Clouet. A family of painters descended from Jean Clouet (or Jan Cloet) the Elder (b. c.1420), a Fleming who came to France c.1460. Almost nothing is known for certain of his life and works. The more famous Jean Clouet (d. 1540/1) is thought to have been his son. He was celebrated in his lifetime, but no documented works survive. A handful of portraits, however, including Man holding Petrarch's Works (Royal Collection, Windsor), and a number of drawings (mainly in the Musée Condé, Chantilly) are attributed to him on fairly strong circumstantial evidence. The paintings belong to the school of Flemish naturalism that dominated French portraiture at this time, but the drawings are more personal and often of very high quality. They have often been compared to those of Clouet's contemporary Hans Holbein the Younger, with which they share a keenness of observation; whereas Holbein's drawings are overwhelmingly linear, however, Clouet's are subtly modelled in light and shade with a delicate system of hatching that recalls Leonardo, whose work he could well have known.
Jean's son, François (c. 1510-72), succeeded him as court painter in 1541. His work is somewhat better documented than his father's, but his career is still very obscure (they used the same nickname, `Janet', which has caused much confusion, and one of the finest works attributed to him, the celebrated portrait of Francis I in the Louvre, showing the king in a lavish gold doublet, has also been given to Jean). François, too, was mainly a portraitist, his signed works including Pierre Quthe (Louvre, Paris, 1562), much more Italianate than any of his father's paintings, and Lady in Her Bath (National Gallery, Washington, c.1570). This mysterious and captivating work has been traditionally identified as representing Diane de Poitiers, but is is more probably a likeness of Marie Touchet, mistress of Charles IX. A number of drawings, mostly in the Musée Condé, are also attributed to him.
Photographs by Carol Gerten-Jackson.
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