Wednesday, July 9, 2008


An aged and spotted reproduction made in Leipzig during the period between the two World Wars. Francois Clouet made the original drawing in the 1530s.  His model was Henri II of France, who became King in 1547 at the age of 28. The drawing was done nearer the time of his marriage in 1533 to Catherine de' Medici. Both bride and bridegroom were 14 years old.

I bought the print in a frame shop in Berkeley in the early 1970s. The face in the picture had drawn me in from the street. I asked the frame-shop worker how much the print cost. He had no answer, it was just an old thing that had knocked around the shop for years, and he had put it into the window to show off the ornate frame that was resting on top it. But he quickly and kindly agreed to sell me the print for $2. I had no interest in the frame.

Some years after Henri's death his wife Catherine supervised the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris, where thousands of Protestants were murdered after being invited as guests to the wedding of her daughter. Henri and Catherine had never been a happy couple. As a young married man of 15 he took as mistress the 35-year-old Diane de Poitiers who remained the love of his life up to the day in 1559 when he was killed accidentally and unexpectedly at age 40 in a joust. His three sons ruled after him, one after another – Francis II, Charles IX, Henry III – but in fact their mother Catherine de' Medici (1519-1589) controlled all of them and effectively ran the country herself.