Galerie of Francois I
- Date of Creation:
- circa 1535
- Oil, Other
- Art Movement:
- Created by:
- Current Location:
- Paris, France
- Palace of Fontainebleau
Palace of Fontainebleau
King Francois I of France
An example of Michelangelo's work at the Medici Chapel
Much of Fiorentino's creative output was unfortunately destroyed or lost throughout the years. His largest body of surviving work resides at Fontainebleau.
After two years of living in internment under the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, when King Francois I of France achieved his freedom he set out to restore a dilapidated hunting lodge located about 65 km from Paris, in the woods.
He invited the most prominent Italian artists, artisans and architects of the day (many displaced and jobless after the Sack of Rome in 1527) to come live on the premises and help restore the palace to a position of glory that would symbolize the new, powerful court of France.
Fiorentino was handpicked by the King to head up the restoration, attracted by his elegance both in personal character and in his works. Francois made a good selection, as Rosso went on to help bestow Fontainebleau with one of the most intriguing interiors in history.
The artists formed a new style of ornate decorative touches that drew from Mannerism along with the grand inclinations of the French court.
In his work at Fontainebleau Fiorentino shows a clear understanding of Michelangelo's designs for the Medici Chapel, executed between 1519-1534.
This work of Michelangelo's featured elegant figures in unnaturally twisted poses set within a complex architectural framework. This would be repeated by Fiorentino in the complex multimedia arrangements inside the palace.
Gallery of Francois I
Galerie of Francois I
Galerie of Francois I
Galerie of Francois I
Gallery of Francois I:
At Fontainebleau Fiorentino combined painting with stucco, engraving and woodwork in order to create an all-encompassing decorative style that went beyond the paintings themselves. In the Gallery of Francois I, he decorated the space with frescoes depicting the Gods of Olympus as having features of the King.
The Gallery is perhaps his most well known work at Fontainebleau, featuring twelve narrative frescoes, low sculpture reliefs, and carved walnut wainscoting.
The Fontainebleau Nude:
Using mythology as inspiration, the artists of Fontainebleau under Fiorentino's direction infused the allegorical subject matter with a sense of refined eroticism.
The female nude was quite prominent, treated with the sensuous Mannerist hand. The figures tended to have small heads neatly stemming from long necks, with long limbs placed in languorous poses.
Often the figures are placed in unusual contortions or bizarre situations. This standard of beauty set by Fiorentino and perfected by Primaticcio would prevail in French art for decades to come.
One of the techniques that Fiorentino was most famed for during his work at Fontainebleau was his strapwork, in which he molded plaster and stucco as if they were paper or leather, into curlicues and other intricately composed arabesques.
These ornamental touches were utilized to frame frescoes and paintings, for the most part. This form of decoration was to become widely imitated and extremely popular in French art and architecture for centuries after.
Fiorentino produced numerous sketches during his Fontainebleau tenure, which after his death were utilized by the artists to create a series of etchings, a manner of reproduction that was quicker, more effective and possessed greater fluidity.
The roster of master printmakers at Fontainebleau who drew on Fiorentino's work included Antonio Fantuzzi, Leon Davent, Jean Mignon, and a most mysterious ingénue who only signed off as the 'Master IV'.
The etching technique is still a popular method of printmaking. A metal plate is covered with a resinous, acid-resistant substance called the "ground. "
The artist draws on the ground with a sharp needle, so when the plate is placed in an acid bath, those lines are grooved into the plate. To make a print, the plate is inked and wiped, then placed on damp paper and put through a printing press. In this way any number of prints can be made of the image.
Works by other artists:
Francesco Primaticcio, Royal Staircase at Fontainebleau (stucco), 1530s:
Primaticcio was a fellow Italian who joined Fiorentino at Fontainebleau and helped found the elaborate decorative style so prominent there. Indeed, he took over from Fiorentino after his death in 1540 and became the head of the Fontainebleau School.
Antonio Fantuzzi, The Muses on Mount Parnassus, 1543:
It was at Fontainebleau that Fantuzzi took up etching, creating more than one hundred prints after drawings by Primaticcio, Rosso Fiorentino, and others
At Fontainebleau Fiorentino drew on his former work but tweaked it to suit the more decadent aesthetic that befits a palace rather than a church. More ornamental and decorative than his previous works, he was given the freedom to unleash his imagination and create a new style of interior decoration.
Fiorentino's style during this time involved a mélange of different mediums and techniques, cleverly combining frescoes with stucco reliefs and intricate wooden panels to create a stunning effect in the palace.
Allegorical paintings were juxtaposed with molded plasterwork in which the framing was treated like leather or paper, in rich scrolls and curlicues.
Typical Mannerist touches such as elongated figures, exaggerated lines and bright colors prevailed, along with a newfound celebration of the sensuous nude, which proved extremely popular with the King.
As Fiorentino tempered his style and produced more crowd-pleasing works at Fontainebleau, art critics gave him more credit and the offensive peculiarities of his style that had been previously picked up on were seen as benefits.
Leaving a greater legacy than his works that survived over the years at Fontainebleau were the innovative techniques that Fiorentino helped to pioneer, and his influence can be seen in the work of artists such as Tintoretto, Battista Franco Veneziano and Ambroise Dubois. Fiorentino was a truly unique artist and one of the most unconventional of the early 16th century.
Mannerism was a period of European art history that followed closely on the heels of the Renaissance movement. While some critics consider Mannerism as part of the Late Renaissance, others classify this as a distinct period occurring between 1520 and 1600 that represented a break from many of the artistic values of the Renaissance, as naturalism gave way to the surreal.
Vasari, perhaps the most prominent art historian of the age, held Fiorentino in high regard, calling him a "man of splendid presence, with a gracious and serious manner of speaking, a good musician, and with a knowledge of philosophy. "
He had only positive remarks about the majority of Fiorentino's works, except that produced during his time in Rome, stating: "it may be that with the air of Rome and the astounding things that he saw, the architecture and sculpture and the pictures and statues of Michelangelo, he was not himself. "
Vasari's inclusion of Fiorentino in his 'Lives of the Artists' is one of the primary documents of Fiorentino's life and works, written by a contemporary who clearly deeply admired him.
The perception of not only Rosso Fiorentino but other Mannerists that followed, has fluctuated over the centuries, and only relatively recently have they been seen in a positive light.
Fiorentino in particular was criticized for the contorted poses of his figures, as well as the fact that they often appeared somewhat thin, haggard, or skeletal.
Fortunately, in the 1950s art critics and historians started to see the Mannerists, including Fiorentino, in a different light. In fact, they did an about face in their stance on the movement, praising Mannerism for the traits they had previously counted as disabilities.
Fiorentino, with his distorted use of space and elongated figures, desire to shock and rebel against the accepted standards of the day, seems to have more in common with Modern artists than the Renaissance artists of the time.
To find out more about Rosso Fiorentino and the Mannerist era please choose from the following recommended sources.
• Carlo, Falciani. Il Rosso Fiorentino. Olschki, 1996
• Carroll, Eugene A. & Fiorentino, Rosso. Rosso Fiorentino: Drawings, Prints, and Decorative Arts. National Gallery of Art, 1987
• Franklin, David. Rosso in Italy: Italian Career of Rosso Fiorentino. Yale University Press, 1994
• Letta, Elisabetta M. Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. Scala Riverside, 2001
• Natali, Antonio. Rosso Fiorentino. Silvana, 2007
• Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of the Artists: A Selection. Penguin Classics, 1987