L.52 Miniatures for Francis I


Vasari, 1568, II, 211 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 171), in the “Life” of Rosso: “… e fece anco di Minio a q[ue]l Re cose rarissi[me].”

Kusenberg, 1931, 106, 204, n. 272, cites Le Comte, III, 1702, 12: “Il a fait aussi des merveilles au sujet de la miniature, on en voit quelques pièces dans le cabinet du roi.”  Béguin, in Cox-Rearick, 1972, 3, states that the library of Francis I at Fontainebleau contained “miniatures de Rosso.”  Both of these remarks would seem to be dependent upon Vasari’s brief statement.  However, no specific miniatures, or illuminated manuscripts, by Rosso were actually identified in the sixteenth century, or later.

Béguin, 1960, 46 (ill.), 47, 64, mentioned the lost miniatures by Rosso and suggested that they are reflected in two miniatures of 1549 in the Book of Hours of the Connétable de Montmorency in the Musée Condé at Chantilly, which she suggested might be by Geoffroy Dumonstier.1  Béguin also recognized Rosso’s influence on the Francis I as Minerva of around 1545 in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, attributed to Nicolas Belin (see also McAllister Johnson, in EdF, 1972, 26 (ill.), 27, no. 27).  The wit of the conceit of the latter brings Rosso’s art to mind, but the actual appearance of the miniature is not especially imitative of Rosso’s style.  Derivative as the Montmorency illuminations are from Rosso’s style as seen in the decorations of the Gallery of Francis I, the miniatures have a formal and expressive simplicity that seems rather reductive in regard to whatever by Rosso the artist may have studied.  One might have a better idea of what any miniatures by Rosso would have looked like from Thiry’s drawings for the Story of Jason and the Conquest of the Golden Fleece (Fig.RE.15, 13 Drawing) that Boyvin engraved (see RE.15), although these drawings are not colored, and tend to be exaggeratedly, even caricaturally, Rossoesque.

But more specifically there is Rosso’s own miniature-like Petrarch drawing at Christ Church (Fig.D.47a).  Although also uncolored and possibly made as a modello for a tapestry, its format of framed scenes with a text and the precision of its execution probably give a good idea of what an illumination by Rosso would have looked like.


1 Béguin illustrates the illumination of the Story of Samuel, but mentions also the one of the Story of Elisha; see also Léopold Delisle, “Les Heures du Connétable de Montmorency au Musée Condé,” La Revue de l’Art Ancien et Modern, VII, 1900.  Mentioned in Verdier, 1967, 179, n. 2.