de jonckheere old masters

Corneille de Lyon

(Assigned to)Portrait of a young gentleman dressed in black and gold

Panel: 17,8 x 15,2 cm
Circa 1540


France’s nobility was infatuated with portrait painting in the 16th century. It was perhaps the Clouets, who left behind a thousand or so portraits to the history of art, who were the main protagonists of this enthusiasm but Corneille de Lyon, the painter at the court of the Valois, was just as popular.

This young gentleman dressed in black and gold is among the works executed by the masters of Corneille de Lyon’s entourage: all the elegance of Corneille de Lyon’s art can be found in this sober and refined portrait. Just like Corneille, contrary to these true court portraits where the dignity of the models is celebrated through the meticulous rendering of their clothing and their social attributes, the model is seized in time with the most remarkable precision and refinement, allowing the viewer to guess his innermost thoughts.

This portrait of a young man dressed in black and gold fully complies with the artistic conventions of the Renaissance: a three-quarter bust view. The figure gazes directly at the viewer with dignity and reserve, virtues that were particularly appreciated in a gentleman. Furthermore, the character’s high rank is emphasised by his refined clothing edged with gold. His elegant attire is perfectly in keeping with French fashion of the 1540s: fine white shirt, a carefully trimmed beard and a very flat hat with a feather, worn at an angle over short hair. However, the artist’s interest clearly lies in his model’s countenance. The use of a green background, typical in Corneille’s work, highlights the flesh tints and reinforces this focus on the face.

The model’s traits are similar to those in a portrait of a man by Corneille de Lyon, kept at the Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, dated 1535. Although less attention to detail is visible in this replica of the version in Antwerp, we can nonetheless admire the chromatic variation of the skin which has a rosier hue.

In this portrait, the painter’s art bears witness to a keen focus on detail that reaches beyond a portrayal of the character’s status; it seeks to imbue the subject with a truly noble and natural charm and grace. This beauty, which goes beyond artistic conventions, still attracts the viewer’s eye today.

Provenance :
John Harley collection;
Private collection, Italy.

Expositions :
Exhibition of the Royal House of Tudor, The New Gallery, Regent Street, London 1890.