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  • gerard van weyenbergh

School of Fontainebleau, a basic description.

Composed of anonymous people influenced by renowned Italian masters, the so-called Fontainebleau school is a precious testimony of patronage in the Valois era. Since the end of the XVth century, France discovered the talents of the Renaissance and would compete with the Italian courts. This is the end of Gothic! Francois I, in 1530, called Italian artists to Fontainebleau (Primaticcio, Leonardo da Vinci ). The king gave work to French artists who adopt a mannierist style so synonymous with modernity. This influence, at the origin of a fashion full of elegance and decorative exuberance, extends until the reign of the first Bourbon, Henri IV.

History of movement

The birth of the Fontainebleau school is intimately linked to the personality of François I. The monarch called in France Italian artists who fled Rome after the sack of 1527 and the siege of Florence two years later. He invited them to work at the Château de Fontainebleau, which he preferred to those of the Loire. It is the time of a cultural and artistic development that continues until the reign of Henry IV. Royal and aristocratic patronage developed on the Italian model.

In Fontainebleau, the major decorative project was entrusted from 1530 to an Italian artist, Le Rosso, assisted by Le Primatice. With the help of stucco workers, gilders, painters, and sculptors, they introduce mannierist decorations worthy of the Medici court in Florence to these places. Thanks to these two artists, Italian fashions are essential in French art, whether in painting or architecture, profane as sacred. Artists like painter Agnolo Bronzino exerted an important influence on French artists such as François Clouet. We must also underline the impact of Flemish schools, which is reflected in the precision of the details and the effects of realism in rendering the atmospheres.

The Bellifontain ideal is summed up by elegant and elongated figures , revisiting the ancient style, and a preference for the curved line. Mythological themes are favored by artists, who find material to flatter their sponsors. The ornamentation is abundant, as are the trompe-l'oeil effects.

Most of Fontainebleau's artists remain anonymous. However, some signatures are known so that of Antoine Caron. The term "school of Fontainebleau" is in use only since the XIXth century, designating the French Renaissance and more specifically its Mannierist style.

The Fontainebleau school also corresponds to the time of the development of art engraving in France, under the leadership of the Primatice in the 1540s, as well as tapestry.


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