National Geographic : 1956 Nov
© National Geographic Society 642 National Gallery of Art (Kress Collection, loan) FRANCOIS CLOUET (1505?-1572), French " Diane de Poitiers (?) Only two signed pictures by Clouet exist. A curator of the Louvre terms this portrait of a lady in her bath-probably Diane de Poitiers-"one of the chief masterpieces of French art." For breath-taking beauty of color, unbelievably exquisite texture of the heavy silk curtains, and warm flesh tones, the painting is virtually unsurpassed to this day. Diane, royal favorite of France's Henry II, was a haughty, cold-hearted lady of fortune, as Clouet's brush so skillfully suggests. She rose early each morning to bathe in icy water and ride horseback: she disdained cosmetics and seldom changed her expression. She used the King's infatuation to dominate the French court and amass personal wealth until Henry's death, when Catherine de' Medici. the lawful queen, threw her out. Ironically, the unicorn and carnation, symbols of chastity and pure love, decorate the picture. The nurse with suckling infant, the maid with her jug, and the still life forecast painting styles popular a century later.