Essential Architecture-  Search by style

French Renaissance architecture

See also Loire Valley Châteaux
French Renaissance architecture is the style of architecture which was imported from Italy during the early 16th century and developed in the light of local architectural traditions.

During the early years of the 16th century the French were involved in wars in northern Italy, bringing back to France not just the Renaissance art treasures as their war booty, but also stylistic ideas. In the Loire Valley a wave of building was carried and many Renaissance chateaux appeared at this time, the earliest example being the Château d'Amboise (c. 1495) in which Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years. The style became dominant under Francis I.

French Renaissance: Château de Chambord (1519-1539).

The Château de Chambord (1519-1536) is a combination of Gothic structure and Italianate ornament. It has been said "The delight with which the masons, heaped Italian ornament onto the elaborate roofscape belongs to the late gothic spirit of ornamental largesse" [1]

The style progressed under architects such as Sebastiano Serlio, who was engaged after 1540 in work at the Château de Fontainebleau. At Fontainebleau Italian artists such as Rosso Fiorentino, Francesco Primaticcio, and Niccolo dell' Abbate formed the First School of Fontainebleau. Architects such as Philibert Delorme, Androuet du Cerceau, Giacomo Vignola, and Pierre Lescot, were inspired by the new ideas. The southwest interior facade of the Cour Carree of the Louvre in Paris was designed by Lescot and covered with exterior carvings by Jean Goujon. Architecture continued to thrive in the reigns of Henry II and Henry III.

This style, known as Chateauesque, was copied at a domestic scale in the United States in the 19th century.
"French Renaissance" is a term often used to describe a cultural and artistic movement in France from the late 15th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that many cultural historians believe originated in northern Italy in the fourteenth century. The French Renaissance traditionally extends from (roughly) the French invasion of Italy in 1494 during the reign of Charles VIII until the death of Henri IV in 1610. This chronology not withstanding, certain artistic, technological or literary developments associated with the Italian Renaissance arrived in France earlier (for example, by way of the Burgundy court or the Papal court in Avignon); however the Black Death of the 14th century and the Hundred Years' War however kept France economically and politically weak until the late 15th century and this prevented the full use of these influences.

The reigns of François I (from 1515 to 1547) and his son Henri II (from 1547 to 1559) are generally considered the apex of the French Renaissance. After Henri II's unfortunate death in a joust, the country was ruled by his widow Catherine de Medici and her sons François II, Charles IX and Henri III, and although the Renaissance continued to flourish, the French Wars of Religion between Huguenots and Catholics ravaged the country.

"François I of France" - Jean and François Clouet (c.1535, oil on panel) (Louvre)Notable developments during the French Renaissance include the beginning of the absolutism in France, the spread of humanism; early exploration of the "New World" (as by Giovanni da Verrazano and Jacques Cartier); the importing (from Italy, Burgundy and elsewhere) and development of new techniques and artistic forms in the fields of printing, architecture, painting, sculpture, music, the sciences and vernacular literature; and the elaboration of new codes of sociability, etiquette and discourse.

Art of the French Renaissance

The High Renaissance

In the late 15th century, the French invasion of Italy and the proximity of the vibrant Burgundy court (with its Flemish connections) brought the French into contact with the goods, paintings, and the creative spirit of the Northern and Italian Renaissance, and the initial artistic changes in France were often carried out by Italian and Flemish artists, such as Jean Clouet and his son François Clouet and the Italians Rosso Fiorentino, Francesco Primaticcio and Niccolò dell'Abbate of the (so-called) first School of Fontainebleau (from 1531). Leonardo da Vinci was also invited to France by François I, but other than the paintings which he brought with him, he produced little for the French king.

The art of the period from François I through Henri IV is often heavily inspired by late Italian pictorial and sculptural developments commonly referred to as Mannerism (associated with Michelangelo and Parmigianino, among others), characterized by figures which are elongated and graceful and a reliance on visual rhetoric, including the elaborate use of allegory and mythology.

There are a number of French artists of incredible talent in this period including the painter Jean Fouquet of Tours (who achieved amazingly realistic portraits and remarkable illuminated manuscripts) and the sculptors Jean Goujon and Germain Pilon.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the French Renaissance was the construction of the Châteaux of the Loire Valley: no longer conceived of as fortresses, these pleasure palaces took advantage of the richness of the rivers and lands of the Loire region and they show remarkable architectural skill.

The old Louvre castle in Paris was also rebuilt under the direction of Pierre Lescot and would become the core of a brand new Renaissance château. To the west of the Louvre, Catherine de Medicis had built for her the Tuileries palace with extensive gardens and a grotto.

The French Wars of Religion however dragged the country into thirty years of civil war which eclipsed much artistic production outside of religious and political propaganda.

The ascension of Henri IV to the throne brought a period of massive urban development in Paris, including construction on the Pont Neuf, the Place des Vosges (called the "Place Royale"), the Place Dauphine, and parts of the Louvre.

Henri IV also invited the artists Toussaint Dubreuil, Martin Fréminet and Ambroise Dubois to work on the château of Fontainebleau and they are typically called the second School of Fontainebleau.

Marie de Medici, Henri IV's queen, invited the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens to France, and the artist painted a number of large-scale works for the queen's Luxembourg Palace in Paris. Another Flemish artist working for the court was Frans Pourbus the younger.

Outside of France, working for the ducs of Lorraine, one finds a very different late mannerist style in the artists Jacques Bellange, Claude Deruet and Jacques Callot. Having little contact with the French artists of the period, they developed a heightened, extreme, and often erotic mannerism (including night scenes and nightmare images), and excellent skill in engraving.

Music of the French Renaissance

Burgundy, the mostly French-speaking area adjacent to and east of France, was the musical center of Europe in the early and middle 15th century. Many of the most famous musicians in Europe either came from Burgundy, or went to study with composers there; in addition there was considerable interchange between the Burgundian court musical establishment and French courts and ecclesiastical organizations in the late 15th century. The Burgundian style gave birth to the Franco-Flemish style of polyphony which dominated European music in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. However, by the end of the 15th century, a French national character was becoming distinct in music of the French royal and aristocratic courts, as well as the major centers of church music. For the most part French composers of the time shunned the sombre colors of the Franco-Flemish style and strove for clarity of line and structure, and, in secular music such as the chanson, lightness, singability, and popularity.

The most renowned composer in Europe, Josquin Des Prez, worked for a time in the court of Louis XII, and likely composed some of his most famous works there (his first setting of Psalm 129, De profundis, was probably written for the funeral of Louis XII in 1515). François I, who became king that year, made the creation of an opulent musical establishment a priority. His musicians went with him on his travels, and he competed with Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520 for the most magnificent musical entertainment; likely the event was directed by Jean Mouton, one of the most famous motet composers of the early 16th century after Josquin.

By far the most significant contribution of France to music in the Renaissance period was the chanson. The chanson was a variety of secular song, of highly varied character, and which included some of the most overwhelmingly popular music of the 16th century: indeed many chansons were sung all over Europe. The chanson in the early 16th century was characterised by a dactylic opening (long, short-short) and contrapuntal style which was later adopted by the Italian canzona, the predecessor of the sonata. Typically chansons were for three or four voices, without instrumental accompaniment, but the most popular examples were inevitably made into instrumental versions as well. Famous composers of these "Parisian" chansons included Claudin de Sermisy and Clément Janequin. Janequin's Le guerre, written to celebrate the French victory at Marignano in 1515, imitates the sounds of cannon, the cries of the wounded, and the trumpets signaling advance and retreat. A later development of the chanson was the style of musique mesurée, as exemplified in the work of Claude Le Jeune: in this type of chanson, based on developments by the group of poets known as the Pléiade under Jean-Antoine de Baïf, the musical rhythm exactly matched the stress accents of the verse, in an attempt to capture some of the rhetorical effect of music in Ancient Greece (a coincident, and apparently unrelated movement in Italy at the same time was known as the Florentine Camerata). Towards the end of the 16th century the chanson was gradually replaced by the air de cour, the most popular song type in France in the early 17th century.

The era of religious wars had a profound effect on music in France. Influenced by Calvinism, the Protestants produced a type of sacred music much different from the elaborate Latin motets written by their Catholic counterparts. Both Protestants and Catholics (especially the Protestant sympathizers among them) produced a variation of the chanson known as the chanson spirituelle, which was like the secular song but was fitted with a religious or moralizing text. Claude Goudimel, a Protestant composer most noted for his Calvinist-inspired psalm settings, was murdered in Lyon during the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. However, not only Protestant composers were killed during the era of conflict; in 1581, Catholic Antoine de Bertrand, a prolific composer of chansons, was murdered in Toulouse by a Protestant mob.