Francois 1er and Dutch Art

The Louvre revisits the French Renaissance with a temporary exhibition “Francois 1er et l’Art des Pays-Bas “ devoted to Dutch artists patronized by Francois Ier (1494-1547) who ruled France from 1515 until his death. Francois, an enthusiastic patron of the arts, initiated the French Renaissance by attracting to France many Italian artists including Leonardo da Vinci, who brought the Mona Lisa with him.

In addition to his patronage of artists associated with Italian school at Fontainebleau Francois supported many northern artists such as Jean Clouet, Corneille de Lyon and Noel Bellemare. He made extensive purchases of tapestries, gold and silver objets d’art and Flemish paintings. In addition to religious and portrait paintings the exhibition includes stained glass, tapestries and several beautiful illuminated manuscripts.

One of the Illuminated manuscripts exhibited —King Francois 1’s Book of Hours—has a special story. It’s for sale and the Louvre is hoping that visitors will help them buy it. This book of hours (prayer book) was a gift given by King Francois to his niece Jeanne d’Albert. After being owned by King Henri IV and Cardinal Mazarin, the book eventually became the property of collectors in England where it has been since 1720. Now the Louvre has the opportunity to buy it back for 10 million Euros.

Thanks to a donation of half the amount by LVMH Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton the Louvre thinks getting the Renaissance masterpiece back to France is within reach. The museum has launched a major crowdfunding campaign aimed at individuals and companies in the hope of raising 1 million Euros before February 15.

The tiny handwritten prayer book (8.5 x 6.5 cm) is decorated with sixteen full-page painted illustrations and numerous illuminated initials. The book (dated 1532), a masterpiece of precious metalwork, combines Flemish, French and Italian elements that typified the Renaissance culture of the court of François Ier.

Francois 1er et l’Art des Pays-Bas, to January 15, 2018, at the Louvre, Paris. To donate: