National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of A Lady in Her Bath François Clouet (artist)
French, before 1520 - 1572
A Lady in Her Bath, c. 1571
oil on oak
overall: 92.3 x 81.2 cm (36 5/16 x 31 15/16 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: The Netherlands and France in the 1500s
Object 8 of 8

François Clouet, the son of a Netherlandish artist, became court painter to the French kings Francis I, Henry II, and Charles IX.

A number of bathing portraits depicting courtesans and mistresses of kings have survived from Renaissance France. However, the coolly elegant features of this woman make it impossible to identify her. In the past she has been linked with Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II, but that identification has now been ruled out. It may be that she is meant to represent an ideal of beauty rather than an actual person.

Her pose is based on the Mona Lisa, which Leonardo da Vinci had taken with him when he moved to France toward the end of his life. Several nude versions by his assistants were also widely known. Many artists had come from Italy at the invitation of Francis I to decorate his chateau at Fontainebleau. Among the rooms he constructed was an elaborate bath—a rare luxury in northern Europe. Paintings in the dressing rooms feature nymphs and nude goddesses reveling at baths and fountains. They may have helped to inspire this type of bathing portrait. The painting’s combination of Italian inspiration and the meticulous detail of Netherlandish art is characteristic of both François Clouet in particular and the French Renaissance generally.

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