For a biography of Joos van Cleve, see the Catalogue Entry for The Holy Family
).The Subject of the Painting
: King of France from 1515 until his death in 1547, Francis I was a major patron of the arts and a key figure in the development of an indigenous Renaissance style. The Met’s portrait faithfully records the French king’s physiognomy, and the expressive hands have been carefully drawn and modeled. He is sumptuously dressed in a red doublet made of costly silk, the shimmering quality of which was achieved by a layer of silver leaf beneath a translucent glaze of red lake (see fig. 3 above), a highly expensive pigment at the time. His outer garment with puffed black sleeves and a fur collar is adorned with rows of pearls, aiglets, and gold embroidery. His feathered beret, likewise, is decorated with aiglets and pearls, and a damaged hat badge, possibly representing a half-length figure of Lucretia, as a comparison of the image with another version in the Royal Collection, London suggests (for the identification, see Campbell 1958, p. 30). In his left hand Francis holds the golden pommel of a precious sword, its curved knuckle guard surmounted with a zoomorphic finial. He gestures with his right hand as though giving an order or signaling to another figure, conceivably shown in a pendant.The Attribution and Date:
The official portrait of Francis I is in the Louvre (inv. 3254) and was painted around 1530 by his court portraitist Jean Clouet (active by 1516–died 1540/41), possibly with the collaboration of the artist’s son François (Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. 3256). When in the Friedsam collection, The Met's portrait was also attributed to Jean Clouet (Réau 1926). However, it is instead related in style to a portrait of the king in the Philadelphia Museum of Art that was first ascribed by Baldass to the Antwerp-based painter Joos van Cleve, an attribution that is now universally accepted (Hand 2004, pp. 101–2, no. 85; fig. 1). As is apparent from the differences in quality and execution, The Met's portrait cannot be an autograph work by Joos and must, instead, be a copy of a composition that was produced with variations in his workshop. The fact that portraits of Francis I were recorded in the inventories of European rulers (such as those of Henry VIII and Charles II of Spain) and that numerous versions were created in Joos’s workshop make it very likely that The Met's portrait was destined for one of the European courts.
Joos’s large, half-length portrait in Philadelphia is generally thought to have been painted during the artist’s stay in France before 1533 (see Hand 2004, pp. 166–68, nos. 85–85.13). It shows the king standing behind a table, holding his sword pommel in his left hand and his leather gloves in his right; his glance is to his right, as though toward a pendant image that, it has been suggested, might be Joos’s portrait of Henry VIII in the Royal Collection, Windsor Castle. The pair would thus commemorate the meeting between Francis I and Henry VIII in Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais in 1532. Attractive though this theory is, it does not explain the biblical quotation on Henry’s scroll (ITE IN MUNDUM UNIVERSUM ET PREDICATE EVANGELIUM OMNI CREATURE, translated as “Go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature”, Mark 16:15), and does not account for the fact that Henry VIII’s glance is directed toward the viewer while Francis averts his glance as though toward a counterpart.
In The Met's picture, the hand that in the Philadelphia portrait holds gloves has been changed to an open hand gesture, a motif found in several other versions (examples are in the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, and the Royal Collection in Windsor Castle). Although it is possible that The Met's panel was painted as an independent work for a portrait gallery, it is no less possible that, given the king’s open hand gesture and his glance to his right, it had as a pendant a portrait of Henry VIII similar in composition to two pictures in the National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 3638 and NPG 1376, both ascribed to Anglo-Netherlandish painter). Not only are the costumes comparable, but so also are the prominent hand gestures (in Henry VIII’s case the hands rest on a balustrade), and the notable horizontal emphasis of the shoulder line of the two kings, who then would face each other. Nonetheless, given their different dimensions, the National Portrait Gallery examples cannot be the pendants to The Met's picture.
Christine Seidel 2014; updated by Maryan W. Ainsworth 2015
 See Ludwig Baldass, Joos van Cleve: der Meister des Todes Mariä
, Vienna, 1925, p. 41 and no. 79.
 See Cécile Scailliérez, “Die Porträtkunst Joos van Cleves”, in Joos van Cleve. Leonardo des Nordens
, ed. Peter van den Brink, Aachen, 2011, pp. 107–8.