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Oil on Panel Portrait of Madeleine de Valois, Queen of Scots (1520-1537)

One of a kind

Oil on Panel Portrait of Madeleine de Valois, Queen of Scots (1520-1537)

"Attributed to Joos van Cleve (1485-1540)"

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One of a kind

Oil on Panel Portrait of Madeleine de Valois, Queen of Scots (1520-1537)

This historic portrait of Madeleine de Valois attributed to Joos van Cleve is a significant work from the period of that artist's renowned visit to Paris in the 1530s, when he was commissioned by Francis I to produce a series of depictions of the French court. In composition and execution it closely relates to a defining group of works from that decade, most directly to van Cleve's portrait of his wife, Katlijne van Mispelteeren (See image gallery, Royal Collection), and must be assigned a prominent position in relation to the artist's oeuvre.

The life of Madeleine de Valois (1520–1537), daughter of Francis I and wife of James V, has been portrayed as one of the great romantic episodes of French and Scottish sixteenth- century history, and its tragic qualities provided significant subject matter for contemporary writers and artists.

The body of known portraits of Madeleine, a group of works which must have been partially inspired by the King's evident fondness for this particular daughter, includes an infant portrait by Jean Clouet (private collection), two panels by Corneille de la Haye (one below left, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Blois, and Musée National du Chateau de Versailles), her portrayal in the Book of Hours of Catherine de Medici (Musée du Louvre, Paris), and the present work, attributed to Joos van Cleeve.

The present portrait is likely to have been directly commissioned by Francis I in 1535-6, at the time of the artist's visit to Paris to execute a group of portraits of the French royal family. This series includes Van Cleve's portraits of Francis himself, now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Queen Eleanor, in the Kunsthistorisches, Vienna. Immediately following the visit to France, van Cleve journeyed to England to take on another royal commission: his 1536 portrait of Henry VIII, now in the Royal Collection.

Van Cleve's visit to France coincided with the period leading up to the betrothal and marriage of Madeleine to James Stewart, in 1536-7, when the culturally tuned French court was attracting visitors and refining its international image in readiness for this historic royal event. (In a parallel and concurrent example, the artist Corneille was commissioned to provide portraits of both Madeleine and James during the couple's 1536 visit to Lyon.)

The Van Cleve commissions were of the highest status. By the 1530s the artist had gained a remarkable international reputation. As one of the leading figures of the emerging Antwerp School of painting, which grew out of the new mercantile success of that city, work was coming to Van Cleve from as far afield as Danzig and Genoa. By the date of the present work he was amongst the most sought-after artists in Europe, attracting commissions at the highest social and political level, including the kings of England and France.

Madeleine de Valois, Queen of Scots:
Madeleine was born at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the fifth of the seven children of Francis I and Claude, Duchess of Brittany (daughter of Louis XII and Francis's first wife). Frail from birth, Madeleine grew up away from Paris in the temperate Loire valley, her father fearing that the cold would destroy her delicate health. Together with her younger sister Margaret, she was raised by her aunt, Marguerite de Navarre.

This lasted until her father remarried in 1530 when his new wife, Eleanor of Austria, took the sisters into her own household. By her sixteenth birthday, she had contracted tuberculosis.

Three years before Madeleine's birth, the Franco-Scottish Treaty of Rouen bolstered the traditional alliance between the two countries, following Scotland's disastrous defeat at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. A marriage to a French princess for the Scottish king was one of its provisions. In April 1530, John Stewart, Duke of Albany, was appointed commissioner to finalise the royal marriage between James V and Madeleine. However, as Madeleine's health was poor, another French bride, Mary of Bourbon, was proposed.

James V (below, by Corneille), contracted to marry Mary of Bourbon, and travelled to France in 1536 to meet her. However, on arrival he was smitten with Madeleine, and asked Francis I for her hand. Citing her illness and the harsh climate of Scotland, which he feared would prove fatal to his daughter's health, Francis I initially refused. James continued to press Francis for Madeleine's hand, and despite his fears, he did eventually grant permission for the marriage, once Madeleine had made her own interest in marrying James obvious.

For the wedding celebrations Francis contracted six painters to create a vast series of wall decorations; the Louvre hosted flamboyant jousting tournaments; and for his entry into Paris, James wore a coat described as 'sad cramasy velvet slashed all over with gold cut out on plain cloth of gold fringed with gold and all cut out, knit with horns and lined with red taffeta.'

The couple were married on 1st January 1537 in Notre-Dame. The wedding presents were generous. Francis gave his new son-in-law two 'great ships of burden' and 'two gallant ships of war'. There were arms, ammunition, and cannons for the field, sets of fine hangings wrought with gold and silver, three beds, and cupboards of 'curiously wrought' gold and silver plate. Francis provided Madeleine with a generous (and much needed) dowry, which considerably boosted the Scottish treasury. According to the marriage contract made at Blois, Madeleine renounced her and any of her heirs' claims to the French throne.

After five months of festivities, the newly married pair left for England. On 8th June Madeleine wrote to her father that she was well - much better, in fact, than she had been in France. Less than a month later, 'The Summer Queen' had died in her husband's arms, at Holyrood House, not quite 17 years old.

Joos van Cleeve:
Joos van Cleve (See Image Gallery) played an innovative role as one of the leaders of the Antwerp School. He had entered the Antwerp Guild as a master painter in 1511, and in 1519 and 1525 he was appointed Dean of the Guild.

Almost a quarter century after Van Cleve’s death, the Florentine expatriate Lodovico Guicciardini recorded in his Descrittione... di tutti I Paesi Bassi, altrimenti detti Germania Inferiore that the artist’s reputation as a master 'most outstanding in colour and so excellent at making portraits after life ... that he was chosen [by Francis I] and brought to France to portray the king and the queen and other princes with greatest praise and reward.'

~ Sandy Mallet, Daniel Hunt Fine Art

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Oil on Panel Portrait of Madeleine de Valois, Queen of Scots (1520-1537)

PROVENANCE: -
DATE: Circa 1535-6
RESIDES IN: Sloane Square, London
MEASUREMENTS: -
CONDITION: -

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