François Clouet, the son of a Netherlandish artist, became court painter to the French kings Francis I, Henry II and Charles IX. In this Renaissance portrait Clouet has depicted a female nude, whose identity is unknown, at her bath. The bather is seated in her tub, which is lined with a white cloth and hung on both sides with regal crimson curtains to ward off the cold. Her left hand draws back the bath sheet revealing the artist's name inscribed below, while her right hand rests on a covered board that displays a sumptuously rendered still life. Slightly behind the bather a young boy reaches for some grapes as a smiling wet nurse suckles a baby. In the background, a maid is seen holding a metal pitcher of bath water as more water is heated in the fireplace. The allusion is to a happy, healthy home.
The masklike symmetry of the bather's face makes exact identification difficult; scholars have suggested that her aristocratic features indicate that she is one of several royal mistresses. It is possible that the nude, a Venus type, represents ideal beauty rather than a specific individual. The contrast of the smoothly rendered nude figure to the intricate surface details of the fruit, draperies, and jewelry, presents a union of Flemish and Italian motifs that characterized French courtly art of the sixteenth century.
One of only two signed paintings by François Clouet, A Lady in Her Bath is a work of superb quality and a monument in the history of sixteenth-century French painting. Although the artist’s signature was noted as early as 1874, the attribution to Clouet was challenged briefly in 1904 when Henri Bouchot cataloged the painting as possibly by
Palais du Louvre and Bibliothèque nationale, Exposition des primitifs français (Paris, 1904), 88, no. 226, as by François Quesnel, dated around 1580.
In the foreground of the painting, framed by two swags of red drapery, a woman is seated in a bathtub. She is naked except for her jewelry
Nancy Zinn, summer intern in the department of northern Renaissance painting, discusses the jewelry in a memorandum dated 1992 (NGA curatorial files). Of interest is the ring worn on the little finger of the left hand that appears identical to those on the little finger of the left hands of Pierre Quthe and Elizabeth of Austria. Zinn suggests that the ring may be an original design by Clouet. There is no way of knowing whether the ring had special significance or was simply a studio prop.
In the background a female servant holding a large pitcher stands in front of a roaring fire, and one can imagine that her job is to provide a supply of hot water for the bath. Interestingly, her pose echoes that of the nursemaid. A landscape painting is set into the mantel of the fireplace, but only the lower left corner is visible. Behind and to the left of the servant is a chair whose back bears the embroidered image of a unicorn sitting underneath a tree. A framed mirror hangs above the chair. The window at the far left opens onto a tree set against the sky.
The limited number of pictures, almost all portraits, that can be given securely to Clouet makes it difficult to establish a cogent sense of stylistic development for his oeuvre. A Lady in Her Bath has, with a few exceptions, been placed either in the 1550s or around 1571.
Maurice W. Brockwell, Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, in the Collection of Sir Herbert Cook, Bart (London, 1932), 7, was apparently the first to specifically propose a date of c. 1550/1551.
Louis Dimier, Le portrait du XVIe siècle aux primitifs français: notes et corrections au catalogue officiel sur cette partie de l’exposition d’avril–juillet 1904 (Paris, 1904), 24; Louis Dimier, Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVIe siècle, vol. 2 (Paris, 1925), 127, no. 13. In both instances hairstyle is cited as the basis for the date. Louis Dimier, “Clouet, François,” in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, ed. Ulrich Thieme, Felix Becker, and Hans Vollmer, vol. 7 (Leipzig, 1912), 117, however, put forward a date of c. 1562, perhaps on the basis of perceived similarities to the portrait of Pierre Quthe.
For basic information on the painting see Isabelle Compin and Anne Roquebert, École française: catalogue sommaire illustré des peintures du Musée du Louvre et du Musée d’Orsay (Paris, 1986), 1:138. For the drawing see Etienne Moreau-Nélaton, Les Clouet et leurs émules (Paris, 1924), 1: fig. 106, 3:76, no. 342; Jean Adhémar, French Drawing of the XVI Century (New York, 1955), 129, no. 57.
What seems to be the same hair treatment appears in portrait drawings that are dated primarily on a stylistic basis to the period c. 1558/1560, suggesting that the style was in vogue for at least ten years. See André Blum, The Last Valois 1515–1590: Costume of the Western World (London, 1951), 20, pl. 19, Madeleine de Gaignou de Saint-Bohaire (Chantilly, Musée Condé), c. 1560. Compare also the hairstyle in the portrait drawings of Elizabeth and Marguerite, daughters of Henri II, c. 1559 and c. 1560, respectively (both Chantilly, Musée Condé), repro. Etienne Moreau-Nélaton, Les Clouet et leurs émules (Paris, 1924), 2: figs. 208, 219.
Comparisons with Clouet’s paintings from the 1550s and 1560s are neither convincing nor particularly instructive. For example, in the portrait of Pierre Quthe (1599–c. 1588) (Paris, Musée du Louvre), dated 1562, the striking flashes of highlights on the drapery swag at the left create a surface effect akin to metallic foil or cellophane, very different from the subtler textures of the draperies in the National Gallery of Art panel.
Albert Châtelet, La peinture française: XVe et XVIe siècles (Geneva, 1992), 109, repro.
As to the possible identity of the sitter, the three candidates most often proposed are Diane de Poitiers, Mary Stuart (1542–1587), and Marie Touchet (1549–1638). Traditionally the woman in the tub has been identified as Diane de Poitiers. The source of this identification seems to be Georges Guiffrey’s publication of 1866 in which he describes and discusses a painting in the Musée de Versailles by Henri Lehmann (1814–1882), then called “after Primaticcio,” but in fact a copy after the Gallery’s picture.
Georges Guiffrey, Dianne de Poytiers: lettres inedites (Paris, 1866; repr. Geneva, 1970), 239–241. Lehmann’s painting has for some time been at Château d’Azay le Rideau; see note 58.
Beginning with William E. Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1951–1956 (Washington, DC, 1956), 52, the name was placed inside quotation marks, and the painting was dated “probably c. 1571” in subsequent National Gallery of Art catalogs.
Most who identify the sitter as Diane de Poitiers also accept a date sometime in the 1550s for the painting or place it before Henri II’s death in 1559.
Among those who accept a date in the 1550s are Reginald H. Wilenski, French Painting, 2nd ed. (Boston, 1949), 31–32; Charles Seymour, Art Treasures for America: An Anthology of Paintings and Sculpture in the Samuel H. Kress Collection (London, 1961), 114; Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, French Painting from Fouquet to Poussin (Geneva, 1963); André Chastel, “Diane de Poitiers: ‘L’eros de la beauté froide,’” in Friendship’s Garland: Essays Presented to Mario Praz on His Seventieth Birthday (Rome, 1966), 101; Charles D. Cuttler, Northern Painting from Pucelle to Bruegel: Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Centuries (New York, 1968), 466; James Snyder, Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, The Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1985), 519.
One of the first was Claude Phillips, whose article in the London Daily Telegraph, October 18, 1911, is cited in Grafton Galleries, Exhibition of Old Masters in Aid of the National Art Collections Fund (London, 1911), 78.
Because of her power, influence, and patronage of the arts there are numerous works that purport to represent Diane de Poitiers, but most are either allegorical or unverified.
For example, the painting from the School of Fontainebleau, Diane chasseresse, and the sculpture, Diane au repos, sometimes attributed to Jean Goujon (both Paris, Musée du Louvre), have been considered representations of Diane de Poitiers. Many other images of the goddess Diana have been interpreted as allegorical references to Diane de Poitiers, such as the paintings in the collection of the Earl of Spencer, Althorp, and the Musée de la Vénerie, Senlis; see Louis Dimier, “An Idealized Portrait of Diane de Poitiers,” Burlington Magazine 24 (Nov. 1913): 89–90; Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, L’école de Fontainebleau, entries by Sylvie Béguin (Paris, 1972), 210, no. 237. Another version was put up for sale, Sotheby’s New York, May 30, 1991, no. 1. See also Anatole de Montaiglon, “Diane de Poitiers et son goût dans les arts,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 2, 17 (1878): 289–304; Anatole de Montaiglon, “Diane de Poitiers et son goût dans les arts,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 2, 18 (1879): 152–177; Françoise Bardon, Diane de Poitiers et le mythe de Diane (Paris, 1963); Philippe Erlander, “Diane de Poitiers—The Myth,” Connoisseur 163 (1966): 83–87. Patricia Z. Thompson, “Diane de Poitiers: A Reassessment,” Stanford French Review (Spring 1989): 49–63, is a succinct discussion and biography.
Raoul de Broglie, “Les Clouet de Chantilly,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, 77 (May 1971): 327, no. 328, repro.
Raoul de Broglie, “Les Clouet de Chantilly,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, 77 (May 1971): 313, no. 249, repro.; see also Bibliothèque nationale, Les Clouet & la cour des rois de France: de François Ier à Henri IV (Paris, 1970), 19, no. 5, pl. 2.
There are other reasons for eliminating Diane de Poitiers as a candidate. First, as Albert Pomme de Mirimonde observed, A Lady in Her Bath contains none of the usual symbols, such as the crescent moon of the goddess Diana, or the colors black and white associated with Diane de Poitiers.
Albert Pomme de Mirimonde, review of Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, La peinture française de Fouquet à Poussin, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, 63 (1964): 370–371. In the Bath of Diana (Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts), attributed to Clouet, the figure of Diana is thought to personify Diane de Poitiers, while at the upper left the mounted figure wearing black and white is identified as Henri II. Unfortunately, as François Bergot pointed out to me in conversation, June 18, 1993, the man’s face has been repainted. See André Blum, Le bain de Diane (Paris, 1921); Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, L’école de Fontainebleau, entries by Sylvie Béguin (Paris, 1972), 54–57, no. 54.
Sheila Ffolliott, “Catherine de’ Medici as Artemisia: Figuring the Powerful Widow,” in Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, ed. Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers, Women in Culture and Society (Chicago, 1986), 227–241; Sheila Ffolliott, “Casting a Rival into the Shade: Catherine de’ Medici and Diane de Poitiers,” Art Journal 48 (Summer 1989): 138–143.
Roger Trinquet and Jean Ehrmann date A Lady in Her Bath to 1570/1571 and identify the sitter as Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots).
Roger Trinquet, “L’allégorie politique au XVIe siècle: La Dame au Bain de François Clouet (Washington),” Bulletin de la Societé de l’Histoire de l’Art Français (1966): 99–119; Jean Ehrmann, typescript, February 16, 1968, based on a lecture given at the National Gallery of Art on May 21, 1967, in NGA curatorial files. Trinquet and Ehrmann were acquainted, and their interpretations are basically in agreement.
Helen Smailes and Duncan Thomson, The Queen’s Image: A Celebration of Mary, Queen of Scots (Edinburgh, 1987), 20–21, no. 5, 30–31, no. 13.
Helen Smailes and Duncan Thomson, The Queen’s Image: A Celebration of Mary, Queen of Scots (Edinburgh, 1987), 32, no. 14. This useful catalog of an exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery also contains a chronology of Mary Stuart’s life, numerous illustrations, and an essay on the authentic portraits.
Although the sitter’s face in A Lady in Her Bath is highly idealized, the oval shape and slightly prominent chin might be compared to the visage in the drawings of Mary Stuart as a widow. Properly cautious, Colin Eisler nonetheless found much to recommend this identification.
Colin Eisler, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian (Oxford, 1977), 255. It is an interesting indication of the difficulties inherent in interpreting this material that Thomson in Helen Smailes and Duncan Thomson, The Queen’s Image: A Celebration of Mary, Queen of Scots (Edinburgh, 1987), 14, believes Mary’s features are to be found in A Lady at Her Toilet (Worcester, MA, Worcester Art Museum), discussed later in this entry. Further, Roger Trinquet, “Le ‘Bain de Diane’ du musée de Rouen: nouvel essai d’interprétation,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, 71 (Jan. 1968): 1–16, claims that Mary Stuart is depicted twice in the Bath of Diana (Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts).
The suggestion that the sitter might be Marie Touchet, mistress to Charles IX, was first put forward by Dimier and more strongly endorsed by Irene Adler.
Louis Dimier, Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVIe siècle, vol. 1 (Paris, 1924), 95–96; Irene Adler, “Die Clouet: Versuch einer Stilkritik,” Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, N.F. 3 (1929): 233.
Among those who find the identification possible are Anthony Blunt, Art and Architecture in France: 1500 to 1700 (London, 1953), 69–70; Linda Murray, “The French Portrait,” History Today 5 (1955): 5; Gerd Muehsam, French Painters and Paintings from the Fourteenth Century to Post-Impressionism (New York, 1970), 43–45; Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti, “Pertinenze francesi nel Cinquecento,” Critica d’Arte 19 (1972): 46; Howard Risatti, “A French Court Portrait,” Bulletin of the Krannert Art Museum 2 (1976): 18, 20.
Bibliothèque nationale, Les Clouet & la cour des rois de France: de François Ier à Henri IV (Paris, 1970), 52, no. 98, pl. 23. The description cited by H. Hauser in the biography of Marie Touchet in La Grande Encyclopédie, inventaire raisonné des sciences, des lettres et des arts, par une société de savants et de gens de lettres: sous la direction de MM. Berthelot . . . Hartwig Derenbourg [et al.] (Paris, 1886–1902), 31:206, “Les chroniqueurs lui donnent un visage rond, l’oeil vif, le front petit,” does not match the oval face of the woman in the Gallery’s painting.
There does not seem to be enough visual or documentary evidence to permit identification of the sitter as any of the three women discussed above. The possibility that A Lady in Her Bath is wholly allegorical or symbolic should not be precluded, but from the somewhat awkward way the head is joined to the body it would seem that a specific person was depicted. Because of the abstract canon of beauty imposed on this woman’s face, it may never be possible to identify her with certainty.
The pictorial and cultural antecedents of this painting are many and varied, and a recounting of sources is useful in establishing a context for possible interpretations. A number of authors have observed that the pose of the woman in the bathtub was derived from a composition by
Perhaps the first to discuss the influence of Leonardo was Salomon Reinach, “Diane de Poitiers et Gabrielle d’Estrées,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 5, 20 (1920): 168, who credits Sir Herbert Cook and Bernard Berenson with the suggestion. See also André de Hevesy, “L’histoire véridique de la Joconde,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, 40 (July 1952): 18–19, Anthony Blunt, Art and Architecture in France: 1500 to 1700 (London, 1953), 69–70, and several subsequent authors, such as Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, French Painting from Fouquet to Poussin (Geneva, 1963), 111.
The drawing in Chantilly and three related paintings are reproduced in André de Hevesy, “L’histoire véridique de la Joconde,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, 40 (July 1952): 12–13.
David Alan Brown and Konrad Oberhuber, “Monna Vanna and La Fornarina: Leonardo and Raphael in Rome,” in Essays Presented to Myron P. Gilmore (Florence, 1978), 2:25–86; Monika Ingenhoff-Danhäuser, Maria Magdalena: Heilige und Sünderin in der italienischen Renaissance (Tübingen, Germany), 1984, 55–59.
Reproduced in Max J. Friedlaender, Early Netherlandish Painting (Leiden, 1967–1972), 9: pl. 118, no. 114a; also reproduced is Bartholomaeus Bruyn’s version of this theme (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum), which testifies to the influence of this composition in Germany.
La Fornarina and the version in Atlanta are reproduced and discussed in Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, La Dame à sa toilette (Dijon, 1988), 9–11. See also David Alan Brown and Konrad Oberhuber, “Monna Vanna and La Fornarina: Leonardo and Raphael in Rome,” in Essays Presented to Myron P. Gilmore (Florence, 1978), 2:37–60.
Lorne Campbell, Renaissance Portraits: European Portrait-Painting in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Centuries (New Haven, 1990), 7; Raphael’s portrait is reproduced on 63.
In France, as elsewhere in Europe, attitudes toward baths and bathing varied considerably in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Baths were at once regarded as healthy and hygienic and as centers for merrymaking, drinking, and licentious behavior. While the public steam bath was at times condemned as a gathering place for prostitutes, a private bath in one’s home, as seen here, was a luxury reserved for the privileged and noble few.
Georges Vigarello, Concepts of Cleanliness: Changing Attitudes in France since the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1988); Kunstgewerbemuseum, Bäder, Duft und Seife: Kulturgeschichte der Hygiene (Cologne, 1976); Bernard Rudofsky, Now I Lay Me Down to Eat: Notes and Footnotes on the Lost Art of Living (Garden City, NY, 1980). There are references to baths and bathing in Danielle Régnier-Bohler, “Imagining the Self,” in A History of Private Life, ed. Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby, vol. 2, Revelations of the Medieval World (Cambridge, MA, 1988), 360–361, 363–366; Georges Duby and Philippe Braunstein, “The Emergence of the Individual,” in A History of Private Life, vol. 2, 600–610.
Rectangular bathtubs are shown in School of Fontainebleau, Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters (Paris, Musée du Louvre), reproduced in Jean Jacques Lévêque, L’école de Fontainebleau (Neuchâtel, 1984), 136–137; and related paintings of Two Women in a Bath (Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, and Florence, Palazzo Vecchio), reproduced in Roger Trinquet, “L’allégorie politique dans la peinture française au XVIe siècle: les Dames au Bain,” Bulletin de la Societé de l’Histoire de l’Art Français (1967): 7–25, figs. 9, 10. Circular tubs, also accompanied by hanging draperies, appear in Antonio Fantuzzi’s etching after Primaticcio, Mars and Venus Bathing, and in a painting of the School of Fontainebleau, Venus at Her Toilet (Paris, Musée du Louvre), both reproduced in Jean Jacques Lévêque, L’école de Fontainebleau (Neuchâtel, 1984), 93, 134.
It should also be noted that a suite of rooms—three baths and three “rest” rooms and a vestibule, forming an “appartement des Bains”—was part of François I’s residence at Fontainebleau. Documents indicate that in addition to having stucco work and painted ceilings, the nonbathing rooms were decorated with paintings from the king’s collection. These baths were built in conscious emulation of antique baths, and this revived classicism may suggest a context for viewing the Gallery’s painting.
Chantal Sibylle Eschenfelder, Die Bäder Franz I. in Fontainebleau, Schriften aus dem Institut für Kunstgeschichte der Universität München, Band 55 (Munich, 1991), 17, underscores the classical analogy and cites the foreword of Guillaume Du Choul’s book, Discours de la Réligion des anciens Romains (1566), which is dedicated to Henri II and compares the baths at Fontainebleau in their healthfulness and sumptuousness with the baths of Agrippa. See also Louis Dimier, Le portrait du XVIe siècle aux primitifs français: notes et corrections au catalogue officiel sur cette partie de l’exposition d’avril–juillet 1904 (Paris, 1904), 106–109; Jean Adhémar, “The Collection of Paintings of Francis I,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, 30 (July 1946): 14–16.
The influence of
Irene Adler, “Die Clouet: Versuch einer Stilkritik,” Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, N.F. 3 (1929): 230, 232–233, is probably the first to make these observations, which recur with modifications in such authors as Anthony Blunt, Art and Architecture in France: 1500 to 1700 (London, 1953), 69–70; Sylvie Béguin, L’école de Fontainebleau: le maniérisme à la cour de France (Paris, 1960), 94–95; Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, French Painting from Fouquet to Poussin (Geneva, 1963), 129–130.
As pointed out by Cecil Gould, The Sixteenth-Century Italian Schools: National Gallery Catalogues (London, 1975), 41–44, it is not clear whether the London painting or another version belonged to François I. Many authors have noted the probable influence of Bronzino and Francesco Salviati (who was in France c. 1555), especially upon Clouet’s portraiture.
Italian mannerist style and iconography were an essential part of the French court in the persons of
These paintings have been discussed and reproduced individually and collectively on several occasions. See Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, L’école de Fontainebleau, entries by Sylvie Béguin (Paris, 1972), 215–219, nos. 243–245; Florence Delay, Les dames de Fontainebleau, entry by Sylvie Béguin (Milan, 1987), 188–189, repro. 19, 21, 22; Jean Jacques Lévêque, L’école de Fontainebleau (Neuchâtel, 1984), 152–157. An excellent study of the Dijon painting that includes discussion of the Basel and Worcester pictures is in Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, La Dame à sa toilette (Dijon, 1988), 6–19.
The relationship of this set of images to A Lady in Her Bath is provocative but not wholly clear. Particularly intriguing is Charles Sterling’s belief that these paintings are replicas of a lost Clouet, painted around 1560, that was a pendant to A Lady in Her Bath.
This idea seems to have first been put forward by Charles Sterling in Rijksmuseum, Le triomphe du maniérisme européen de Michel-Ange au Greco, entries by Charles Sterling (Amsterdam, 1955), 57. He found the version in the Worcester Art Museum the most faithful replica of Clouet’s lost original.
In her catalog entries on the Worcester, Dijon, and Basel paintings, Sylvie Béguin, in Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, L’école de Fontainebleau (Paris, 1972), 215–219, seemed to suggest a date around 1585/1590. Marguerite Guillaume, in Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, La Dame à sa toilette (Dijon, 1988), 4, 18–19, suggests a date of c. 1560 for the Dijon painting.
Several authors have observed the influence of sixteenth-century Netherlandish art in A Lady in Her Bath, calling attention to the robust, earthy nursemaid and the foreground still life.
Irene Adler, “Die Clouet: Versuch einer Stilkritik,” Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, N.F. 3 (1929): 216, 217–219, 224–226, 233–234; André de Hevesy, “L’histoire véridique de la Joconde,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, 40 (July 1952): 18–19; Anthony Blunt, Art and Architecture in France: 1500 to 1700 (London, 1953), 69–70; Charles Sterling, A Catalogue of French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Cambridge, MA, 1955–1967), 1:54; Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, French Painting from Fouquet to Poussin (Geneva, 1963), 129–130.
Charles D. Cuttler, Northern Painting from Pucelle to Bruegel: Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Centuries (New York, 1968), 466.
The combination of Italian and Netherlandish influence to be seen in A Lady in Her Bath illustrates the common view that the art of France mirrors its geographic location between Italy and the north of Europe. Particularly vexing is the issue of meaning or interpretation, and I have not found a satisfying, coherent, and convincing iconographic program that includes all the objects in A Lady in Her Bath. As a depiction of a beautiful woman, the painting may be considered as part of the Petrarchan verbal and visual tradition of praising and describing the attractiveness of women (especially courtesans or mistresses) within the framework of courtly, idealized love.
References to the extensive literature on the subject are also found in Elizabeth Cropper, “On Beautiful Women, Parmigianino, Petrarchismo, and the Vernacular Style,” Art Bulletin 58 (Sept. 1976): 374–394; Elizabeth Cropper, “The Beauty of Woman: Problems in the Rhetoric of Renaissance Portraiture,” in Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, ed. Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers (Chicago, 1986), 175–190; Elise Goodman-Soellner, “Poetic Interpretations of the ‘Lady at Her Toilette’ Theme in Sixteenth-Century Painting,” Sixteenth-Century Journal 14, no. 4 (Winter 1983): 426–442; and Anne B. Barriault, “The Abundant, Beautiful, Chaste, and Wise: Domestic Painting of the Italian Renaissance in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” Arts in Virginia 30, no. 1 (1991): 16–21.
Jillian Bradshaw and Dorothy M. Jones, “Luxury, Love and Charity: Four Paintings from the School of Fontainebleau,” Australian Journal of Art 3 (1983): 43.
Hidemichi Tanaka, “Les deux Vénus au bain: une nouvelle analyse sur la ‘Gabrielle d’Estrées et une de ses soeurs’ du Louvre,” Art History [Tohoku University, Japan] 1 (1978): 23–25.
The combination of water and eroticism is one of the topics in André Chastel’s essay, “Fontainebleau, formes et symboles,” in Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, L’école de Fontainebleau (Paris, 1972), xxi–xxiv. In his descriptions of life at the French court, Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantôme (c. 1535–1614) reported frankly on the erotic activities of women in baths, which he contrasted to the proper behavior of the Swiss, even during mixed bathing; see Oeuvres complètes de Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantôme, ed. Ludovic Lalanne, vol. 9, Des dames (Paris, 1876), 49–50, 299.
Jillian Bradshaw and Dorothy M. Jones, “Luxury, Love and Charity: Four Paintings from the School of Fontainebleau,” Australian Journal of Art 3 (1983): 55–56.
The contradictions inherent in this approach do, however, illustrate the difficulties of assigning a single, specific meaning to objects. For example, the mirror on the back wall can be interpreted as an attribute of Venus, an emblem of vanitas, an allusion to self-knowledge, or a symbol of sight as one of the five senses.
Compare, for example, the comments in Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, La Dame à sa toilette (Dijon, 1988), 20–27, 41–46, nos. 2–6.
Margaret B. Freeman, The Unicorn Tapestries (New York, 1976), 42–54.
Similarly, divergent or even conflicting interpretations are possible for the fruit, flowers, and herbs on the board over the bathtub. The bowl contains a pear, an apple, what may be a quince, cherries, and a bunch of grapes. Together they call up notions of ripeness, sensuality, and the sense of taste, all ideas that are appropriate to the setting, but it is also possible to invest the apple, grapes, and cherries with religious connotations.
The apple is the traditional symbol of temptation and original sin, the grapes refer to the Eucharist, and cherries are associated with the delights of Paradise; Margaret B. Freeman, The Unicorn Tapestries (New York, 1976), 111–114, 136–138.
I am very grateful to National Gallery of Art horticulturalist Donald Hand and members of his staff for identifying the flowers and herbs.
As noted in Margaret B. Freeman, The Unicorn Tapestries (New York, 1976), 115–116, the sweet violet (viola odorata) is associated with the Virgin Mary in her humility and is often mentioned in love poetry. In the same vein, the rose bears both religious meaning, as the flower of martyrs, virgins, and Mary, and secular meaning, as an emblem of sensual pleasure and earthly love; see Freeman, The Unicorn Tapestries, 121–124.
Georges Duby and Philippe Braunstein, “The Emergence of the Individual,” in A History of Private Life, ed. Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby, vol. 2, Revelations of the Medieval World (Cambridge, MA, 1988), 601, mention the addition of fragrant herbs to bath water. Both violets and roses were prized for their scent and also could have been added to the water. For the multiple meanings of juniper and rosemary (but not oregano), see Mirella Levi d’Ancona, The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting (Florence, 1977), 197–199, 355–358.
The pink held by the woman also has multiple meanings. In northern Europe from the late fifteenth century onward, the flower was an emblem of engagement or marriage and, by extension, alluded to purity, virginity, and fidelity.
Fernand Mercier, “La valeur symbolique de l’oeillet dans la peinture du Moyen-Âge,” Revue de l’Art 71 (Jan. 1937): 233–236.
James Snyder, Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, The Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1985), 519.
Margaret B. Freeman, The Unicorn Tapestries (New York, 1976), 148; Ingrar Bergström, Den symboliska nejlikan i senmedeltidens och renässansens konst (Malmö, 1958), esp. 15–86.
Colin Eisler, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian (Oxford, 1977), 255.
A copy of A Lady in Her Bath (Chantilly, Musée Condé) is usually assigned to an anonymous French artist working around 1600, and the sitter is identified as Gabrielle d’Estrées.
Transferred to fabric, 155 × 103 cm, Peintures célèbres du Musée Condé (Chantilly, 1979), 19, repro. See also Ann Plogsterth, “The Institution of the Royal Mistress and the Iconography of Nude Portraiture in Sixteenth-Century France” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1991), 274–277, no. E.9.
Inv. no. 1582, fabric, 100 × 86.5 cm, photograph in NGA curatorial files. See also Ann Plogsterth, “The Institution of the Royal Mistress and the Iconography of Nude Portraiture in Sixteenth-Century France” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1991), 268, no. E.2.
Wood, 92.5 × 69.5 cm, sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., London, December 15, 1982, no. 45.
90 × 80 cm, color postcard in NGA curatorial files. Ann Plogsterth, “The Institution of the Royal Mistress and the Iconography of Nude Portraiture in Sixteenth-Century France” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1991), 269–271, nos. E.3–E.4 as a copy of a painting from Chenonceaux, now lost.
Photograph in NGA curatorial files and NGA photographic archives.
Inv. no. 1983–20, fabric, 90 × 120 cm, color reproduction in NGA curatorial files. I am grateful to Mme Durey for enabling me to examine the painting at a time when the museum was closed for renovation (June 14, 1993).
Photograph in the Frick Art Reference Library, New York (no. 524–6/b); 71.2 × 55.9 cm, formerly in the collection of Lewis Fry, sale, Christie’s, London, March 31, 1922, no. 40; possibly the same painting in the collection of Oliver Brown, London, mentioned in Reginald H. Wilenski, French Painting (Boston, 1936), 30, n. 1. See Ann Plogsterth, “The Institution of the Royal Mistress and the Iconography of Nude Portraiture in Sixteenth-Century France” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1991), 279–281, nos. E.13, E.15, E.16.
Sale, Versailles, Hôtel Rameau, June 7–8, 1967, no. 211; parchment, 39.5 × 30 cm. See Ann Plogsterth, “The Institution of the Royal Mistress and the Iconography of Nude Portraiture in Sixteenth-Century France” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1991), 280, no. E.14.
This text was previously published in Philip Conisbee et al., French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue (Washington, DC, 2009), 115–122.
Collection data may have been updated since the publication of the print volume. Additional light adaptations have been made for the presentation of this text online.
John Oliver Hand
January 1, 2009
lower center on edge of bathtub: FR.IANETII.OPVS
Sir Richard Frederick, 6th bt. [1780-1873], Burwood Park, Walton-on-Thames, Surry; (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 7 February 1874, no. 83, as Portrait of Diane de Poictiers[sic] by Fr. Janetii); purchased by Thibeaudeau, presumably acting as agent for Sir John Charles Robinson [1824-1913], London; purchased 1874 by Sir Francis Cook, 1st bt. [1817-1901], Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey; by inheritance to his son, Sir Frederick Lucas Cook, 2nd bt. [1844-1920], Doughty House; by inheritance to his son, Herbert Frederick Cook, 3rd bt. [1868-1939], Doughty House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th bt. [1907-1978], Doughty House, and Cothay Manor, Somerset; sold July 1954 to (Margaret Drey, London); (Rosenberg and Stiebel, New York); purchased May 1955 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.
Associated NamesChristie, Manson & Woods, Ltd.
Cook, 1st bt., Francis, Sir
Cook, 2nd bt., Frederick Lucas, Sir
Cook, 3rd bt., Herbert Frederick, Sir
Cook, 4th bt., Francis Ferdinand Maurice, Sir
Drey, Francis A.
Frederick, 6th bt., Richard, Sir
Kress Foundation, Samuel H.
Robinson, John Charles, Sir
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