Important Pictures by Old Masters and of the English School. Christie's, London. January 28, 1905, p. 9, no. 35, as painted in 1559.

A. Germain. "Les Clouets." Les Grands Artistes. 1907, p. 52, observes that many portraits are attributed to Fançois Clouet simply because they represent personages of the 16th century with great care, but believes that there are, in fact, very few that can legitimately be ascribed to him, among which he includes this portrait on horseback with MM. Lawrie in London.

Arthur Weese. "Skulptur und Malerei in Frankreich im XV. und XVI. Jahrhundert." Handbuch der Kunstwissenschaft. Berlin, 1917, ill. p. 209, identifies it as a work by François Clouet.

Louis Dimier. Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVIe siècle. Vol. 1, Paris, 1924, p. 51, considers it a mediocre copy of the lost original by François Clouet mentioned in Jodelle's writings of the period; notes that there is a mediocre drawing at Chantilly with a large-scale head of Henry II, evidence for an original of the same size.

Étienne Moreau-Nélaton. Les Clouet et leurs émules. Paris, 1924, vol. 1, p. 67, cites Jodelle's text but does not know the whereabouts of the large equestrian portrait of Henri II he mentions.

Louis Dimier. Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVIe siècle. Vol. 2, Paris, 1925, p. 128, no. 508.

Lieutenant Colonel Ch. Maumené and comte Louis d'Harcourt. Portraits des rois de France. 1927, pl. 29 [see Maumené and Harcourt 1928].

Herbert Norris. Costume & Fashion. Vol. 3, The Tudors. London, 1927, book 2, p. 397, pl. 21, as by François Clouet, in a private collection.

Lieutenant Colonel Ch. Maumené and comte Louis d'Harcourt. "Iconographie des rois de France: Première partie, de Louis IX a Louis XIII." Archives de l'art français, n.s., 15 (1928), pp. 152–53, no. 198, pl. 198-35, consider it a good work by a skillful artist, perhaps François Clouet, possibly about the time of the king's death.

Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 476, no. 1262, ill. (cropped).

Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 54–57, ill., notes that the face appears to have been painted after the chalk portrait of Henry II from about 1553 (Cabinet des Estampes, Paris) and that the pose of the horse is taken from the equestrian portrait of Francis I painted by Jean or François Clouet between 1540–47, the best known variant being in the Uffizi, Florence; observes that the unusual size of our portrait and the fact that it is the only large, extant equestrian portrait of Henry II "tempts us to identify it with the large portrait mentioned by Jodelle" [see Salmon 1855]; comments that the painting has suffered extensive general damage and restoration, especially in the face, and that it is therefore difficult to judge whether it is a work by François Clouet himself or a faithful replica from his workshop.

Charles Sterling and Hélène Adhémar. Peintures: École français XIVe, XVe, et XVIe siècles. Paris, 1965, p. 24, attribute the Louvre's equestrian portrait of Francis I to Jean Clouet and consider it to be the model for our picture.

Peter Mellen. Jean Clouet: Complete Edition of the Drawings, Miniatures, and Paintings. London, 1971, p. 243, as produced by the same artist as the Uffizi's equestrian portrait of Francis I, too late to be by Jean Clouet and inconsistent with his style.

Victor E. Graham and W[illiam]. McAllister Johnson. Estienne Jodelle "Le Recueil des inscriptions 1558": A Literary and Iconographical Exegesis. Toronto, 1972, pp. 153–54, 208, ill. (fig. 40), consider it unlikely that this portrait was the one commissioned from François Clouet by Henry II for the feast in Paris on the occassion of the French victory in Calais [see Jodelle 1558]; transcribe, translate and annotate Jodelle's text to Icon IX, which described a pictorial prototype they believe is now lost but extant in several copies or variants.

Roy Strong in The Treasure Houses of Britain: Five Hundred Years of Private Patronage and Art Collecting. Ed. Gervase Jackson-Stops. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1985, p. 132, suggests that this portrait or another version of it was the initial inspiration for Robert Peake's equestrian portrait of Henry, Prince of Wales.

Charles Sterling in The Menil Collection: A Selection From the Paleolithic to the Modern Era. New York, 1987, p. 89 n. 2, calls it a good replica from François Clouet's workshop and compares it with a small equestrian portrait of the Dauphin Henry II in the Menil Collection, Houston, which he ascribes to Clouet himself.

Walter Liedtke. The Royal Horse and Rider: Painting, Sculpture, and Horsemanship, 1500–1800. New York, 1989, p. 187, no. 49, ill.

Alexandra Zvereva. Portraits dessinés de la cour des Valois: Les Clouet de Catherine de Médicis. Paris, 2011, p. 296, under no. 241.

This is the only extant large equestrian portrait of Henry II; several smaller versions exist, including one in the Musée Condé, Chantilly.

In 1558 the poet Étienne Jodelle published in Paris Le Recueil des inscriptions, figures, devises et masquarades ordonées en l'hostel de ville à Paris . . . . Among the pictures, to which he gives poetic inscriptions, is a large equestrian portrait "recently" painted by the "Parisian Janet," representing Henry II "equitantis domi," that is, riding in civilian dress. The unusual size of our picture has led some experts to identify it with the large portrait of Henry mentioned by Jodelle.

The king's head seems to be based on a portrait drawing of Henry from about 1553, now in the Cabinet des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (E. Moreau-Nélaton, Les Clouet et leurs émules, 1924, vol. 1, fig. 38). The pose of the horse is thought to derive from equestrian portraits of Francis I, Henry's father, the original of which is presumed to have been painted by Jean Clouet (versions in the Louvre, Paris, and Uffizi, Florence).
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