Chapter VIII. Fontainebleau, The Gallery of Francis I, 1531–1539

[Editor’s Note: It was at this point in the editing process that Eugene left us. Per his wishes, I’ve cleaned up the text for the remaining chapters as best I could without his guidance. He had envisioned much more art throughout the text then I could match up with his notes but the curious reader may discover much of it throughout the extensive appendicies and catalogs. ~JA.S.]

The decoration of the Gallery of Francis I in the château at Fontainebleau was the largest enterprise of Rosso’s career; it is also the sole surviving project of his extensive activity at this royal residence. Although the gallery has undergone a number of alterations since its completion at the very end of 1539 its present appearance, especially following its latest renovation of 1960–65, is not so different from its original state as to require extraordinary archaeological reconstruction to appreciate it. Nevertheless, some reconstruction is necessary to restore those aspects of it that have been changed, severely damaged, or lost, and are considered below. A full appreciation of Rosso’s role in the decoration of the gallery is further enhanced by knowledge—fragmentary as it is—of the history of the creation of this gallery, beginning at a time even before Rosso’s arrival in France.1

The specifications for the construction of the gallery were first set down on 28 April 1528 for the use of the master mason Gilles Le Breton, who may also have been responsible for the specifications. It was, at this time, already referred to as a “gallerie” which was to be around thirty-two “toises” long by three “toises” wide, or approximately 62 meters by 6, and which was to be built “pour aller de la salle qui sera joignant la grosse vielle tour en l’abbaye,” that is, to go from the old block of the château on the east to the already existing Trinitarian monastery at the west. Although this gallery was projected to go from the château to the monastery, it was certainly not planned merely as a passageway between these two sites. For while the gallery, to be built above a ground floor, would be at the level of the apartments adjoining the old dungeon, it would not be so related to the monastery building (or buildings) set at a lower level at the west. At this end of the gallery a “petit montée” or small stairway was planned “pour descendre de ladite gallerie dedans le corps d’hostel de ladite abbaye.” The connection to the monastery seems not to have been a significant aspect of the planned appearance of the interior of the gallery, but then, as constructed, neither was the entrance to and from the Chambre du Roi at its east end. Other details of the gallery as planned also suggest that it was not originally conceived as a mere passageway but rather as a separate grand hall with an autonomous function of its own. Cellini referred to it as the king’s “bela galleria” adding, “Questo si era, come noi diremmo in Toscana, una loggia, o sì veramente uno androne: più presto androne si potria chiamare, perché loggia noi chiamiano quelle stanze che sono aperte da una parte.” Serlio, in the Libra Settino of his Tutte l’opere d’architettura et prospettiva (Venice, 1619, 42) says of a plan of a country house: “Sopra la loggia sarà una saletta, che in Francia si dice galeria, per spasseggiare.”2

The gallery was to have casement windows in its long north and south walls. There were also to be built two small rooms or cabinets, about two “toises” or about four meters square, across from each other and extended outward from the center of the north and south walls. These cabinets, also with windows, appear French in origin and new in Francis I’s reign.3 Furthermore, a specification was made “pour ériger une chapelle en icelle gallerie” at its east end, and at the west end another cabinet was to be constructed (near to or from within which, possibly, the small staircase would descend to the monastery). This cabinet, like the chapel, seems to have been planned for a place within the projected dimensions of the gallery. In Du Cerceau’s views of the château, the south wall of the gallery is shown with nine windows [Fig.Du Cerceau Print, Gallery] while the north wall has only seven, including the one of the projecting cabinet that was built, although an eighth is probably hidden by the block of the apartment built after the gallery was completed [Fig. Du Cerceau North Detail].4 The west cabinet would then have been lit by one south window. The placement of a chapel and a small cabinet at the ends of the gallery seems further to indicate that it was not originally conceived simply as a passageway.

Also on 28 April 1528, Josee Maillart was directed to do the carpentry work for the “grande gallerie, cabinets, et édiffices” to be built by Gilles Le Breton. Unfortunately, the nature of this work is not specified. But from the gallery as constructed, it might be assumed that this carpentry work included the making of the beams of the ceiling that are an integral part of the structure of this room. The coffered ceiling is set within a series of evenly spaced beams that span the breadth of the gallery [Fig.P.22 Ceiling & Percier drawing 2, Ceiling]. Two beams run across each space flanked by the sections of the north and south bearing walls that alternate with the tall casement windows. The beams are set securely on these walls about a meter in from the outer limits of each wall.

The Loss of Perpetual Youth

CENTERED PAIR [Fig. P.22, II S a & Fig. P.22, S, Tapestry, a]

Originally, the beams were set lower and directly upon the lateral walls, as visible in the Vienna tapestries, and not, as now, upon lateral beams. Thus while the breadth of each section of wall is greater than that of each window the design of the ceiling presents a regularly spaced sequence of beams down the entire length of the gallery.

When Rosso arrived in France in the autumn of 1530 the gallery may already have been under construction. The land on which the western half of the gallery is situated was purchased by the king from the monastery in December 1529. At this time the full length of the gallery seems already to have been built. At some time between 1528 and the beginning of the decoration of the gallery, the chapel at the east and the west cabinet were eliminated from the design of this space, either, it would seem, by not having built the partition walls that would have separated these small rooms from the main body of the gallery or by the removal of these walls had they already been constructed. The gallery was, thereby, lengthened by two bays. The bay at the west would have had a window on the south side, and the east bay would have had a window on each side. On the north side, the small cabinet remained in the plan for the gallery and was actually built, as seen in one of Du Cerceau’s prints of the château

[ CENTER Fig. Du Cerceau North Detail & Fig. Du Cerceau North View].  


Set into its north wall was a casement window, of the same size as the other windows in the gallery. A fireplace was built into its short West Wall—its chimney can be seen in Du Cerceau’s print—a wall shorter in this print than seems to have been specified in 1528. Instead of square, this cabinet appears to have been built on a very narrow rectangular plan.5 The original plan for the south cabinet appears to have been abandoned early in 1534. It may have been built, or partially built and then destroyed, in 1534 or 1535 during the construction of a series of vaulted kitchens and larders at ground level and a terrace walkway above them running the full length of the south façade.6 The original placement of the south cabinet, however, continued to be marked on the south façade of the gallery by the architectural articulation of the center three windows into a group and at the upper level by a gable set above the middle dormer. This matched the fenestration of the north façade, including the window of its cabinet. But the comparable one on the south side became a blind window.

As the reason for the removal of the south cabinet is not known for certain, the importance that this small room may have had at some time in the decorative program of the gallery remains a matter of conjecture. That it was eliminated only because of the building of the kitchens is not an altogether satisfactory explanation, for the substructure of the cabinet seems to have been maintained as part of the arcade of these kitchens and larders. What is more likely is that the decision to build the vaulted kitchens, larders, and terrace walkway carried with it a reconsideration of the design of the whole south façade to make this side the principal front of the building.7


From its terrace walkway the large open area and the pool in front of the building could be viewed. At the same time, looking back from this open area the south façade of the gallery would provide an imposing and regular architectural background. This is, in fact, as it appears in the small picture of the château in the gallery that shows people looking out and down from the terrace walkway, promenading at ground level in front of the building, and swimming in the pool [Fig.P.22,In,h]. By contrast the north façade in Du Cerceau’s print [Fig. SEE ABOVE North Detail] looks merely like the outside of the building, a view of which from the ground was eventually, partially blocked by a huge garden trellis structure that was built in front of it. It is not inconceivable that some of the alterations to Gilles Le Breton’s building—the elimination of the south cabinet and the construction of the terrace walkway if not that of the arches of the ground floor—were due to the intervention of Rosso, the “capo generale” of all work at Fontainebleau.8 The terrace walkway now allowed, it would seem, passage from the old part of the château to the monastery without going through the gallery. It is also possible that the external alterations were part of a reconsideration of the interior design of the gallery that included the suppression of the projected chapel and the west cabinet. This, too, could have been the result of a decision by Rosso made, however, much earlier and well before the actual execution of the decoration of the gallery had begun. For it was a decision that from the very beginning, it would seem, was related to the final character of that decoration, the richness of which would no longer be that of a mere corridor.

It was not absolutely necessary that the removal of the south cabinet should have produced the final appearance of the interior arrangement of the gallery. For the central window of the south façade could have been a real one instead of a false one that serves, on the outside only, to give focus to the design of this front. It must therefore be concluded that the blocking of it was made to provide another wall surface inside the gallery, a center one across from the entrance to the north cabinet. From an architectural point of view, a new continuity was thereby given to the inside of the gallery; the alternation of walls and windows on the south side was now unbroken. Furthermore, this additional and center wall area on the south side, the only wall area in the gallery not across from another of like size but facing instead a door flanked and surmounted by smaller wall areas, provided a place to which special attention would have to be given. Slight as this alteration may seem at first to have been, it was in fact a major change in the conception of the gallery, especially in regard to the nature of the overall decorative scheme that it was to receive. This alteration must almost certainly also be related to the earlier elimination of the chapel and west cabinet, the consequent slight lengthening of the room and the introduction into it of the two additional windows at the ends of the south side. Across from one at the east was another window; most likely across from another at the west was a false window to complete the symmetry of the gallery.9

It is not known for certain if an actual scheme of decoration was devised at some early moment for the south cabinet and then abandoned when it was decided that the building of this room should be suppressed in, probably, 1534.10 As for the entrances into the gallery, one was in the East Wall, against the north side. Another was at the west end, probably at the far right of the West Wall; this latter entrance would have been related to the stairway that connected the gallery to the adjacent monastery. The placement of these doors and the false ones that matched them made them inconspicuous, as did their modest size; they were further concealed by eventually being contained within the original wood paneling that covered the lower part of the walls of the gallery. The entrance leading into the north cabinet was larger and rose higher than this paneling; this doorway received decoration at its sides and above it. One other specification should be mentioned: the projection, in 1528, of five brick chimneys for the gallery and the cabinets. Although a fireplace was built in the north cabinet, no fireplaces were actually built in the gallery itself. If any were originally intended, the removal of them from the plan of the gallery would have helped create the regularity of the present rhythm of walls and windows in this room.11

By 1535 the Italian woodcarver Francisque Scibec de Carpi had already designed a system of wood paneling and seats for the lower half, approximately, of the four walls of the gallery under Rosso’s decoration and probably also for the adjacent north cabinet. It would seem that wood paneling would also have been designed for the wall areas under the windows. However, the document of 1535 is concerned with the seats. The work was begun by Scibec before August of that year in oak, red and yellow brazilwood, and ebony, and was continued by Joachin Raoullant. Because of the difficulty of working these woods it was decided on 2 April 1539 to carry out this entire project in walnut, including the paneling and a seat in the north cabinet.12 The floor was to be made of oak. All of this work was completed by 21 October 1539, just two months before Charles V’s visit to Fontainebleau.

[PLACE HERE PAIRED & CENTERED: Fig.d’Orbay drawing a & Fig.P.22a]

The height of the paneling under Rosso’s decoration would seem to have been foreseen when the end doors of the gallery were constructed, for it is just to the upper level of them that the woodwork was designed. Only at the center of the end walls was the paneling lower to accommodate the vertical oval pictures set above it, as seen in François d’Orbay’s drawing of 1682 of the East Wall [Fig.d’Orbay drawing a]. Along the north and south walls the woodwork, about 2.35 meters high, is set against the three sides of each section of wall that projects from the level of the flanking windows [Fig.P.22a]. The broad side of each north and south section of wall facing the interior of the gallery is covered with seven panels, a large horizontal one in the center, each, except perhaps that under Danäe, originally with a bench attached to it,13 and three vertical panels at both sides. All are decorated with escutcheons bearing the symbols of Francis I, the “Royal F” and the flaming salamander.14 The large middle panel and the center one of the group of three at each side is set slightly forward, the latter corresponding, somewhat like a pliaster, to the beam of the ceiling above it. Below these seven panels of each bay and below the level of the horizontal surface of each seat is a series of small panels forming a base; above the seven panels is a projecting cornice.15 Between this cornice and the ceiling, Rosso placed his decoration in the gallery. The architectural arrangement of the woodwork and ceiling beams is directly related to the placement of Rosso’s painted and sculptured decoration.

There is no evidence suggesting that Rosso ever considered decorating the gallery with frescoes alone. What prompted him to use the full relief stucco sculpture that he employed along with painting may in part, at least, have been due to the extraordinary length of the gallery, around 60.70 meters. Although each decorated area of the north and south sides can be fully seen from a position of about 5.5 meters directly across from it and originally in each case from a bench provided for the spectator, viewed obliquely down the length of the gallery the effect of purely painted decoration might have been foreseen by him as appearing severely flat. The strong perspective of the room, even as measured and subdivided by the regular spacing of the ceiling beams and by the alternation of windows and wall areas, might well have been anticipated as overpowering to the mere illusion of form and space that painting alone would have provided. Rosso chose instead to construct his decoration in response to the plastic elements of the architecture of the gallery: the beams supporting the coffered ceiling and the masses of the north and south walls set forward from the level of the casement windows. The design of the wood paneling supports these architectural features of the gallery. That Rosso conceived of the wall areas that received his decoration as plastic and not simply as planar units seems clearly indicated by the rounding off of their corners that in all likelihood was decided by him. Each wall area is seen as a projecting mass, with a thickness appearing continuous between the windows at either side. As this thickness is made clear by the horizontal curve of the panels of framed decoration at each corner, so, too, the relationship of each wall to the beamed ceiling is clearly achieved by the tripartite division of the decoration of each wall. The central picture of each bay is placed between the beams; the decoration at each side is set directly beneath them and above the projecting vertical panels of the woodwork below.

The decoration of the end walls of the gallery, as we know them from François d’Qrbay’s drawing of the East Wall and from what survives at the west [Fig.P.22, WestWall, a], was also divided into three parts, but with an upright oval picture in the center, the frame of which extended somewhat lower than the upper level of the wood paneling on the north and south walls. While these two oval pictures are lost, the record of them in Vasari’s “Lives” of Rosso and Primaticcio indicates Rosso’s earliest concern with the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I. They were oil paintings, one depicting Bacchus or Bacchus and Venus, the other representing either Venus and Cupid, Psyche and Cupid, or just possibly Venus, Psyche and Cupid. As, according to Vasari, these two paintings were done before Primaticcio came to France at some time probably between mid-January and late March 1532,16 they belonged to an earlier period of Rosso’s French career several years before the actual execution of the decoration in the gallery itself was begun, in 1534.17 But as discussed in the preceding chapter these oil paintings must from the first have been intended for the gallery in which they were eventually placed. For their oval shape makes it highly unlikely that they were conceived as independent easel pictures. We can, therefore, assume that they were done with the prospect of a setting for them in the gallery.18 That this setting was at least partly projected in stucco already at this early date is very likely, even if Vasari says no stucco work was actually done in France until Primaticcio’s arrival there. As stated earlier Rosso’s need for an expert stuccoer is almost certainly one of the reasons that Francis I called Primaticcio to France. When he arrived, one of the first works he executed seems to have been the stucco sculpture designed by Rosso to surround the frescoes of the Pavilion of Pomona.

The oval shape of the two lost oil paintings introduces us to the possibility of an early scheme for the decoration of the gallery that was subsequently changed. The two frescoes by Rosso and Primaticcio in the Pavilion of Pomona were originally conceived as oval, although horizontal in their setting rather than vertical.


[CENTER Fig.D.53]

D.53 Education of Achilles

[CENTER Education of Achilles, Gallery of Francis I]


A copy in the École des Beaux-Arts of a lost drawing by Rosso for the fresco of the Education of Achilles in the gallery indicates by its shape that this scene was probably originally designed within a horizontal oval. The composition of this scene is much more cleverly related to the oval shown in the drawing than is the design of the fresco to its rectangular frame to which it was accommodated in the gallery. It is possible that all the large pictures of the north and south walls were first planned with a horizontal oval format. But the placement of the Education of Achilles in the center of three bays at the east side of the north wall also suggests that at one time the large pictures in the gallery were to alternate, oval and rectangular, with the horizontal oval picture in the center of each group of three on the long walls. Given the original design of the gallery with high entrances to the north and south cabinets dividing the long room into two halves, there would have been a certain decorative logic to the scheme with a horizontal oval picture between rectangular pictures at the sides and an upright oval at the end giving a special focus to each half of the gallery. It is, however, very possible that the rectangular pictures were vertical at first, as indicated by the vertical format of an early design of the Venus and Minerva known from an anonymous etching.

CENTER [Fig.E.138].

E.138 Venus and Minerva

CENTER [Fig.87]

Another etching, by Fantuzzi, shows a cartouche related to the Cleobis and Biton wall, framing a vertical rectangle with the same proportions as the early Venus and Minerva composition. Fanutzzi’s print also suggests that at an early moment the decorated wall areas in the gallery were to be higher and the wainscoting shorter, a possibility also indicated, perhaps, by the arrangement of the center of the end walls.

Assuming an original scheme of alternating ovals and rectangles, why was it changed? The reason may well be the elimination of the south cabinet in 1534 when the building of the kitchens, larders and terrace was planned. At this time and before the stuccoers began to work in the gallery the center area of the south side of the gallery was filled in providing another wall to be decorated. This wall eventually received decoration unlike that of any other in the gallery, especially of the north and south sides. Its center scene is placed within a horizontal oval, with two small oval medallions above it. The central scene is flanked by symmetrical triads of large female herms, in almost full round stucco relief, holding baskets of fruits and vegetables on their heads. Now, instead of a dividing void in the middle of the gallery created by the entrances to the north and south cabinets, there was a special decorative unit in the middle of the south wall. Upon this area the decoration of the gallery could be focused and from it the decoration of the gallery can also be seen dispersed.

CENTER [Fig.P.22, IV S a]


CENTER [Fig.E.103]

E.103, Painting, New York

The large horizontal oval of this bay contains Primaticcio’s fresco of Danäe. It is very likely, however, that Rosso intended for this location a representation of the Nymph of Fontainebleau preserved in an engraving by Pierre Milan and René Boyvin and showing this figure in the frame that surrounds Primaticcio’s painting. An inscription beneath the image of this print states that it was intended for the château at Fontainebleau but that it was left unfinished. As the frame shown in the engraving was completed the only part of the image of the print that was not finished in the château, as indicated by the inscription, would have been the central oval containing the reclining female, named Diana in the inscription below. The inscription also refers to this figure as sculpture, and as relief sculpture, it would even more specifically have marked the center of the gallery, along with the sculptured bust of Francis I across from it above the door to the North Cabinet. All of the other center pictures of the bays of the gallery are painted. Furthermore, the Nymph of Fontainebleau would have been the only central image of a bay in the gallery, at least of the north and south walls, that was so simply symbolic, in this case of Francis I’s very château in which it appears. In spite of some persistent reluctance to see the Nymph of Fontainebleau as once having been part of the plan of the decoration of the gallery, it is indeed difficult, even impossible, to dismiss the evidence that indicates that it was.19 Its elimination altered Rosso’s intentions for the decoration of the gallery, both thematically and decoratively, but its inclusion, too, it must be remembered, also altered, it seems, an earlier scheme of decoration for this room.

The major obstacle to the general acceptance of its original place in the gallery has been the fact of Primaticcio’s painting of Danäe in the frame for which Rosso intended his relief of the Nymph of Fontainebleau. Chronologically the theme of Danäe probably had precedence over the Nymph of Fontainebleau, not in the gallery itself, but in the South Cabinet, as the pendant to the oval painting of Semele in the North Cabinet. These two subjects would have belonged to a program for the gallery and its two cabinets before the elimination of the South Cabinet, and the decoration of both of these small rooms was probably at that time already assigned to Primaticcio. This could have been in 1533, or even in 1532, contemporaneous with his collaboration on Rosso’s decoration of the Pavilion of Pomona. When the South Cabinet was eliminated in 1534 Rosso would then have devised his scheme for the new area of wall that replaced the entrance to it. The Nymph of Fontainebleau was invented for this place as an addition to the program of the gallery. The stucco frame was actually executed as well as the painted putti at either side of the female herms and the two painted medallions above the center oval. Into this setting the relief of Nymph of Fontainebleau would have been inserted, executed in stucco or in marble, or even in bronze, upon Rosso’s design. For some reason it was not made. Instead, the subject of Danäe planned for the South Cabinet was revived. It was executed in fresco by Primaticcio probably before the wood paneling was installed in the gallery in 1539.20

Transferred from the abolished South Cabinet and placed within a frame that was not intended for it, the Danäe constitutes a kind of intrusion into the gallery. It does not serve the iconographical and decorative function that the sculptured Nymph of Fontainebleau would have. But it does serve, somewhat too forcefully within the gallery, the purpose of an earlier program when it was meant to prompt from the South Cabinet a relation with the Semele in the small North Cabinet.

The major disposition of the stuccoes and the paintings in the gallery would seem to have been established by April 1534 when the documents suggest that the stuccoers were at work there.21 This very probably included the design of the frame surrounding Primaticcio’s Danäe, although the Michelangelesque figures of the small oval scenes above suggest a somewhat later date for their invention. There is almost no visual evidence that reveals changes of real significance in the compositions of the stuccoes in the gallery, although Fantuzzi’s etching mentioned and depicted above related to the Cleobis and Biton wall indicates what might have been the arrangement of stuccoes around an upright rectangular scene. There must also have been unrecorded alterations as the conception of the decoration evolved. With the paintings, however, evidence survives of a few important changes.

One, already discussed, involves the supposed change of the format of the Education of Achilles from an oval to a rectangle format. The adjustments of the composition to a rectangle are few and are, primarily, the enlargement and extension of some of the figures so that they fill more fully the greater breadth of the scene, especially the lower part of it. Although these modifications do produce a somewhat grander picture, the style of this scene as recorded in the École des Beaux-Arts drawing is not significantly transformed in the gallery fresco. With the Venus and Minerva composition, first conceived in a vertical rectangular format and then expanded to a horizontal one, the composition was also more extensively reworked because of the greater change in format, perhaps at a later moment. But the situation is more significantly different in regard to Rosso’s Scene of Sacrifice. An early version of this picture is known from an engraving attributed to Delaune (E.5), from a drawing related to this print (D.51), and from four drawings (D.50 A-D) that are derived from a single lost drawing by Rosso.

[PAIR Fig.E.50 & Fig.D51]

E.50 Delaune Sacrifice

D.51 Scene of Sacrifice, Reversed

[PAIR Fig.D.50B & Fig.D.50Ca]

D.50B Sacrifice

D.50C Sacrifice, Louvre

The changes that were made may have been prompted by a reconsideration of the subject of this scene in the direction of a greater elaboration of the flaming altar, of the activity directed toward it, and of references to birth. Three youths carrying vessels of wine have been added to the scene executed in the gallery and the rushing and rising energic poses of these figures is unlike anything in the other, earlier, version of the Scene of Sacrifice. The figures in the fresco have been enlarged, they have been placed closer together, and the postures of some of them have become complexly turned, even contorted. A vigor and narrative passion permeate the scene and subsume all its diverse parts into a general expression of ecstasy that reaches its climax in the white and windswept flames burning atop the pyramidal-shaped altar. Compared to the picture that was painted in the gallery, the earlier version looks almost commonplace.

The change in style that is documented by these two versions of the Scene of Sacrifice reveals a new level of Rosso’s art in France. When this took place remains a matter of conjecture. The execution of the paintings in the gallery would seem to have begun in 153522 before all the stuccowork was actually completed. By the time the woodwork was installed in 1539 the paintings must have been finished. Changes in the designs of the paintings in the gallery could have been made even after work on some of them had begun, but most probably always within a context determined by the general thematic scheme already established for the decoration of the gallery. There is some possibility that the second Scene of Sacrifice with its supposed increased allusion to birth is related to the only fresco in the gallery that is primarily about death: the Death of Adonis.

It has been suggested that this scene refers to the sudden death of the Dauphin François on 10 August 1536. If this correspondence does exist it would mean that the fresco of the Death of Adonis was most likely designed after the execution of the paintings had begun. Stylistically this fresco, with its violent and contorted movement and its passionate narration of its subject, is very closely related to the fresco of the Scene of Sacrifice. Both could have been invented about the same time, after the middle of August 1536. But, whereas the executed Scene of Sacrifice can be seen as an elaboration and not altogether a replacement of an earlier composition planned to occupy the same location in the gallery, there is no such closely analogous precedent known for the Death of Adonis. Nor probably would there have been one if this scene refers to the specific event of the death of the Dauphin. Nevertheless, if the Death of Adonis does refer to the death of the Dauphin there must have been a picture planned earlier for the place that this fresco now occupies.

Among all the material that survives from Rosso’s French period there is only one full composition of the appropriate relative dimensions, aside from the early version of the Scene of Sacrifice and the Nymph of Fontainebleau, that may have been designed, and then not used, for a principal fresco in the gallery. This is the scene of the Cremation of a Body known from copies of a lost drawing by Rosso in Montpellier and Weimar (D.58 A,B) and from an etching, in reverse, by Fantuzzi.


E.72 Hector



Not only the rectangular format of this scene but also the size and number of its figures, and its architectural setting, recommend it as having been intended for a large picture in the gallery. Of course it is possible that this scene may also have been made in response to the death of the Dauphin and then abandoned in favor of the Death of Adonis. But the scene of the Cremation of a Body suggests that this would not have been the case. The small nude figure seated in front of the pyre suggests that the deceased was a ruler, leader, warrior, or hero whose power has been passed on. This fact—or supposition—does not lend itself to an identification of the dead man as the Dauphin. It does, however, offer the possibility that the scene refers to the eventual death of King Francis I himself. The great flames that rise up from the pyre could be related to the fire that burns on the altar in the Scene of Sacrifice and also to Francis’s own symbol, the flaming salamander. In a cycle of frescoes devoted to the definition of the life and monarchical role of Francis I and that contains a scene related in some way to his birth another scene that makes reference to his death, would not have been altogether out of place. With the death of the Dauphin Francis I’s own death could have been seen as a mere incident compared to the tragic loss of his beloved son and heir. The force of circumstances may well have precipitated the substitution of one scene of death for another, altering thereby the iconographical program of the gallery without, however, altogether thwarting its original intentions.

It is likely that this supposed change in the central picture of this wall after the middle of August 1536 carried with it a change in the stuccoes that surround it, as well as in the flanking frescoes. There is no reason why this could not have been the case as the documents indicate that work on the stuccoes in the gallery continued until after the middle of 1537, and even into the period after 1 January 1538, several years after the paintings had been begun. Furthermore, it is not absolutely essential to think of this stuccowork as having been done entirely within the gallery. The larger elements, at least, could have been modelled in a studio elsewhere at Fontainebleau and then brought to the gallery where they were fastened to the walls with the metal attachments mentioned in a document as having been made in 1536 and 1537. Only some of the stuccowork need have been done in situ, and although this work could have been accomplished before the painting of any one bay was begun, this need not have been the case in every instance.

The evidence related to the conception and the execution of the decoration of the gallery is indeed fragmentary, and the suppositions made from it are no more than what can be imagined as possible. Nevertheless, from that evidence one is inclined to recognize a certain length of time in which the designs for the various bays of the gallery were worked out and during which Rosso’s style underwent certain changes. This would have continued into the period of the actual execution of the paintings and stuccoes and would include the designs of both. No absolute limits of one stylistic phase as distinct from another can be determined, nor is it possible to recognize changes of style based upon the total appearance of any one bay in relation to that of another. For the designing of the parts of each bay may have been extended over a considerable period and may have obtained its final form only when each part was actually executed. Thus, while the bay with the Loss of Perpetual Youth may have been designed at one time, that with the Education of Achilles seems stylistically to have been designed, in its parts, in different phases of Rosso’s activity on the decoration of the gallery. But it also has to be expected, based on our knowledge of Rosso’s earlier activity, that a certain concurrency of styles was possible. There are numerous hazards in trying to discover the phases of Rosso’s activity in the gallery, and yet not to attempt to recognize them at all on the basis of available evidence would deny one the possibility of understanding his artistic achievement as fully as one wishes.

The investigations of the gallery over the past thirty-five years, and especially those prompted by its latest restoration, clearly indicate that whatever changes can be recognized must be seen within a framework, both iconographic and broadly stylistic, that was determined from the outset. But rather than confine the possibilities of invention, the complex intentions of the thematic content of the decoration probably allowed for a certain flexibility in the choice of subjects that would ultimately be used. That is to say that no one subject, either major or minor, was absolutely inevitable to the end although all changes would have taken place within some generally established frame of reference. Thus, the Scene of Sacrifice could be slightly altered to produce a somewhat different emphasis of its content, and the Death of Adonis could, possibly, replace another death scene. The Nymph of Fontainebleau, not a part of the very first conception of the program of the gallery, would have been entertained as an addition to the gallery even though it was eventually withdrawn, while the motifs intended to frame it were not. Other changes may also have been made for which, however, we have no real or circumstantial evidence. A general frame of reference for the disposition of the stuccowork and paintings must also have been established quite early, before the execution of the stuccowork was begun, probably in 1534. For the decoration as executed reveals a compositional order that could not have come about by chance. The decoration of each wall was not conceived independently of that of the others, as the iconography of each wall was not.

It is possible, if one is not too dogmatic about it—remembering, too, that Rosso employed assistants in the gallery—to recognize three phases in the designing of the decorations of the gallery. The first would have to include the two lost oil paintings executed by Rosso himself for the end walls before Primaticcio’s arrival in France. Unfortunately, no visual evidence survives related to them. Within this period, which would have lasted until the time when the stuccowork was begun in the gallery in 1534, would be included the Education of Achilles, first in its oval format and then in its rectangular frame, but likely not the painted nudes that flank this scene in the gallery. The dispersive aspect of this composition along with its rather small major figures and its architectural setting closely resemble these elements of the Annunciation in the Albertina (D.43) and the Narcissus in Turin (D.44), which may date no later than around 1533. For the same reasons the three frescoes of the wall across from the Education of Achilles, that with the Loss of Perpetual Youth at the center, seem early conceptions. The entire decoration of this wall, both stuccoes and paintings, appears stylistically consistent.


P.22, II S a, Youth Loss

Contemporary with these is, most probably, the first version of the Scene of Sacrifice; the stuccoes surrounding the later version of this scene in the gallery, at the unrestored right especially, reveal no special stylistic differences from the earlier version of the Scene of Sacrifice.


About the same time, and probably no later than the first half of 1534, Rosso most likely designed the Nymph of Fontainebleau and its frame, if not its small oval scenes at this moment, for the center wall of the south side of the gallery, of which only the elements of the frame were actually executed. The thin, elegant and immobile figure of the nymph is quite like the figures in the Loss of Perpetual Youth.


E.103, Painting, New York

CENTER LARGE [Fig.P.22 II South]

So similar is the Royal Elephant to the oval Education of Achilles that no appreciable difference in time probably separates them; nor is there any stylistic evidence that distinguishes the stuccoes that frame the Royal Elephant from this fresco.


D.53 Education of Achilles

CENTER LARGE [Fig. Royal Elephant]

The flanking frescoes of Europa and the Bull and Saturn and Phylira could, however, be somewhat later, as mentioned again below with works that resemble them. Along with the Royal Elephant must go the Unity of the State including the paintings and stuccoes that frame it and the first version of the Venus and Minerva.


Unity of the State


E.138 Venus and Minerva

Other parts of the decoration of the gallery, because of the smallness of their forms, appear also to belong to an early phase of its design: the stuccoes that flank the Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths, the frame of the Revenge of Nauplius, the surviving stuccoes and paintings of the West Wall, and what appears of the Eagle in d’Orbay’s drawing. All of the scenes that can be grouped in this early phase of activity have, in spite of their recondite subjects, a straightforward narrative quality that is almost passive in relation to any emotion or drama that the themes might have elicited. The more purely decorative elements tend also to be static, and flat. In both respects, one is reminded of Rosso’s designs for the Pavilion of Pomona done possibly around 1532 and probably not after mid-1533.

CENTER LARGE [Fig.P.22, I S b]




CENTER LARGE [Fig.d’Orbay drawing a] NEW COLOR SCAN


But there are other parts of the gallery that seem to come from another level of inspiration, and so perhaps also from a slightly later period of invention. One might suppose a date in 1535 and 1536, possibly not extending beyond April of the latter year by which time the largest part of the stuccoes in the gallery had probably been designed. It was in April 1536, too, that Rosso became actively engaged in the execution of the decorations in the gallery suggesting that most of the designs of the paintings had also been made by this time. The entire wall with The Enlightenment of Francis I at its center is so plastically and energetically conceived as to suggest a date for it later than, for example, the wall next to it with the Unity of the State. It is possible that a certain stylistic contrast between them may have been intended. Nevertheless, there is a robustness, even a heroic dimension about all parts of the decoration of the wall containing The Enlightenment of Francis I, and visible also in an etching of a lost drawing apparently made for this wall (E.74), that need not have been entirely denied to the Unity of the State had these two walls been designed at the same time. There is also a dramatic force and concentration in the fresco of The Enlightenment of Francis I itself that could certainly have been utilized to give more vigorous meaning to the theme of the fresco in the center of the adjacent wall.



E.74 Enlightenment


Diagonally across the entire gallery, the wall with the Venus and Minerva is comparably bold, including the second version of its central composition. Here again the bold plasticity of the decoration of the Venus and Minerva and The Enlightenment of Francis I walls, especially that of the large stucco figures at the sides in each case, can be argued as determined by their thematic and decorative functions as terminals in the gallery. Still these figures are grander and emotionally more impressive than the similarly large female herms of the center wall of the south side of the gallery. Because of their position, they could be expected to have been the largest figures in the gallery, which they are not.

CENTER LARGE [Fig.P.22, I N a]  Without ceiling and wainscote

P.22,I North Venus and Minerva

CENTER LARGE [Fig.P.22, IV s a]


The wall with the scene of the Twins of Catania as its center picture [Fig. ] and the one across from it with the fresco of Cleobis and Biton in the middle [Fig.] seem also to belong, in their entirety, to this second phase of invention. Here, too, would be placed the Funeral of Hector [Fig.] (intended possibly for the place now occupied by the Death of Adonis), as well as the Europa and the Bull [Fig.      ] and the Saturn and Phylira [Fig. ] frescoes that flank the Royal Elephant, and the frescoes and lower stucco medallion of the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths wall [Figs.].

CENTER LARGE [Fig.P.22, V N a]

CENTER LARGE [Fig.P.22, V. S a]


E.72 Hector

CENTER LARGE PAIR [Fig.Europa & Fig.Phylira]



CENTER LARGE [Fig.P.22, I S b]

The figures in the central picture of this latter wall of the gallery, recalling those in Rosso’s Florentine Moses, suggest the artist’s recollection of Michelangelo’s art. Where here the Michelangelesque aspects of Rosso’s picture exist as a kind of general reference to Michelangelo’s large figures and compositions, in the Revenge of Nauplius there are two quite specific references to figures in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. The central figure in Rosso’s fresco is dependent upon Michelangelo’s figure of Charon,23 and the two struggling figures just left of the center of the scene paraphrase two in the group beneath St. Sebastian in the Sistine Chapel fresco.24

CENTER LARGE [Fig.Nauplius]


However it occurred, Rosso obtained access to at least some of Michelangelo’s inventions for his large Sistine fresco, the cartoon of which may have been finished by 25 September 1534.25 In fact, in all of the parts of the gallery that seem to belong to this second phase of activity there is especially felt the stimulus of Roman art, Raphael’s as well as Michelangelo’s. Earlier, in 1532, Antonio Mini had brought Michelangelo’s Leda, its cartoon and other drawings by the artist, to France,26 and this material seems to have become known to Rosso. Certainly the Leda was, although it is not known precisely when he came to know it.27 But in 1532 Michelangelo had not yet begun the composition of the Last Judgment. The immediate source of Rosso’s renewed interest in Raphael’s art in 1535 and 1536 also remains obscure. But it is reasonable to surmise that as Rosso worked on the compositions for the gallery his recollections of Raphael’s Roman art would increase as the need for them did while work on comparable pictorial issues in the gallery arose.

The second phase of Rosso’s activity in making his designs for the gallery produced the greater part of the most imposing and exciting parts of its decoration. There seems to have been, however, one last moment when final alterations and designs were made that surpassed in their compositional cohesiveness and power of expression even the finest inventions of the second phase. The Death of Adonis belongs to this last moment, as well as, probably, most of the stuccoes and paintings that surround this scene.

CENTRAL LARGE [Fig.P.22, III S b] Death of Adonis wall

Death of Adonis wall

The diagonal leftward and downward driving force of the central composition, the rotation of the drama around Adonis’s body, and the diagonal that crosses it upward to the left, give this composition an emotional focus unlike that of any of the supposedly earlier compositions. In the figure of Venus, a recollection of Michelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl can be recognized. All of the painted figures of the frame are also Michelangelesque: the woman at the lower left goes back to the Leda, and the man at the lower right is very similar to the figure in the lower left corner of the Last Judgment.28 As it is likely that the Death of Adonis refers to the death of the Dauphin on 10 August 1536—making this scene possibly the only picture in the gallery specifically invented in direct response to an event in life of Francis I—it, and the elements of its frame must have been among the last parts of the gallery designed.29 At this time, the Scene of Sacrifice would have been re-designed to augment its references to birth, and in so doing making it stylistically the only other scene in the gallery comparable to the Death of Adonis.

CENTER LARGE [Fig.Sacrifice]

D.51 Scene of Sacrifice, Reversed

PAIR CENTER LARGE [Fig.Nude Left & Fig. Nude Right]



Perhaps it was at this time also that Rosso invented the heroic Michelangelesque nudes in fresco that flank the Education of Achilles. One may wonder if these heroic nudes, who in a sense guard the picture showing the education of a youth, may not have been put there also in response to the death of the king’s youthful son. At this time Rosso may have designed the two oval paintings above the Danäe, the right one of which has particularly Michelangelesque figures.

Like the different designs of the fifteen wall areas and the complex iconography of the entire room, the changes of style within the decorative scheme of the gallery give that scheme an additional dramatic rhythm that it might well have lacked had all of it been invented at one early moment. For those parts of the gallery that seem to have been designed first have, in spite of their variety, a somewhat static and too even tempered appearance that, carried throughout the gallery, might have been monotonous. Designed entirely at one time the gallery might have had the appearance of an enlargement of the decoration of the small Pavilion of Pomona as planned or as executed. This would have been a matter not of the ornamental aspects alone but also of the narrative scenes. For such pictures as the Loss of Perpetual Youth, the Unity of the State, and the Royal Elephant are visually not very exciting even as their subjects are so unusual. It is quite possible that Rosso as he worked on the designs for the gallery sought both greater diversity and at the same time greater expressive concentration, wall for wall and within the entire scheme of the decoration. Hence, perhaps, once the center section of the south side of the gallery was introduced into the scheme, he eliminated the regularly alternating oval and rectangular pictures, and introduced the very large stucco figures flanking the end frescoes of the Enlightenment of Francis I and the Venus and Minerva. A greater boldness in the conception of each wall, or at least of some of them—in the large central scenes as well as in the elements that frame them—also guaranteed a further counterforce to the perspective pull of the length of the gallery determined by its architectural dimensions.

From the information given by Vasari and the documents, and from what is also indicated by the extent and appearance of the paintings and stuccoes in the gallery, it is clear that Rosso was aided by a number of assistants in the execution of the decoration of the gallery of Francis I. Vasari says that the paintings, and, it would seem, the stuccoes, too, were executed from Rosso’s drawings “che furono d’acquerello e di chiaroscuro.” None of these autograph drawings for the gallery appear to have survived but a certain number of copies of them exist that give a good idea of what the assistants had to work from. All but two are for paintings in the gallery, for the large center pictures and one for a small round scene, and all of these copies record drawings of whole compositions. One drawing gives the full composition of a stucco relief while another is for the stucco frame of the central section of the East Wall of the gallery that held an oil painting by Rosso himself. The evidence of these copies indicates that most of the lost original drawings were executed in pen-and-ink and wash concurring with Vasari’s comment about the drawings that Rosso made for the gallery. One copy, of a drawing for the first version of the Sacrifice, in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris [Fig.D.50B], also shows the use of white highlights on brown washed paper and reveals the same kind of draughtsmanship and technique of such drawings as the Aretine Design for a Chapel and Design for an Altar in the British Museum [Fig.D.37 & Fig.D.38], the Mars and Venus, in the Louvre [Fig.D.42], the Annunciation, in the Albertina [Fig.D.43], and the illustration of Petrarch’s sonnet, at Christ Church [Fig.D.47]. It cannot be determined if all the lost originals were similarly done on tinted paper and with highlights but this is possible.

For a second copy of the same lost drawing for the Sacrifice in the Louvre [Fig.D.50C] is done on white paper and has no highlights. Another copy of the same drawing in Göttingen [Fig.D.50A] shows only the pen and ink outlines of the lost original work. Furthermore, while the penmanship of the copies appears consistently to record Rosso’s, the generally somewhat vague and indecisively placed washes, and especially the differences of them from one copy to another in those cases where several copies of the same lost drawing are known, suggest that they may all be derived from original drawings that had dark grounds and while highlights.

The less fully defined copies without tinted paper and highlights would have been easier to make. Some of the copies may, of course, be copies of copies but the overall similarity of them does not make it possible to determine when this is the case. The copy, in the École des Beaux-Arts [Fig.D.57], of the drawing for the stucco relief is also done in pen and ink lines only but very probably, it was copied from an original drawing that had washes, if not also a dark ground and white highlights, to show the sculptural effect that was intended. A drawing of this kind, with washes, was probably the model for the anonymous etching of the Birth of Venus [Fig.E.148] related to the relief under the Enlightenment of Francis I.

But before looking at these drawings further it would seem appropriate to consider what other kinds of drawings may have been made for the gallery of which no drawn copies are known. That there is no evidence for sketches is not surprising as there is a total lack of them earlier in Rosso’s career as well. But there must have been studies for the individually placed figures, such as the lost drawing represented by an anonymous etching [Fig.E.147] related to but not used for the decoration of the upper sides of the Enlightenment of Francis I, and for small groups of painted figures that are placed around some of the principal paintings. One would expect there to have been separate drawings for the large stucco figures and for the reliefs that are not individually framed. Rosso must also have made a drawing for each entire wall area that included the large central painting and all that frames it, comparable to what is presented by the Petrarch drawing at Christ Church. Such a drawing was probably the model from which Milan and Boyvin executed their engraving of Rosso’s Nymph of Fontainebleau [Fig.E.103] with what now frames the fresco of Danäe in the gallery. From this kind of drawing the larger and probably more compositionally detailed drawings—of which copies exist—would have been made. There were also for the paintings full-size cartoons, evidence for which exist in the prickings and incisions in the plaster surface of the frescoes in the gallery. Probably no practical reason required the making of full size cartoons for the sculpture, even for the reliefs. These could have been modelled from detailed drawings, the figures and compositions enlarged by the sculptors to the required size while they were shaping the statues and reliefs in a studio and in the gallery itself.

In spite of the fact that Rosso employed assistants there is not a single detail of the stuccoes or of the paintings in the gallery that suggests the invention of anyone other than Rosso himself. This is fully supported by the evidence of the copies of Rosso’s lost drawings. What differences there are between them and the executed paintings and stuccoes are minimal, and there is every reason to believe that even slight changes were dictated by Rosso. In the case of the paintings the changes are so minor that they must have been made at the last minute, probably at the time the cartoons were executed. The two drawings that can be related to the stuccoes and which show details that were changed in the gallery must have been followed by other drawings from which the stuccoes were actually modelled.

Not having been trained by a sculptor, it is probably safe to assume that Rosso personally executed none of the stuccoes in the gallery, but the appearance of them shows he must have carefully overseen the execution of all of them. The most finely executed, such as the nudes flanking the Venus and Minerva and the oval relief beneath the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths, reveal so precisely Rosso’s sensibility that we must think of the assistants who executed them as completely trained to do nothing other than fulfill Rosso’s intentions. Even the less brilliantly executed stuccoes show no stylistic characteristics that would seem significantly to betray what Rosso devised. What may be seen here is merely a lack of precision, resulting perhaps in the loss of some small details, in the crude definition of others and in the overgeneralization of some forms here and there.

The rather heavy-handed copy in the École des Beaux-Arts (Fig.D.57) of a lost drawing for the center stucco area of the East Wall is executed in pen and ink and wash. Like some of Rosso’s other drawings with architectural parts, such as the Allegory of the Virgin in the British Museum (Fig.D.33A), two of the architectural details here, the uppermost elements at the left and right, are only schematically indicated. These would be more finely articulated in the final work, and so they appear in d’Orbay’s drawing of the East Wall of the gallery (Fig.d’Orbay drawing). D’Orbay’s drawing also shows changes in the height of the oval void and of the frame, in the inclusion of a full entablature, and in the height and postures of the standing figures which now appear to be identical. It is very likely, then, that the original drawing from which the École des Beaux-Arts copy was made, was followed by another drawing by Rosso from which the stuccoes were finally modelled. The basic problem with the first drawing seems to have been a miscalculation of the height of the oval void for the picture that the stucco was to frame and of the height of the wall area that was to be filled. A reconsideration of these factors may then have led to the redesigning of the flanking figures, but for other than practical considerations alone.

The other copy of a lost drawing for stucco, also in the École des Beaus-Arts (Fig.D.62), is related to the oval relief of a Naval Battle in a Port that is beneath the large male nude to the left of the Venus and Minerva. Though a line drawing in pen and ink, it is likely that the lost original, like that for the East Wall, has washes to give its forms relief. As is indicated by other copies of Rosso’s drawings for the gallery in pen and ink and wash of which several versions exist some copyists transcribed only the pen lines that Rosso himself first drew to set out fully his composition. The draughtsmanship of the copy of the lost drawing for the naval battle clearly records one kind of drawing that is Rosso’s of precise and continuous outlines with short strokes to indicate interior details. In most aspects, the stucco relief in the gallery follows this drawing except in the postures and dress of three figures at the lower right. What is happening among these figures—the ways they attack and defend each other—is made more explicit in the relief indicating that a reconsideration of its composition must have been made by Rosso in another drawing from which the stuccoer then worked.

The partial copy in the École des Beaux-Arts (Fig.D.54B) of the lost drawing for the first version of the Sacrifice is probably the best record of this kind of drawing on dark paper with white highlights that Rosso made for the gallery. The partial copy of the same lost drawing in the Louvre (Fig.D.50C), without washes, seems very much to reflect his penmanship of the lost original. Where these two partial copies coincide, the evidence of each shows how careful the copyists wished to be, even when the draughtsmanship is rather clumsy as in the Louvre copy or, as in the latter version, where a dark ground and white highlights were not used. As this version of the Sacrifice was not executed, it cannot be compared with a fresco in the gallery. But, in the lost drawing some of the architecture—the cornice of the altar—was again only schematically rendered, as in the drawing for the stuccoes of the East Wall. This was later elaborated, as were other parts of the altar, as in a print attributed to Delaune (Fig.E.50), and in the reversed drawing related to it, in the École des Beaux-Arts (Fig.D.51). One must assume that the cornice of the altar would also have been elaborated in the fresco had this scene been painted in the gallery, and perhaps earlier in the cartoon for this painting if this composition would ever have reached that stage, which is unlikely. There is, however, the possibility that a slightly later drawing may have been the basis of Delaune’s print and its related drawing. For the print shows a standing child in the lower right corner (in the lower left in the drawing) that does not appear in the copy of Rosso’s lost drawing in Göttingen (Fig.D.50A). A comparable figure is in the executed fresco.

Another copy in the École des Beaux.-Arts (Fig.D.53), of a lost drawing for the early and oval version of the Education of Achilles, is almost identical to the fresco in the gallery except for the enlargement of the figures of the swimming and spearing scenes in the foreground; the moving of the former somewhat to the left and the addition of a patch of land at the lower right, all done to accommodate the scene to the rectangular format of the fresco. The most significant other change is the dressing of Achilles in a cuirass shown in the three scenes at the right in the fresco, leaving him naked only in the swimming episode. A nude youth standing on the balcony and the adult spectators under the columns at the left are also dressed in the fresco, and one figure, just right of center, bald in the drawing, as occurs frequently in Rosso’s drawings, is given hair in the painting. The piers of the railing have been decorated in the fresco, and the third one shows the “Royal F.” All of these relatively minor changes seem wholly appropriate to the scene as executed, and all would seem to have been made by Rosso in a later drawing that was used by his assistants.

A circular drawing signed “Leonard Thierry” in the Bibliothèque Nationale (Fig.D.56) is a copy of a lost drawing for the round frescoed Allegory of Deceit to the right of the Loss of Perpetual Youth. Once again, architectural details are simplified; becoming more detailed and slightly altered in their proportions in the painting, and a small bit of wall is added at the upper right. There are also other details added to the fresco such as more plants growing upon the architecture, a stump behind the male statue, a fuller landscape with a running figure at the lower right, fewer buildings in the center background, a filled armorial shield on the large pier in the center, and bees buzzing around Hecate’s head. The pose of the old man at the lower left is slightly altered. One of the additions, the bees, is iconographically significant, and their appearance in the final picture must be attributable to Rosso. So, too, must all the other details that elaborate this scene in the fresco and make it pictorially and dramatically more effective than the drawing. If the drawing cannot be recognized, and probably rightly so, as having been executed by Rosso himself, then the changes and elaboration of the picture would probably have taken place when the cartoon was made. Rosso may not have liked working in fresco, as Vasari says, but he may well not have been reluctant to work on the cartoons even when assistants may have done the better part of each one. At this stage in preparing the final pictures Rosso may have added in certain cases those final details that his assistants carefully followed in the gallery to make the paintings there so unmistakably convey Rosso’s very personal intentions.

All of the other copies are of lost drawings that were made for the large principal frescoes in the gallery, although two drawings, in Montpellier and Weimar, of the Cremation of a Body (Figs.D.58A-B), are related to a study for a composition that, it may be conjectured, was originally intended for but then not used here. Furthermore, all of the copies that can be compared with the existing frescoes show the closest correspondence to these paintings. There are, however, very minor differences but fewer even in these examples than in the case of the Education of Achilles. Again it might be concluded that the changes that do occur were made when the cartoons were executed, and were determined by Rosso. With the second version of the Sacrifice there is some slight evidence of a second compositional drawing (Figs.D.85A-C) made before the cartoon stage was realized; a second drawing, however, that did not entirely supersede the first (Fig.D.64), when the cartoon was executed.

Of the several compositionally identical copies of a lost drawing for the Royal Elephant the most accurate in terms of its penmanship—and perhaps also, to some extent, of its washes—is the version in the Wildenstein Collection (Fig.D.54C). More differences are noticeable here from what is seen in the related fresco in the gallery than appears in any of the other drawings still to be considered. The major change in the fresco is the appearance of the head of the elephant. The head has become smaller, the ear shorter and more trim, and the bottom of the trunk now curves toward the animal rather than away from it. Someone probably informed Rosso that his first elephant was not correct. Its ear is certainly much too large and ragged even for an African elephant and although an elephant can extend its trunk forward, it does not curl it up in that direction. Unfortunately, the head of the elephant in the fresco has been made too small and the trunk consequently too long. The feet of the animal are also wrong. Nevertheless, the changes in the beast that were made indicate the intention, without a real elephant to work from, to make the animal look more plausible according to whatever information was available. Surely Rosso himself made these changes. The re-designing of this part of the scene carried with it certain other alterations: the strap across the beast’s chest was modified and its bell was removed, the elephant’s forward left foot was set back, and hence, the crane next to it was changed. The pattern of the fleur-de-lis on the elephant’s shabrack was made smaller. At the lower right of the scene the three heads of Cerberus were slightly changed. And in the upper left corner the nude woman was clothed. What is made clear from the evidence of the copies of the lost drawing is that the figure at the upper right, no longer fully visible in the fresco, is a nude figure of Hercules with the lion skin over his head, his right hand on a club, his left holding an orb. He is seated on a throne that has at its side a wingèd creature with lion’s feet.

The one copy in Besançon (Fig.D.54)—done in pen and ink without any washes—of a lost drawing for the Revenge of Nauplius, shows a composition which is only very slightly different in the gallery. The flying hair of some of the figures and the design of the prows of some of the ships are changed, but the only significant alteration is the covering up of Nauplius’s genitals that are dramatically exposed in the drawing. The copies of a lost drawing for the Enlightenment of Francis I, of which one is in the museum at Rennes (Fig.D.61C), shows that only two details were added to the final picture: sandals for the figure of Caesar and clothing for the woman at the far right. One detail was eliminated: the small head of the bearded man between two of the columns of the temple. But these copies present clearly the inscription over the door and the escutcheon over the pediment as well as the words [B]ONI and MALI on the large urns flanking the doorway. Copies of a drawing for the Death of Adonis—the finest of which is located in the Fogg Art Museum (Fig.D.63A)—has a composition identical to that of the fresco except for the design of the chair upon which Adonis is seated, the details of the wheel of Venus’s chariot, and the landscape at the lower right that is more fully described in the fresco. The clouds are also more apparent in the painting.

A fine pen and ink copy, in the École des Beaux-Arts (Fig.D.64), for the final version of the Sacrifice, shows harpies decorating the altar instead of griffins as in the fresco, and a passage of drapery running down and across the back of the foremost vase bearer that does not appear in the painting. Some of the babies have hair in the fresco and the flames of the altar are painterly executed and less tongue-like than they are in the graphic drawing. Otherwise, the drawing is compositionally identical to the fresco. There are, however, also copies of another lost drawing, of which one is in Turin (Fig.D.65C) that is without the “Royal F” on the altar, the blank shield of which now has a slightly raised and oval center, and without the drapery passage on the back of the foremost vase bearer. In respect to this last detail, this second lost drawing is closer to the fresco. But compared to the École des Beaux-Arts copy of the other drawing the copies of the second one are quite monotonous suggesting perhaps that they all go back to a studio drawing that reflected Rosso’s change, perhaps at the cartoon stage, of that one drapery passage. The removal of the “Royal F” would almost certainly seem to indicate that this second last drawing was not made for the fresco. It is very possible that this was the drawing upon which Fantuzzi’s etching (Fig.E.77) was based.

On the subject of prints it is probably safe to say that all the sixteenth century etchings and engravings are derived from drawings by Rosso or from copies of them, and that none are dependent on the frescoes or stuccoes themselves or, in the case of the paintings, on the cartoons made for them. Some copies were made by or for the printmakers, which may account for the removal of the “Royal F” from one drawing related to the Sacrifice. Copies in Montpellier and Weimar (Figs.D.58A-B) of the Cremation of a Body probably partially represent a lost drawing by Rosso, or a copy of it, that was the model of Fantuzzi’s etching of this scene (Fig.E.72). In the copies, one cornice is again only schematically rendered, but this has been appropriately elaborated in the etching. Hair has been added to some of Rosso’s bald figures. Details of other parts of the print may not necessarily be due to Fantuzzi’s invention but may rather represent what appeared in the finer, more complete, and perhaps original drawing that he knew. Nevertheless, from what can be seen in his etching of the Sacrifice, as compared to the drawings that copy a lost drawing that may have been his model, it is possible to see that an accumulation of very small details added by Fantuzzi results in an effect that moves the image away from being sure evidence of what a lost drawing may have looked like. In this case, it seems that he was not even working from a drawing made for the gallery but from a slightly altered version of one. For this reason the prints related to the gallery are not easily evaluated as evidence of Rosso’s intentions as would have originally been indicated by his lost drawings.

There is one drawing, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (Fig.D.60) that was made after a lost drawing by Rosso but which was deliberately modified to be a model for a print, for Boyvin’s identical engraving of the Twins of Catania (Fig.E.11). The penmanship of the drawing copies Rosso’s draughtsmanship but makes it emphatically firm so that it can be easily traced onto a copper plate. Stylus marks show the drawing was used for this purpose. The very methodical red chalk shading of the drawing appears to translate for the purposes of line engraving the washes of Rosso’s lost drawing—or a good copy of it. Certain details of the drawing differ from those in the fresco, such as the clothing of the woman in the foreground at the far left; the ribbing, or lack of it, on the boxes slightly to the right of her; the buildings of the burning city in the background; and the size of the tree at the upper right. Again, these details could have been given their final appearance when the cartoons were made.

The control that Rosso had over his assistants to execute specifically what was represented by his drawings, indicated by the character of the stuccoes that were modelled by them, was equally effective when it came to the painting of the frescoes. For the latter detailed and full-size cartoons were made under Rosso’s immediate supervision and perhaps with his own participation which, as has already been suggested, probably accounts for the small changes that were made at the last moment and which do not appear in the several copies of lost drawings that have come down to us. Still there is one factor in the procedure of producing the final frescoes that is not explained by the surviving visual evidence: the determination of the colors of the frescoes. The colors of all the paintings must have been dictated by Rosso and not merely in what was selected for certain important details but also, as is shown, for example, especially by the Death of Adonis, in what was prescribed as the general coloristic tonality for each or several scenes. One could hypothesize that the cartoons were executed in color and that Rosso was largely responsible for the execution of them. From them his assistants could have transferred his colors to the frescoes. But the lack of evidence in general for the use of colored cartoons for frescoes does not allow for this hypothesis. Instead, it must be thought that Rosso worked continuously in the gallery himself while the frescoes were being executed, dictating to his assistants what colors they were to use. The documents suggest that this was the case. Although the execution of the stuccoes in the gallery was probably begun in 1534 the painters did not start their work until at least a year later. Rosso’s name appears for the first time in the documents in April 1536, as “conducteur desdit ouvrages de stucq et painture” and he is paid the highest sum of any of the artists active at Fontainebleau “pour avoir vacqué, advisé, et conduit lesdits ouvrages.” At this time, the stuccoes were well on the way to completion. Rosso’s name occurs monthly in the documents through November 1536. As a painter, he would appear to have been continuously needed in the gallery during these eight months of the most intense activity on the execution of the frescoes.

It has generally been assumed that all the frescoes in the gallery were executed by Rosso’s assistants. But in spite of Vasari’s comment that Rosso was “sempre nemico del lavorare in fresco” his participation in the execution of the frescoes cannot be altogether dismissed as a possibility. He had done some frescoes in Florence and in Rome, and he may have executed his own fresco in the Pavilion of Pomona. Barocchi believed that the special payments that were made to Rosso between April and November 1536 indicate that he was actually executing works in the gallery, and Pressouyre has made a case for possibly recognizing his hand in some of the frescoes.30 Although it is not necessary to recognize her “maitre A” as Rosso, nor, considering especially how damaged the frescoes are and also how easy it may have been for the assistants to imitiate certain of Rosso’s ways of painting, to identify Rosso’s hand only with certain kinds of manipulation of the paint itself, it may still be possible to sense his active participation in certain scenes and figures rather than in others. For example, the drawing in the Enlightenment of Francis I appears remarkably sure, as does that of the nudes flanking the Education of Achilles and of those surrounding the Death of Adonis. This is also true of parts of the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths and of the Sacrifice. All of these frescoes, or sections of them, compare favorably with his frescoes in Rome, though it is true that given their poor condition a comparison of them with the gallery frescoes is less than wholly satisfactory. For stylistic reasons these scenes and figures in the gallery seem to have been invented late in the years that Rosso made his designs for the gallery, and these parts may in fact all date, as inventions, from 1536, the year Rosso is mentioned in the documents concerning the execution of the decoration of the gallery. It is possible, however, that some of their designs were made before his activity in the gallery began in April of that year. It may never be possible to identify Rosso’s participation in the execution of the frescoes to everyone’s satisfaction but it is most likely that he played a significant role in the final stages of the painting of them.

The general scheme of the disposition of the paintings and stuccoes in the gallery, recognized by Chastel and McAllister Johnson,31 must have been determined very close to the beginning of the consideration of its decoration, at least, one might assume, from the moment that it was decided that all the large pictures would be rectangular, except one on the south wall and those at the ends of the gallery. The basic scheme involved the decoration of the areas at both sides of the large pictures and a small area beneath each. The center area above every large picture on the long walls of the gallery is occupied by a stucco image of the salamander, Francis I’s symbol, in various attitudes and in various stucco settings.32 In each triad of walls of the north and south sides, the main picture of the center wall is flanked by frescoes. All the other main pictures have stuccowork of various kinds at their sides. This scheme, which differentiates the center wall of each triad from the others, probably reflects that early but different kind of differentiation provided by horizontal oval pictures. Beneath each central picture appears a small fresco or stucco relief alternating one after the other in each group of three adjacent wall areas and so arranged that across the gallery each small fresco faces a relief. Though basically this general scheme of the distribution of the subsidiary stucco and painted parts holds true throughout the gallery, with the exception of the handling of the east and West Walls, it does not appear quite so absolute in the actual relationships of stuccoes and paintings. For example, the side panels of the Cleobis and Biton and of the Loss of Perpetual Youth are compositionally very similar with roundels in the center of each. But while the first contains stucco reliefs with frescoes above and below the other roundels contain frescoes with stuccowork entirely around them. Within the overall scheme of the decoration of the gallery the panels on either side of the Loss of Perpetual Youth are considered as largely painted but this is not true. For the stuccowork of them is so extensive as to give these panels very much the same degree of actual plasticity as those on either side of the Cleobis and Biton. The same is almost as true of the panel at the sides of the Unity of the State though the center images here are also painted. The painted scenes beneath the Twins of Catania and the Revenge of Nauplius are extensively framed by stuccowork. Only three pairs of side panels are composed exclusively or almost exclusively of stuccowork: those alongside the Scene of Sacrifice, the Twins of Catania and the Venus and Minerva . Only those flanking the Unity of the State and the Education of Achilles are mainly painted. Consequently, while an underlying scheme of distribution does exist it is very freely manipulated, and to an extent, in the various combinations of paintings and stuccowork, that it is hardly grasped by the spectator as an organizing principle at all.

Equally evasive of immediate recognition is any other scheme of organization, although suggestions of another kind of order do eventually present themselves. A degree of symmetry is created on either side of the wall containing the Royal Elephant by the fully sculptured side areas of the walls on both sides of it containing the Scene of Sacrifice and the Twins of Catania. Then there are repetitions like the roundels of the West and East Walls, the latter known from d’Orbay’s drawing, and at the sides of the Cleobis and Biton and the Loss of Perpetual Youth, though these roundels are not spaced across the gallery in any regular order. The compositions of the West and East Walls were, however, basically the same; though the roundels at the east may have contained painted scenes while those at the west are in relief. At either side of the Unity of the State the frescoes are oval as are those, more or less, flanking the Education of Achilles that occupies a similar position in the center of a triad of walls across and at the other end of the gallery. A dominating relationship is also made between the large stucco figures framing the Enlightenment of Francis I in the southwest corner of the gallery and those framing the Venus and Minerva in the northeast corner, which can further be related to the triads of large female herms in stucco flanking the Danäe. There is also abundant repetition of smaller, figural, architectural and abstract motifs, including the bands of strapwork, and the use of feign gold mosaic behind the border stuccoes and painted figures. Nevertheless, in spite of these associations no consistent pattern of organization of the decoration throughout the gallery emerges aside from that governing the basic distribution of the paintings and stuccowork defined by Chastel and McAllister Johnson.

From what the gallery itself and other evidence present one, has the impression that at a first stage of thinking about the conception of the gallery’s decoration Rosso had a more systematized order in mind, related perhaps to the scheme of the decoration of the Pavilion of Pomona, as planned and as, perhaps, differently executed, where the stuccowork of its two walls was the same although the central frescoed scenes on each wall were, of course, not. Nothing quite so repetitive was probably ever envisioned for the much larger gallery. But as has already been suggested, a more apparent order of at least each group of three adjacent walls may have initially been entertained, with an oval picture occupying each center wall. Such an arrangement would have clearly subdivided the gallery into four distinct groups of three walls each. Then with the addition of the center, south wall area a new arrangement seemed possible to Rosso. The subdivisions gave way to a greater unity of design for the entire gallery centered around this new wall area with its horizontal oval relief and symmetrical setting, framed at the ends by the similar schemes of the small East and West Walls with their upright oval pictures, and bonded diagonally by the association of the large stucco figures in the southwest and northeast corners. A greater unity was, it seems, also achieved by making all the other large pictures horizontal rectangles. Conceived in these new terms that brought a greater all-embracing cohesion of design to the gallery, the individual designs of the twelve lateral walls with rectangular center pictures could, possibly, be more varied. This could partially account for their extraordinary diversity, though in each case a diversity within the triptych scheme of each wall with a stucco salamander above and a small central motif below the main picture.

Aside from lost festival decorations employing stucco sculpture and paintings that may have influenced Rosso, to some extent the major earlier decorative schemes of painting and sculpture, in stucco or marble, to which the decoration of the gallery can be compared are those of the Sistine Ceiling and the Medici Chapel; the Raphaelesque schemes of the Vatican Loggie, the Sala dei Pontefici, the Palazzo Branconio dell’Aquila, and the Villa Madama,33 as well as the early projects involving painting and stucco by Giulio Romano at the Palazzo del Te. To the latter should be added what is reflected of Giulio’s project in Primaticcio’s decoration of the Chambre du Roi at Fontainebleau. Comparisons could also be made with Perino del Vaga’s decorations in the Palazzo Imperiale in Genoa although it is unlikely that Rosso knew anything of them.34 Different as these schemes of decoration are from each other they all have one aspect in common: an architectural or decorative framework that is not only consistent from one part of the ensemble to another but one the order of which is also clearly visible. Even the great variety of the decoration of the vaults of the Vatican Loggie is contained within the same scheme of division and distribution of parts for each vault that are very closely related to the architecture itself. Whether composed of ribs, pilasters, piers, niches, moldings, herms, and any combination of them, these elements, ornamental as they may also be, establish a firm structural basis, in appearance at least, that contains the other pictorial and figural elements. It is true that on the Sistine Ceiling the relationship of the figures to the feigned architecture is not quite so simple—and in its complexities Rosso’s gallery is closer to Michelangelo’s decoration than to the schemes by Raphael, Guilio and Primaticcio35—but there is no real lack of distinction between the role of each. This was most probably also true of the lost festival decorations that Rosso knew, including the triumphal arch he created in 1515 (L.9). In the Gallery of Francis I, the decoration within the simple tripartite order of each wall is so diversified from one wall to another that the basic similarity of them tends to be obscured. Furthermore, aside from some framing and architectural details and the feigned gold mosaic backgrounds there are no large elements clearly repeated on each wall in the gallery that consistently structure its decoration. Nor is the use of painting and of stucco, except in the alternation of them, determined by any decided principle of where they will be used or what they will describe. Although all frames and architectural framing elements are executed in stucco, the floral, animal and figural parts of the decoration, except for the central picture, are done in fresco as well as in stucco. The putti underneath the stucco roundels that flank the Cleobis and Biton are painted, those beneath the tondi at either side of the Loss of Perpetual Youth are done in high stucco relief. Both carry approximately the same decorative weight in the gallery in much the same way that the large painted figures alongside the Royal Elephant and the Education of Achilles do in relation to the large stucco figures in the southwest and northeast corners of the gallery.

While in their present condition, the frescoes, especially the subsidiary ones, tend to be less emphatic than the stuccoes, the original relationship of them can, with some effort, still be appreciated. The figures and animals painted around the large stucco faun and fauness flanking the Enlightenment of Francis I are quite abraded today so that the high sculpted figures appear set off more boldly in front of the painted elements than must have been the case in the sixteenth century. Certainly, the actual plasticity of the sculpture and its whiteness always provided a clear distinction between it and the painting. But the feigned plasticity of the painted figures—here conceived as standing on top of the large plastic bands set behind the large faun and fauness—and their color once provided them with even greater relief from the feign gold mosaic wall against which they are set. In certain cases—on the walls containing the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths, the Death of Adonis, and the Cleobis and Biton—the strength of the lateral frescoes set above and below large and well preserved stucco panels is so severely diminished that a decidedly false impression must now result. For the design of these frescoes are bolder than that of the stuccoes with which they are associated. In the three parts of the gallery—not including the West Wall—where the lateral decoration is entirely, or almost entirely, composed of stuccowork, the largeness and central position of the main, rectangular fresco maintains its value against the possible encroachment of the plasticity of the flanking sculptures. This is, in fact, true in all cases; the importance of the central scene is never compromised by the richness of its surroundings, whether they are composed of stucco or of a combination of painting and sculpture.

It is at the sides, the top, and the bottom of these central pictures that the rich and varied decoration of the gallery is placed. It sets off each main picture, like a frame, although each central picture also has a simple rectangular frame of its own and of the same design in each case, giving the aspect of a quadro riportato.36 Because the composition of each setting is different it calls attention to the specialness of each wall, to the specialness of its own frame of reference. But the recurrence of certain motifs—such as nude youths in stucco, some with wings, seated and standing on the ledges of the ornament; putti, painted and sculptured, and, scattered here and there; garlands and bunches of fruits and vegetables; salamanders; strapwork; masks; and shields—serve to suggest another kind of frame of reference that it carried from one wall of the gallery to another. Yet its parts are never carried altogether from one place to another. A shift always occurs in the relationship of these elements except for the position of the salamander in the center above the main picture. Some of the elements do not appear on some walls, and some motifs appear only once. To a large extent, the vocabulary and order of the ornament of the frames do not resemble those in the narrative frescoes and stuccoes so that the world of the pictures is not confused with the more purely decorative realm of the gallery. Nevertheless, some correspondences do exist. The high-pitched stucco altar with long strapwork volutes at the right of the Scene of Sacrifice is similar to the altar in that painting. In the Cleobis and Biton fresco the lamp hanging before the white seated statue of the goddess is like the painted lamp in the lower right corner of the decoration of this wall and like the stucco lamp above the stucco altar to the right of the Scene of Sacrifice. Similar also are the little vases in the Venus and Minerva fresco and the stucco vases at the sides of the Revenge of Nauplius. The strapwork and cherub’s head at the front of Venus’s chariot in the Death of Adonis are details that also appear in the decorative ensembles of the settings in the gallery. There are other such small correspondences but all of them together do not constitute a significant body of cross-references between the pictures in the gallery and its decorative elements.

The abundance, even super-abundance, of diverse motifs and combinations of motifs in the gallery, enhanced in effect by the largeness of them—and hence unlike Roman grotesque decoration—and by their execution in stucco and in painting, provides not only an apparently endless sequence of enjoyable experiences but also a degree of bewilderment. This is also true of what is represented as part of the context of this extraordinary decorative richness. For this richness is thematic as well as ornamental or, perhaps, iconographic as well as decorative. Both of these aspects of the gallery are complex and apparently comparably oblique in the relationships of their parts, and one does not necessarily clarify the intentions of the other. The tripartite division of each wall, governed originally, it seems, by the placement of the cross beams in the gallery, along with the salamander in the center above and a painted or stucco scene below, establish a repeated system of relationships of the thematic and compositional elements of the decoration. But while on some walls, such as the one with the Loss of Perpetual Youth in the center, the three major parts are narrative (or at least present scenes) and hence appear pictorially related to each other. In other instances, such as the wall with the Revenge of Nauplius, the center scene has no similarly obvious visual connection with the architectural and sculptural panels that flank it. Some of the main pictures have large figures standing at either side, apparently conveying in their relationship some other and quite different kind of meaning from that of the central painting. One wall, with the Combat of the Centaurs and Lapiths, has stucco panels with priests at the sides that seem to refer less directly to the picture they frame and more to the Scene of Sacrifice diagonally across the entire gallery. The thematic content of these two walls serves to connect them as the large stucco figures in the opposite diagonal corners link these corners, but in the latter case in a manner that is visually clearer to recognize. An elephant and an altar occupy two very small spaces in the decorative area around the Revenge of Nauplius suggesting a relationship with the Scene of Sacrifice and the Royal Elephant. And the central scene in the Nauplius episode showing Nauplius standing in his boat may have some relationship to the boat ride of the scene at the right of the Unity of the State. Considered in its entirety the handling of the iconography of the gallery appears to have some of the same kind of shifting and fluid character as does the nature and disposition of the gallery’s many visual components and motifs.

The Iconography of the Gallery of Francis I

The iconography of the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I is not a settled matter, nor will it be settled here. It is very probable that the very nature of its iconographical framework prevents the reconstruction of a program made initially to govern the subjects represented in the gallery and the distribution of them. The visual order of the decoration, clear as it appears to be in one sense, is also elusive, and this seems to be true of the iconography of the gallery as well. Furthermore, the order of the decoration—basically the tripartite scheme of each wall with the salamander above and a cartouche below—is not absolutely indicative of a similarly equally apparent or matching iconographical scheme, although in some cases this is more the case than not. Certain elements of the iconography are narrative, others, even in their complexity, are more purely symbolic. But as the elements, with the exception of certain architectural and decorative motifs, are realistically representational they have a dimension that necessarily extends their meaning into the realm of subjective interpretation. This is no less true with most Renaissance art where the extensive range of the possible appearance of things affects any iconographical program set out first in mere words in the rare cases when it was or may have been. When so many elements are involved as in the Gallery of Francis I, the number of relationships that can be found seems almost endless. It is not improbable that this was intended. For while the large number of discrete scenes and figures and things described, including architectural and decorative details, had to be determined in some manner before they were actually executed, only some of their relationships had to be precisely calculated in order to generate the appearance of many more. When, then, the number and kinds of sources drawn upon are so varied to begin with, as a glance at the decoration of the gallery immediately discloses, and so diversely associated, as further study indicates, the issue of iconographical meaning becomes a complex one. So complex is the iconographical meaning of the program of the gallery’s decoration, in fact, that soon after it was done Francis I, who would not have been obliged to understand all that the gallery presented, seems to have had the help of one “Modon” to explain to the English ambassador Wallop what he saw when he visited the gallery on 17 November 1540.37 It should be pointed out that this visit took place just three days after Rosso died when the king would still have been mourning the loss of his principal artist and inventor of his greatest work of that monarch. Within one hundred years of its creation the significance of the decoration had been to a great extent lost. In 1625, Cassaino del Pozzo misidentified or only vaguely recognized the subjects of some of the large pictures in the gallery. The subjects of some pictures were also unknown to Père Dan in 1642. On the basis of a few details that appear in the tapestries made from the decorations in the gallery it may be possible to suggest that the meaning of it had already begun to disintegrate in the 1540s.38

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, attempts were made to understand the original meaning of the decoration of the gallery,39 and these were more or less accepted in the nineteenth century. But it has only been within the last forty years or so that a significant amount of serious research has been done40 leading, if not to a general consensus on the gallery’s precise iconographical meaning, at least to an accumulation of facts and interpretations that suggest the possible realms in which this meaning exists. This research forms the basis of what is presented below.

Only one sixteenth century document related to the decoration of the gallery gives any indication of what is, or what was intended to be, represented there. A record of payments to painters and other workers of 28 August 1533—for preparing the walls?—states that the king “a naguerre ordonné estre pourtraict et painct plusieurs histoires anciennes et modernes” for “sa grant gallerye.”41 But this statement could mean almost any number and kinds of stories. Otherwise, the room is designated always as the “gallerie” or the “grande gallerie” without any other specification that might have suggested something of the nature of the subjects that would be appropriate for its decoration. It is, however, already referred to as the “Galleria del Re” in the 1554 edition of Vasari’s Lives, and Cellini also referred to it as the king’s gallery.42 Not that this alone would necessarily give any indication of the content of the embellishments of the room. But as the top center of each wall section of the north and south sides of the gallery exhibits the royal salamander and as Francis I’s symbols also appear elsewhere in the room, it is obvious that its decoration must be related to him. The other symbol used is the “Royal F” sometimes encircled by a crown, and it appears both isolated and in association with the salamander. But the two never appear entertwined or superimposed to form a single emblematic configuration. And while the “Royal F” sometimes appears more than once on a wall, it is missing altogether from some of the walls. The salamander is never missing (except perhaps on the East and West Walls); in some cases the animal actually appears twice.43 The salamander was adopted as a symbol by Francis I’s grandfather, Count Jean d’Angoulême, and was used by his son Count Charles, who seems to have added the fire in which the salamander, as used by Francis, is placed, and the grains of wheat falling from the animal’s mouth that appear in some representations of it in the gallery.44 Although the flaming slamander was used in 1504 on the reverse of a coin showing the young Francis’s profile portrait on the other side,45 its employment as an emblem in the gallery need not merely signify him, but his grandfather and more certainly his father as well.46 The “Royal F” of course was personal to the king. It is therefore possible that the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I, while it undoubtedly refers, and in certain instances very specifically, to the monarch himself,47 also has dynastic meaning beyond the individual claims of Francis himself and the vicissitudes of his life. In this vein the iconographical program could possibly also make reference to his heir, the Dauphin Francis, who would unexpectedly die, however, before the gallery was completed. The Death of Adonis appears to refer to this personal tragedy. In addition to the salamander and the “Royal F,” the fleur-de-lis is used four times in the gallery, to signify France it would seem.48

It has to be recalled that the earliest pictures painted for the gallery, and the only two actually executed by Rosso himself, had mythological subjects. These were the two oval oil paintings that decorated the center of the East and West Walls, one showing Bacchus (or Bacchus and Venus), the other Venus for Cupid and Venus, Psyche and Cupid, or Venus, Psyche and Cupid). These two pictures are lost but the gallery still has a variety of scenes, in painting and in stucco, that are mythological, including the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths and the Death of Adonis, as well as the Danäe by Primaticcio. Surmounted as these three scenes are by the royal salamander and associated with the emblematic “Royal F” as well, these pictures, although they are mythological, must also be related to Francis I and the Angoulême line. But their relationship to Francis I seems different from that suggested by the Unity of the State where the king actually appears, and by such a picture as the Royal Elephant where his presence is emblematically indicated on the trappings of the animal.

Two of the large pictures are related to the history of Troy: the Revenge of Nauplius and the Education of Achilles. A third, the Twins of Catania, along with some of the elements that surround it, may refer to Troy. The Cremation of a Body, which may have been intended for the area now occupied by the Death of Adonis, may also be derived from Trojan history. One stucco scene, under the Royal Elephant, may be related to the legend or history of Alexander the Great (which recalls Vasari’s mistaken belief, in 1568, that the entire gallery was devoted to episodes from the life of this hero).49 In all of these representations some aspect of Francis I’s role as man, and as monarch of France, must be acknowledged.

It may, therefore, be possible to recognize five kinds of references in the gallery: personal, monarchic, dynastic, historic and mythological, all of which must be related to Francis I, to the Angoulême line, and to France. But what cannot be recognized is any clear demarcation of them into five discreet iconographical systems existing in some absolutely pre-determined order in relation to each other. Once such a division and order are demanded the iconographical character of the gallery will appear insufficient, for its real character is more often suggestive and mulitfaceted than explicit and single-minded. The variety of its frames of reference and their relationships are at least as diverse as that of the decoration of the walls. But a division or order not apparent in the visual aspects of the gallery should not be sought in its thematic content. Nor should the possibility be dismissed that the iconographic program of the gallery, outlined though it surely was at the beginning, developed in complexity and changed some in its character as it was given visual form in the designs made for the decoration of the gallery.

The discussions of the iconography of the gallery, or of parts of it, by Terrasse, Barocchi, Lövgren, Alleau and Destanque, Dora and Erwin Panofsky, Guerts, Pressouyre, Chastel, McAllister Johnson, Béguin, and Zerner, though they do not all agree, present the several frames of references in which an interpretation of the iconography of the gallery must be made.50 Those authors who have dealt entirely with the iconography of the gallery all recognize some kind of order that brings together the various parts of the gallery: the pairing of the walls across from each other that are also connected physically by the transverse beams of the room; the division of the gallery into three parts of two bays each; the division of the gallery into two parts of three bays each; associations of the decorations of walls next to each other; associations diagonally across the gallery from one end to the other; a diamond arrangement that originally embraced the four mythological paintings of the end walls, the middle of the south wall, and the North Cabinet; and a zig-zag connection of the west half and of the east half of the wall areas of the north and south sides. Some of these various kinds of order are created by the physical aspects of the gallery itself, some by the disposition of the paintings and stucco, and some by thematic relationships evident almost immediately.51 The interpretations of the gallery also range from a very direct, although allegorical and symbolic, connection between what is represented and specific events in Francis I’s life to an association of the decoration with more abstract and timeless qualities of Francis I as a monarch, of his reign, of his country, and of the culture that he supported. The one kind of interpretation does not necessarily exclude the other, for in some cases both seem possible as an ambivalent collaboration. But it is likely that the meaning of the gallery was never actually devised, by such men as Guillaume Budé, Lazare de Baïf, Andrea Alciati, and Giulio Camillo Delminio,52 or known in the sixteenth century in the sense that modern investigations have tended to seek and define it.

Although relationships of subject and form exist between the decoration of one wall area and another, the size of the gallery and of its wall areas, and the separation of the latter by large windows, make it virtually impossible to see more than one decorated unit at a time. The seat for two people originally placed across from each section of wall of the north and south sides made possible the contemplation of each wall area (and of conversation about it) quite independently from the rest of the room. Recollections of the formal and thematic content of one area in the context of another were certainly always intended but as the parts of two separate walls can barely be seen together or cannot be seen together at all, there is substantial justification in reviewing the gallery first of all as a series of individual experiences aligned on the walls around one. Only after the decorations of the gallery are fairly well known wall -for-wall can verification of the relationships between them be made, by moving from one wall to the other. However, this belongs to another level of experience that only more time in the gallery can produce. It is therefore legitimate to begin here in the first manner, accumulating an understanding of all parts of the gallery in the way in which a visit to it actually allows.

In the case of each wall area what is represented will be specifically described first, beginning with the central picture and then proceeding to what appears at the sides and at the top and bottom of it. An extensive consideration of every detail is required because all details command the spectator’s attention in seeking to understand the entire decoration. It must be recalled under each section of the gallery was a seat to accommodate two visitors. From it they could observe the opposite wall and comment upon what they saw and found there. This does not mean that every visitor came with a companion or that each visit brought with it a complete viewing of every detail of every wall of the gallery’s decoration. The contemplation of this decoration is inexhaustible but it is also finite. And while memory would serve the spectators to recall what was seen as they moved along to another wall it is unlikely that everything already seen could be remembered as the gallery’s decorations were observed. In the end the understanding of the decorations would always remain incomplete and lie just beyond the ambition to find it. Herein is probably an intention to place the experience of the gallery and its relationship to Francis I, his kingdom, his authority, and the glory of France beyond knowledge in an aura of majesty.

The careful descriptions that follow will include a consideration of the manner in which each wall area is visually organized and in which each part is stylistically conceived, followed by a summing up of what was accounted for in a variety of ways as prompted by the decoration itself. Thirdly, an account of the possible meaning or meanings of each detail and unit will be attempted. Afterwards, relationships with other parts of the gallery will be sought. None of these stages of presentation can stand alone as all of them in some way infringe upon what is seen and thought each time that the decoration is looked at and considered. A mode is, however, required to deal with the multiple facets of the decoration of the gallery, and this one approaches them in a manner comparable to a way that they seem to bring themselves to our attention. The attention given to the richness of what is presented may not always take precedent over the attention given to the richness of how it is presented. Both determine our experience of the gallery.

The individual walls will be considered one after the other as they face each other in the gallery on the north and south walls. Although this is not the way one actually proceeds in the gallery—it is physically easier walking in the room to view a group of three along the walls—it does correspond to one rather obvious system of formal relationships, and in certain cases to equally obvious thematic ones. As the pictures in the gallery do not constitute a narrative cycle there is no certain beginning point in the decoration. It has recently been thought that the easternmost wall area on the north side initiates the program of the decoration because the entrance to the gallery right next to it in the East Wall, and was the entrance most used when the room was first completed.53 But entering from there now (or from the door in the West Wall) hardly gives one much of a point of view to see seriously anything at all in the gallery. It should be remembered that originally neither of the entrances in the end walls was elaborated in any special way and were actually more or less concealed in the wood paneling. The gallery as a whole would best have been seen standing in the doorway of the north cabinet, which no longer exists. Beginning, however, at one end allows for a regular approach to the decorations in the gallery and the eastern end has been chosen as the starting place here. After discussing the twelve paired walls, the end walls, and the center one on the south side, the destroyed entrance to the north cabinet and the lost north cabinet itself will be considered. What appears now and is original in the gallery will be of primary concern here; additional material will be used only if it helps to clarify the character of the decoration of the gallery as it was actually executed.

As it is imperative for what is to be understood of the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I, the contents of gallery are inventoried here. An attempt has been made to include every detail in the following descriptions and name it correctly. It is possible that some detail has been overlooked or identified in a manner that is faulty or misleading and that consequently already prejudices the interpretation that is sought. In these possible cases, it is hoped that the reader who recognizes these mistakes will take account of the missing detail or details and/or identification or identifications and be able to reflect upon an alternative interpretation or interpretations. The results may not everywhere be secure and it may be in the nature of the enterprise of the gallery and its meaning that no exact conclusions are available. Even here, however, the meaning of the gallery makes itself evident as a project that evolved as it was being conceived and executed. Consequently, it allowed the spectator seated with a companion on one of the finely carved benches across from each separate wall to engage in interpretations themselves as they searched the myriad of details that make up the decoration of this gallery made for Francis I.     


I North: Venus and Minerva

(Fig.P.22,I North)

P.22,I North Venus and Minerva

The central picture (Fig. Venus and Minerva) shows a nude young woman with light brown hair wearing two necklaces and green, pink-lavender, and white drapery set back on her head. She is standing in a pool with the water up to her knees. The pool is part of the architecture of a large room, the unseen upper part of which is supported by five slightly Solomonic columns that are violet and ochre in color and strigel-fluted at the bottom and green and carved with vines and leaves above. At the left of the nude woman and at the edge of the pool is a high square structure with two large intertwined violet tritons at its base and with vases on plinths above them. The small dome of the structure supports a dark statue of a male nude, seen from the front, with the back of his left hand against his hip. Farther to the left is an unarticulated wall with a green doorway, and visible behind the statue is a groin-vaulted chamber. The nude bathing woman looks to the right in the direction of the room’s foremost column to which a putto is clinging and in back of which another putto partly supports a large book that is held slightly open in front of the column. With her arms spread wide apart the nude woman seems to be responding to something, possibly to something heard rather than seen. Behind her on the step in back of the pool stands a fully and richly clothed woman with her body turned to the right but with her head turned down and to the left in the direction of the nude woman; this clothed figure has her hands raised and clasped in front of her, perhaps in a gesture of pleading. The position of her legs suggests that she has just moved forward and taken one step down to approach the bathing woman.

In the distance and slightly to the right of the clothed woman is an opening through which can be seen the unbridled heads of two horses, one brown, the other white. In the very foreground of the picture, in addition to the two putti at the base of the column at the right, there is a putto sprawled on his back on a piece of drapery at the edge of the pool, his face turned away from us and his left arm bent over his head. Another, but wingless putto, with a blue-green sash wrapped around his body, stands at the side of the draped woman; he looks up at her with his arms raised before him. Above fly four more putti, the one at the upper left carrying a shield with a horrific figure upon it,54 the second supporting a lance, the third with his hands outside the picture area, and the fourth, in the upper right corner, sporting a large helmet on his head, the three colorful plumes of which—yellow, pink, and lavenderfall down alongside the foremost green column.

The lateral panels (Pair Figs. Stucco Left & Stucco Right) that frame this picture are entirely of stucco except for the garlands of fruits and vegetables painted in vertical framed panels at the embrasure of the windows. At the left is a large and almost full-round male nude, looking left; at the right a nude female, looking right. The vines and drapery that cover their genitals are later additions and do not appear in Fantuzzi’s etching (Fig.E.70). The man is standing but is supporting himself against the architecture behind him and upon the platform beneath his right foot. He glances down the length of the gallery. The woman is more seated on the architecture; she looks down in the direction of the east entrance to the gallery and with her right hand appears to recommend the central picture of this wall to us. Both nudes are ideal and in their modeling evoke a sensual immediacy in spite of their whiteness. The architecture behind them is composed of two piers with a rectangular niche between them into which the bodies of the figures are partially set. Above each of their heads is a large band of thick strapwork with masks in its cut out side openings. Part of a pilaster is placed upon it terminating in inward turning volutes between which originally the ceiling beams were set; there is now a basket of fruit here.55 The head of a long-eared dog appears beneath each basket, and two small garlands of fruit supported by ribbons hang beneath these heads. Behind the legs of the side figures are two more large bands of strapwork, thinner and more fully curled forward. Each of these has a large oval stucco relief set against it, the one beneath the man showing a naval battle in a port (Fig.Naval Battle) and the other a battle of men on horses (Fig. Battle of Men on horses).

Above the large side figures and at either side of the motifs that crown the flanking niches are four active nude adolescents in stucco seated on the frames of the garland panels and the center picture. Some of these figures partly straddle the strapwork; two of them have a foot on the upper molding of the piers. Above the center of the large picture is a gilt salamander, looking down and growling, and set partly in a square niche from which flames arise. At either side of this animal is the painted head of a satyr on a feigned gold mosaic background that continues, though hidden behind the side stuccoes, to the edges of the wall area.

Fig. Centered Framed small fresco of south exterior of gallery

Framed small fresco of south exterior of gallery

Beneath the large center picture is a small square framed fresco showing the exterior of the gallery, the terrace and pool in front of it, along with the Porte Dorée, the causeway leading to it, and part of the newly built additions to the château at the right. The bell tower of the chapel of the Trinity appears at the far left. This small picture is flanked by imitation red marble panels where there may have been garlands originally. At the far left and right, underneath the panels with painted garlands, are cut scrolls of stucco with a rosette in the center of each and leaves at the sides.

Dominated by the colorful and large central picture but boldly framed by the impressive white stucco arrangements at either side of it the decoration of this wall has something of the aspect of a large coat-of-arms set off by highly sculptured sentinel figures. Only the great strapwork bands are actually escutcheon-like but visually the total effect of the decoration of this wall is emblematic. For the relationship of its parts is not immediately apparent and implies a connection between them that is not realistic nor simply narrative in spite of the decoration’s recognizable subject matter. The large side figures are not on the same scale as the adolescent youths above them although both are equally plastic and occupy the same spatial setting suggested by the architectural motifs of the decoration. By their large size—they are two of the largest figures in the gallery—their beautiful nudity, and their alertness, the flanking male and female figures impose an ideal of special intelligence upon this wall of the gallery. Above their heads the dogs’ heads and the garlands of fruit suggest Fontainebleau itself, its château or grand hunting-lodge with its surrounding woods and gardens. A sylvan location seems also indicated by the satyrs’ heads and the nude adolescents. The Angoulême flaming salamander guards the bold entrance to its abode, the recently renovated and enlarged château of which a part, its baths, is metaphorically depicted in the central painting and in the small picture beneath it. The battle scenes occupy positions that are physically beneath the large sculptured nudes that are probably meant symbolically triumphant over the war the reliefs depict. The legs of the female nude actually cover part of the land battle which, to some extent at least, reduces its legibility and therefore possibly also its significance in relation to the intended greater value of the other parts of the decoration of this wall. Peace underlies the splendor of the decoration of this wall nearest to what seems to have been the entrance to the gallery from the king’s apartment.

As true throughout the gallery the large rectangular picture dominates the decoration of the wall. In spite of the richness of its stucco setting, the size and central position as well as the narrative character of the main picture focus one’s attention more specifically than do the framing elements. The central fresco shows a scene set in a large architectural complex that has, however, less a rationale of form than, apparently, one of content. The arrangement of its various parts hardly allows an understanding of it structurally; rather it presents several frames of references, the implied thematic character of which is more important than any architectural logic. Part of the ensemble is a bathhouse; the statue and groin-vaulted hall behind it suggest a sanctuary; and the large blank wall at the left with its single entrance could possibly indicate a fortress. All of these kinds of buildings correspond to parts of Francis I’s château. At the least one has to recognize that both the central picture and the small scene of the château beneath it, contain pools of water that can be identified with the name of Fontainebleau. (Furthermore, it might be recalled, that baths were built beneath the gallery although probably not until after Rosso’s death.) But the architecture of the large painting is fanciful, forming the appropriate setting for an event that can only metaphorically be related to the château that this picture decorates.

The figures in the painting, even considering the damage they have sustained, have less illusionistic immediacy in their pictorial context than the fully modeled nudes that surround the picture. While the painted figures are demonstrative, they are not active with the same kind of physical or emotional presence that seem to inhabit the stucco figures. The painted figures appear to move and gesticulate in response to the demands of the narrative rather than in reaction to apparent feelings that could bring such narrative into vital existence. The execution of the painting by an assistant may have something to do with the possibly unclear direction given by the nude woman’s glance and perhaps uncertain placement of her left arm and hand. Still, one also senses that absolute explicitness in these details was not required because what is described is all that was necessary to prompt a response to other sources of special knowledge that it may be supposed were held by the spectator. As a result of ignorance of this knowledge the subject of the picture has never been satisfactorily defined.

That the nude woman is Venus has generally been accepted; her youth, her idealized—even too idealized—beauty and her placement in a pool almost guarantee this. Furthermore, Venus is (or was) found several times elsewhere in the gallery and, therefore, her appearance here can be placed in a context that embraces larger aspects of the iconography of the gallery.

The second most important figure in the composition has never been identified: the draped woman standing behind Venus who seems to have moved forward from the back of the composition. At either side of her fly putti holding a shield, a lance and a helmet; they handle these instruments of war playfully as though they are of no serious use here. This is quite unlike the way in which the other object associated with a putto is handled: the book in the lower right hand corner of the composition. It is set forward, slightly opened, not as something to be played with but as an object set out for careful attention.

Center Fig. Shield of Minerva & Minerva’s Horses

Minerva’s shield

The three pieces of armor—the shield shows what remains of the Gorgon’s head—and the book can all be associated with Minerva as the goddess of war. So also can the battle horses and dogs seen in the distance [unverified by E.C. Ja.S.]. It is possible, then, that the second woman in Rosso’s composition is this goddess who does not wear her warrior’s armor because she comes to Venus in peace as the goddess of wisdom and the goddess of the arts. Here she would come to implore Venus to introduce into her realm the peaceful benefits of learning, symbolized by the book in the picture, and at Fontainebleau, indicated not only by the pool in which Venus stands but also by the small view of the château beneath the large fresco.56 A print by Léon Davent (Master L.D.) after a design by Primaticcio probably used for a decoration at Fontainebleau57 shows Minerva in a large mantle looking at a large open book propped against her unworn armor and unused weapons piled beside her. (see Zerner, 1969 L.D. 27). In the painting in the Gallery of Francis I Minerva has just entered the realm of Venus and the large, but only partly open book is barely discoverable in a shadowed corner of the scene proferred by the putto from behind a column. The process has just begun of bringing together Minerva and Venus, of introducing the virtues of learning and the arts into the palace of the goddess of love.58 While Minerva’s pose and gesture seem to indicate pleading, those of the reclining putto, who by his prominent place next to Venus must indicate he is Cupid, described as asleep—as even more clearly seen in the closed eyes of Cupid in the etching of the early version of this scene [Fig. E.138]—and hence without the power of carnal love that is otherwise his in the realm of Venus.59

This picture has been interpreted to signify the departure of Mars for war indicated by his absence from the scene.60] But such a reading requires the giving of major importance to a figure that is not there at all. And it takes too seriously what is actually the playful activity of the putti carrying the shield, lance, and helmet. As in Rosso’s Venetian drawing of Mars and Venus where the putti toss lilies and roses, the putti in the fresco toss the objects around and do so as though they are now of no use. The putti are not taking them anywhere—to a supposed Mars waiting for them outside with his horses—but are more likely showing that other, warlike, aspect of Minerva that she has left aside for the moment. (In the etching of this scene Minerva is all but naked from the waist up.) Furthermore, the departure of Mars, signifying Francis I, would introduce into the gallery the element of abandonment of the very ideals that prompted the enlargement and decoration of the very château that is represented on this wall. It is true that war is also indicated by the reliefs beneath the large flanking nudes of a battle of men on horses and a naval battle. But as these scenes are placed beneath the large ideal stucco figures, who thus in a sense rise above them, the handsome and beautiful nudes would seem to indicate virtues that triumph over the ignorance and carnality of war.

The decoration of this wall does then in a sense introduce us to the Gallery of Francis I. But it does not necessarily lead us directly to a sequence of representations that follow from its particular meaning. Something of the same theme is also found at the opposite end of the gallery in the Enlightenment of Francis I and its surrounding decoration for anyone who might enter the gallery there. Between these two termini many other themes are explored that have equal value in the context of the room’s overall decoration.

*          *          *

Immediately to the right of the wall with Venus and Minerva is a door matching the casement window across from it that leads to the stairway of Saint Louis built in the nineteenth century. To the right of this door is a section of wall only slightly less wide than the door itself [Fig.Northeast, d]. Above the wood paneling, the edge of this wall next to the door is decorated with a framed vertical panel painted with a garland as appears flanking the embrasures of all the windows in the gallery. Above and below this garland panel are two stucco volutes. At the right of the garland panel is a large framed panel of feigned marble; above it are two stucco, wingèd putti on either side of a lyre-shaped pedestal upon which the putti are holding a foliated double-facing “Royal F.” At the bottom of the wall stands a small stucco wingèd putto with both arms raised supporting the framed marble panel. This entire area, including the door and the wall to the right of it, was originally a large area of wall not as wide as the other wall areas in the gallery but at the same time not small like the narrow strip at the far eastern end of the south wall. The area on the north wall was originally to be one wall of the chapel that is mentioned in the architectural program of 1528, a space, however, that was then incorporated into the gallery itself.

It is not known what occupied this wall area to the right of the Venus and Minerva in the sixteenth century. As the early descriptions of the gallery do not mention this area, it can be assumed that there was no significant decoration there. A window would have occupied the place of the present door to match the window across from it. The small area next to the window could have been occupied with decoration similar to what is now there. Some of the upper part may be original although not the cut-off leg of the putto at the right caused by the realignment of the East Wall in the eighteenth century. Perhaps what was there resembled more closely what appears at the very west end of the south wall that continues the decoration of the West Wall. The west end of the north wall, to the left of the Scene of Worship, was probably similar to what originally occupied the east end of it.

I South: The Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths

[Center Fig. I South]

I South Combat Centaurs-and-Lapiths

The wall across from the scene of the Venus and Minerva has in the center a painting of the Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths derived quite specifically from the details of this story as told by Ovid in the Metamorphoses.61 Although none of the many named men and centaurs in Ovid’s story can be identified, many actions and physical details—if not exactly the same combinations of them—can be found in Rosso’s picture: the green setting, the overturned table, an urn used as a weapon as well as broken trunks of trees, a spear, a Lapith on the back of a centaur, and even a figure wearing a headdress with animal’s horns. The ferocity of Rosso’s scene was certainly evoked by the Latin narrative but he does not approach the gory brutality so explicitly described by the Roman poet. What is, however, also transferred is something of the grand chaos that the poem suggests by the accumulation of the actions and details described in it, one following rapidly upon the other.

This picture is set between two almost identical vertical stucco panels that are not quite as high as the painting [Fig.One Panel]. These in turn are set between two long vertical bands of strapwork that seem to pass behind the outer framed edges of the central pictures and behind the framed panels of garlands at the outer edges of the wall. Their ends curl forward over the frames. Each of the stucco panels at the sides has at its center a herm of a bearded old man wearing a mitre and a cloak hanging from his shoulders. Each holds a round disk before him, upon the blue center of which is set, at the left, the “Royal F,” and at the right, the flaming salamander. The high relief frame surrounding both herms is composed of an upright oval with a horizontal rectangle set against it at the top and bottom. A garland of fruit hangs from the corners of the top rectangle. A stucco putto (holding a flaming torch?) sits above a rosette at the top of each oval. On the upper surfaces of the frames are fine reliefs of garlands, vases, birds, reclining nude figures, and flying putti. But on the cross-bars that connect the upper rectangles to the frames at the right and left are four reliefs of a bull(?), a ram, a reptile(?), and a ram, all lying down. The lower cross bars have flying putti blowing horns. Beneath the herms, in the areas between the scoop of the ovals and the corners of the rectangles are four tilted oval medallions, the first showing a draped figure kneeling and praying in front of an altar with a statue on top of it, the second with a kneeling figure holding up something by strings (three birds?, as in the Vienna tapestry), the third relief is similar to the first, and the fourth shows a squatting nude figure praying before an urn(?). Standing on these frames beside each herm are four large and partially draped boys with wings who seem to guard and protect the mitred figures. [FIND PHOTOS OF SOME OF THESE DETAILS]

Above these side stucco units are frescoed areas showing in each a large Michelangelesque nude wearing a turban and reclining on drapery. Each blows a kind of trumpet extended in the direction of the salamander that is between them. The blue flag hanging from the instrument at the left has a flaming salamander upon it; the other flag has fleurs-de-lis. Under the stucco panels the frescoes are very badly damaged. They show two groups of three putti each, and the center putti in each is reclining on large garlands that hang across each painted area. At the left side of the wall, one putto tickles the scrotum of the reclining putto. At the right, the reclining putto has his arm around the neck of the other and looks at him.

The stucco salamander above the central picture appears to be emerging from a cave from which flames arise. At either side of it stands a putto, the two holding between them, and above the abode of the animal, a long swag of cloth; possibly it is suggested here that they have just drawn it back. At each of the outer edges of the wall stands a putto upon the strapwork scroll that is set above the panels of painted garlands; they have their arms folded before them.

Beneath each painted garland panel is a small high relief of a female triton with her arms up: in one hand she holds a spherical object, with the other she holds some drapery. Beneath each arm is a nude child, one of each pair holding back the drapery to match the opposite gesture of the triton. Beneath the central picture is a long stucco band with a beautiful female head set on a swag of drapery and under a volute at either end. In the center upon a flat band is a medallion containing a relief framed by volutes. Here are depicted before architecture and a tree: a bearded figure, partially draped and with a hand of cloth covering his eyes and holding a mask in front of his face; an old nude woman screaming with her hair flying behind her; a woman bent over wearing a large cloak and carrying a hammer; a reclining male nude with two pigs in front of him, a bear, and a donkey.

Following the basic scheme of the disposition of the stucco and painting on the walls of the gallery the composition of this wall is like that of the one across from it except for a stucco relief beneath the main picture instead of a small painting. But the total effect of this wall is quite different. The theme, the large foreground forms and the bold diagonal recession of the composition of the central painting give it an emphasis comparable to that of the large stucco statues on the wall opposite it. While this painting is also flanked by stucco decoration, the panels on the south wall are smaller and far less plastic. They are also more concentrated in contrast to the large figures on the north wall that look out and away from the picture they frame. This appearance of dissimilarity to the north wall was originally somewhat less when the side frescoes of the south wall were in prime condition, as can be partially recognized in the tapestry in Vienna. Nevertheless, a different kind of emphasis must always have been intended. For set under the huge trumpeting nudes, above the sexually playful putti, and alongside the main picture of brute force, the side panels of the south wall exhibit a kind of intimacy that seems to have its special meaning. The protective attitudes of the wingèd boys also suggest this attention.

It has been assumed that the major thrust of the meaning of the decoration of this wall is war, either in the general sense of bellum or in relation to a specific conflict involving Francis I.62 But one may wonder why then the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths was selected as the subject of the principle picture when a subject such as one from the Trojan War would have made this point more clearly. For the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths does not depict a war but a fight between guests at a wedding feast. The causes of this vicious struggle were drunkenness and lust; it all began according to Ovid when the inebriated centaur Eurytus tried to rape Pirithods’s bride, Hippodamia. Such a subject is virtually the antithesis of what appears in the main picture across the room where the goddess of Wisdom approaches the goddess of Love. Furthermore, the reliefs of war on the north wall are not nearly so brutish as the scene of the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths. What is depicted in this latter scene is a subject that exists outside of the realm of reason; it suggests a kind of madness. It seems highly unlikely that war itself in the still feudal society of Francis I would be viewed as so totally senseless especially in a room where the king is elsewhere shown in Roman armor. The lower side frescoes of putti also indicate lust, and what was thought a homoerotic perversity of it at that.

Beneath the central painting, the stucco medallion depicts animals and human figures that symbolize envy (the nude old woman), rage, trickery, tribulation (woman with hammer), anger (the bear), fury and madness (the boar, by way of Alciati), obdurate stubbornness (the donkey), and intractableness,63 all attributes of the kind of struggle prompted by irrationality that is depicted in the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths. To these may be added a reference to blindness in the central figure with eyes covered and who holds a mask indicating deceit. The nudity and pose of the reclining figure may suggest sexuality as his expression may indicate anger. The beautiful and serene female heads that appear at the sides of this medallion may have been intended as counterparts to the two satyrs’ heads painted above the picture with Venus on the north wall. Both pairs of heads suggest the antithesis of the themes of the major pictures they border, but both of these pictures also contain within them, by implication, comparable antithesis: Venus, the sensual aspect of existence, about to be reconciled with Minerva, and the civilized Lapiths who defend themselves against the lustful brutality of the centaurs.

At either side of the main painting the stucco panels seem to indicate the very opposite of what is meant by the scene of combat. The old and wise mitered herms exhibit the symbols of Francis I and his dynasty; all the small reliefs around them indicate worship and sacrifice. These sacerdotal herms bear witness, one may assume, to divine values that remain constant in spite of the unleashed emotions and brutish passions in evidence around them. The values that they symbolize, and that, being divine, are distinct from those implied by the large and beautiful nudes across from them, are sustained on behalf of Francis I and his reign, the symbols of which the herms hold before them. Above them the two painted large nudes alert, on behalf of the Angoulême dynasty and France, the salamander in his cave of the disruption of order that is taking place in the picture beneath it. Across the gallery the salamander appears in what may be meant to be a built house.

If the north wall of this first bay presents the uniting of Minerva and Venus, the south wall shows the potential threat of disunity brought on by the irrational aspects of man. But this shall be guarded against by the constancy and alertness of the divine, and not merely reasonable, right of Francis I’s reign. Both the Venus and Minerva and the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths walls should be read in conjunction with the Scene of Sacrifice with its priests and the Enlightenment of Francis I above a relief of the Birth of Venus across from each other at the far west end of the gallery. The drunkenness in the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths may also be related to the oval oil painting on the adjoining East Wall, which showed Venus and Cupid and Bacchus, the god of wine.

*          *          *

To the left of the window at the left of the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths is a small area of wall [Fig. Southeast, e] about half the width of the area across from it on the north wall. Above the wood paneling, the decoration of this area of the south wall matches that on the other side of the gallery except that the feigned marble panel is cut in half and is framed on only three sides. There is also only one putto above, standing alongside only half a pedestal above which he holds a single “Royal F”, and the putto below does not have his arms raised. The difference in the width of this small wall from that across from it indicates the realignment of the East Wall in the eighteenth century. Originally the decoration of the small section at the east end of the south wall may have resembled what is there now but it may also have been related to the decoration of the East Wall in a manner not unlike what appears at the far west end of the south wall.

II North: The Education of Achilles

[Centered Fig. II North]


The center picture of the second wall on the north side of the gallery has been recognized since the seventeenth century as representing the Education of Achilles. Here the centaur Chiron, the offspring of Saturn and Phylira, is shown teaching the young Achilles how to fight with shield and sword, how to swim, how to ride a horse and use a spear, and how to play music. As the Panofskys indicated these scenes are derived form Satius’s Achilleis and from the Education of Achilles in Philostratus’s Imagines, in which appears the episode at the far right in Rosso’s painting showing Achilles with a fawn he has just caught and that he brings to Chiron in order to claim his reward.64 In all but the swimming episode where Achilles is quite naturally nude, he is dressed in a Roman cuirass in the copy of a lost oval drawing in the École des Beaux-Arts [Fig.D.58]; he is nude in all the episodes except that in which he fights Chiron with shield and sword. The setting of the picture is a kind of gymnasium on several levels, the lowest level of which is entirely filled with water in which the spearing and riding lesson is rather absurdly placed. At the left is a colonnaded hall with spectators, one of which, a woman, holds up a nude child to see Achilles’s training. Before this hall is a terrace, one of the enclosing panels of which has the “Royal F” carved on it. Upon this corner panel is placed a pedestal supporting a statue of a nude youth, seen in three-quarter view from the back, with his hand at his waist. At the right, on the other side of a passageway that leads to an arched opening, is a high staircase at the top of which, on a balcony, the music lesson takes place, with Achilles playing a fantastic lute and Chiron a pipe. There are spectators here as well as in the passageway where there are three nude youths. They may also be using the gymnasium although their main occupation is watching Chiron and Achilles.

In each of the partly oval and partly rectangular framed panels that flank this painting is a huge Michelangelesque nude placed against the trunk and large branches of a tree. They are the largest painted figures in the gallery. The right arm of the giant at the left [Fig.Left Giant] is bound to the tree with cloths; his right foot appears bound to a thicker branch. Although he is very active, with his left arm held up and his mouth open as though screaming, he seems more to be fighting against anger than struggling against his rather loose bonds. The giant at the right [Fig.Right Giant] is partially seated on a tree and on brown and white and tan drapery (his abandoned clothing?). His arms are bound above his head but it is not clear to what they are tied, possibly a branch of the tree. He is bald—the other giant has blowing blond hair—and wears a wreath of leaves around his head. There is a double ring of a leafless thorny vine around the tree trunk at the lower right. Both figures are seen high up against a blue sky with clouds in its lower regions. Attached to the center of the upper part of the stucco frame of these figures is a lion’s head supporting now a stucco shelf with fruit on top of it at the left, and a basket of flowers at the right; originally the beams of the ceiling occupied part of these areas. They are flanked by young nudes in stucco who recline on the frames, the ones above the left giant adolescents, and those above the right giant somewhat younger in appearance. The center of the lower part of these frames of the giants is adorned with the head of a young and beautiful child. Beneath the frames are the grinning heads of elderly men in stucco with hair and beards formed of acanthus leaves and a volute over their foreheads. The outer limits of the wall again contain framed panels of garlands of fruit and vegetables and grain. Above them is a round stucco disc; the one at the left showing a howling head, the one at the right a rosette.

Above the center picture and on either side of the gilt flaming salamander framed by strapwork volutes are two groups of five romping small boys in stucco that recall the putti of Donatello’s Florentine cantoria.65 Beneath the picture crouch two nude youths in stucco on either side of a stucco relief showing a rough fight between nude men [Fig.Nudes Fighting]; it appears as though those on horseback are being defeated by those on foot. Evenly spaced across the bottom of the wall are four more small reliefs of four different objects set against a feign gold mosaic background: a pair of sandals hanging from a hook by their straps, a goat covered by a blanket asleep in a cradle, a spinning wheel, and a scale with a ball of unspun wool on a distaff in the weighing pan.

The Education of Achilles is the only picture in the gallery that has its major protagonists represented more than once. Compositionally the arrangement of its episodes with Charon and Achilles dispersed throughout an architectural setting recalls the scenes of the life of St. Roch that Rosso made in Rome [Figs.D.13–15]. These in turn remind one of Pontormo’s Joseph panels and such quattrocento compositions as Ghiberti’s panels of the Gates of Paradise. The size of the architecture in Rosso’s fresco is unrealistic in relation to the size of the figures as is the relationship of the sizes of the figures to each other. The scene is meant to be seen immediately as a fiction, and a rather straightforward one that is to be read rather then emotionally experienced. Not that it is without the charm of anecdote or without its own kind of seriousness. Nevertheless, its major intention is narrative to reveal to us the facets of Achilles’s education. The giants that flank the picture almost overpower it but at the same time, these nudes, Rosso’s grandest since the Cesi Chapel frescoes, lend, by contrast, a poignancy to the major painting. It appears by comparison to have an almost innocent earnestness about it as the young Achilles follows the teachings of the venerable and vigorous centaur. A contrast seems also intended in the stucco figures that decorate the top of this wall. The four end figures lazily recline, and the ten little boys at the sides of the salamander simply play around irrationally while Achilles’s and Chiron’s activities are all seriously directed. Beneath the central picture, the crouching and not playful nude youths flank a battle relief that shows one kind of activity for which the cuirass-clad figure of Achilles is preparing himself. Behind the crouching youths appear the four small objects set against the false mosaic that suggests feminine dress and activities, and in the case of the goat in the cradle and the wool in the scale that weighs more than the counterbalance, feminine irrationality. And while the upper parts of the frames of the giants are surmounted by lions’ heads, the lower parts of them are decorated with the heads of young girls. The masks at the sides of the girls’ heads could imply a degree of sarcasm towards the objects that could not have any place in Achilles’s education to prepare him for manhood.

The Panofskys thought that the side figures “may be intended to symbolize the enslaved state of brute force as opposed to the freedom acquired by discipline,”66 a suggestion somewhat refined by McAllister Johnson who recognized the left giant as a symbol of the lack of discipline and the one on the right as symbolic of the acceptance of constraint.67 Both are brutes but they are characterized somewhat differently; the one at the left in a state of fury, the one at the right calmer and crowned with leaves, which must symbolize victory over his former undisciplined state. The thorny vine encircling the tree at the lower right could be another crown that indicates the initial pain of constraint that has now been replaced by the victory of discipline. However, one might specify further what they mean the giants seem to represent beyond their brute strength—a pair of contrasts related to the intent of Achilles’s education illustrated in the central painting.

The decoration of this wall may simply stand for the value of the education of youth as one of the cultural ideals of Francis I, whose “F” with a crown decorates the gymnasium. It may, in fact, be appropriate to recognize this gymnasium as symbolic of Francis I himself, and hence of his very own ideals. But it is certainly unlikely that the education of Achilles in this decoration of a room in Francis’s château would stand for the education of just any worthy young man.68 The education of a royal prince must be intended. This prince, shown in antique armor, could be the young Francis I himself, who appears in the Unity of the State dressed in a cuirass. He could also be the young Dauphin, as the Panofskys suggested,69 but for a reason that cannot be altogether accepted. For there is no indication here of the prophecy of Achilles’s horse, Xanthus, of the death of his master. Furthermore, Chiron’s prophecy of Achilles, as related by Philostratus, was “fair and auspicious.” There is no need to read into the picture a premonition, after the event, of the Dauphin’s actual death in 1536. Furthermore, it is most probable that this picture was designed before his death. One could, perhaps, read a response to this death in the figures of the bound giants that stylistically seem to have been designed later. But it might be better simply to suggest that the central picture refers to the education of a young prince for kingship, be he prince Francis or his son or any other future prince of the Valois-Angoulême dynasty.70

The Education of Achilles bears a relationship to the Venus painting next to it where the introduction of learning is presented into the realm of the goddess of love, and where the setting is also with water in the foreground, suggesting Fontainebleau. But the ideal young nudes that frame the Venus and Minerva serve as a rather dramatic contrast to the brutish giants that flank the Achilles scene. The battle relief beneath this latter picture bears also a relation to the two reliefs on the adjacent wall although they are more extensive in their conceptions and imply war rather than close combat. In addition, there seems to be a connection with the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths on the opposite wall, showing a struggle involving centaurs, one of whose kind, but not one drunk and lustful, is educating Achilles. As the Panofskys pointed out, as early as 1518 Chiron “appears, specifically, as a model instructor of princes in Machiavelli’s Prinicipe, because a prince must be able to make good use of the beast as well as the man, for one nature cannot endure without the other.”71 Granted that the education of Achilles by Chiron was a rather common prototype of princely education it seems nevertheless to have been integrated here by various kinds of association into the grand scheme of the programs of the gallery. Chiron’s parents, Saturn and Phylira, are found at the right of the Royal Elephant [Fig.            ]. The costume of Achilles may also relate the scene of his education to other scenes in the gallery. His Roman cuirass is worn by the main figure in the Unity of the State, and in the Enlightenment of Francis I, and in the right stucco roundel of the West Wall, and in all of these scenes this costume indicates that the figure is a ruler. Two of the gods in the Royal Elephant also wear this costume. There is also a correspondence in the settings of these two pictures for each shows an architectural area from which spectators watch what is going on.

II South: The Loss of Perpetual Youth

Centered Fig. II South

II South-Loss of Youth

The large painting across from the Education of Achilles (Fig. Loss of Perpetual Youth) is also concerned with youth, but here, as is immediately apparent, with youth contrasted to old age. On either side of a stream is a group of people, young men and women on the left, agèd and infirm ones at the right. Standing in the stream is a saddled donkey, seen head on, drinking from the water and carrying on its back a partially draped young woman, seated side saddle with her right leg thrown across the saddle. She leans to the right and reaches forward with her left arm to a bizzare beast on the ground who kisses her on the lips. This beast has the legs of a lion, or somesuch beast, large and colored bird’s wings (of which only one is actually visible), the long neck of a swan, and the head of a snake. As discovered by Terrasse72 and Tervarant73, and discussed by Picard,74 the elements of Rosso’s picture illustrate a fable narrated in Nicander of Colophon’s Theriaca:

“Now there is a tale of ancient days current among men how, when the first-born seed of Cronus [Zeus] became lord of heaven, he apportioned to his brothers severally their illustrious realms, and in his wisdon bestowed upon mortals Youth, honoring them because they had denounced the Firestealer [Prometheus]. The fools, they got no good of their imprudence: for, being sluggards and growing weary, they entrusted the gift to an ass for carriage, and the beast, his throat burning with thirst, ran off skittishly, and seeing in its [water] hole the deadly, trailing brute, implored it with fawning speech to aid him in his sore plight. Whereas the snake asked of the foolish creature as a gift the load which he had taken on his back; and the ass refused not its request. Ever since then do trailing reptiles slough off their skin in old age, but grievous eld attends mortals.”75

This story follows upon Nicander’s description of the viper-like dipsas, whose bite was thought to produce a great thirst, but his short description of the beast has almost nothing in common with Rosso’s beast except the latter’s reptilian head.76

At the left side in Rosso’s painting a voluptuous reclining nude woman sleeps with her arm thrown over her head;77 she is resting upon luxurious pillows and a piece of red drapery. Alongside her on the ground are a stringed instrument, possibly meant to be an antique lyre, and a pipe, recorder, or reed instrument. Behind her a seated youth with a bare back looks askance at her over his right shoulder. Near, but facing away from her, stands a small grumpy-looking nude boy with blue drapery around his waist that he holds up before him and in a fold of which he carries flowers. However, unlike the amorini in Rosso’s Mars and Venus drawing, the small boy in Rosso’s Loss of Perpetual Youth is not scattering his flowers about. The instruments, like the flowers, suggest a reference to love, or, in this case, because the instruments are not being played, and the flowers are not being strewn around, to the absence of it in regard to the voluptuous and perhaps slothfullooking sleeping woman. Or are the female figure, the untossed flowers, and the unplayed flute references to sexual exhaustion, implying what precisely about the gift of Youth caused the mortals who received it to become sluggish and weary? This association could then, by contrast, be related to the amorous scene in the center of the painting where the woman on the donkey wears in her hair the same kind of flowers carried by the small boy. Next to this ill-humored child stands a bare-breasted but otherwise draped woman who faces right, in the direction of the woman on the donkey. A lightly clad youth, carrying and possibly playing a lute held under his arm—perhaps, in contrast again, to the unplayed instruments at the lower left—walks by and looks back at the standing woman while she indicates with her outstretched right arm the sleeping figure. With her glance and her gesture, the standing woman seems to be comparing the sleeping woman to the figure of the young woman on the back of the donkey.

The four old figures, two men and two women, at the right in the painting, three of them with rough walking sticks, look at the woman kissing the monster. One old man with his left eye closed lifts up the lid of his right eye to see what is going on. This group is closer to the monster and the donkey with its burden than are any of the figures at the left, only one of whom actually looks across the picture at the kissing scene. The standing, partially nude youth even has his back turned to it.

Across the background of the painting are several banks of low-lying clouds that loosely separate the landscape from the heavens. Widely spaced in this landscape are three scenes of worship.

At the upper left and nearest to us is a group of ten figures, of various ages and including two young women, standing in front of some partly ruined architecture and behind a priest wearing a long soft cap and a cape, who is swinging a censer before a high-flaming altar. On a ledge of this altar is a piece of fruit. Beside the priest a figure is kneeling and apparently kissing the ground. A man holds the priest’s cape followed by a kneeling woman who has her hands before her in an attitude of prayer. Behind her a standing old man grasps a wide-brimmed chalice. Above and to the right of the altar extends the band of the zodiac showing first the Crab and then the Lion. Mercury descends from the right towards the altar between these two signs, followed by Apollo in his chariot. Behind Apollo is a group of six nude gods and goddess, an eagle near one indicating he is Zeus. Beneath Zeus flys a nude man in the clouds with drapery arched over and around what seems to be a sphere.

In almost the very center of the painting, to the left of the donkey, and farther back and down than the worshippers at the left, is another group of nine men and women of various ages standing and kneeling in the open landscape before a rectangular altar (which in the Vienna tapestry has flames rising from it). Another scene of worship before a flaming altar appears on a hill in the upper right corner of the picture. Again, the figures, twelve of them here, are male and female and of various ages; one old man, seen from the back, is almost entirely nude.

At the sides of the main picture of this wall are almost identical stucco panels, each one framing a round fresco. Above each is an entablature with the “Royal F” in its pediment; the pediment is crowned with two small vases. The frieze area has two small, wingèd female herms with their hands on their breasts, two heads of woman with various decorations in their hair, and an animal’s horned skull, the one on the left panel a ram, the other possibly an ibex. From beneath the herms hangs a garland of fruits, vegetables and pinecones around the circular pictures. Beneath these pictures is a large piece of thick strapwork with a woman’s head at the top of it flanked by lions’ heads. At the bottom is a little garland with two small vessels hanging from it. Each piece of strapwork has putti at its sides, and a relief on its front. The relief on the left shows a woman with a basket of produce on her head and a lion at her side; the other one shows a nude man carrying a dead pig on his shoulders and accompanied by a calf. The outer limits of the wall have the usual framed garlands surmounted by harp-like or lyre-like pieces of strapwork. Beneath each garland panel is a small blank armorial shield (the Vienna tapestry shows a mask); there is also a stucco ribbo or belt with attachments in the lower left corner of the wall and what may be a large stucco glove in the lower right corner (although it does not much resemble a glove in the Vienna tapestry).

The painted roundel at the left shows an architectural setting with a loggia at the left surmounted by a statue of a nude youth; the entrance to a temple is at the right. There are nine figures in front of the temple, two bearded old men, two young women approaching the temple, a slightly draped youth seated on its steps with his face in his hand, and three more youths about to enter the temple, one carrying a box, one a vase, and another carrying a small animal over his shoulder. At the top of the tondo is a bank of clouds with the gods and goddess set on it, three woman followed by Mercury standing on the edge of Zeus’s chariot, then Zeus seated on his chariot with Ganymede; in front of them Hercules with his club and a male nude followed by a female nude who holds the reins of the lions that pull Zeus’s chariot. The other tondo shows another elaborate architectural setting all in something of a state of decay with plants growing from the buildings here and there. At the left is an arched and trabeated structure with the statue of a youth on top of it. Then appears a bridge with a balustrade, the first large pier of which carries a coat-of-arms, with an unclear device looking somewhat like a long-necked animal, possibly surmounted by a crown (as in the Vienna tapestry and in the copy of a lost drawing in the Bibliothèque Nationale, in both of which a salamander appears, with flames in the tapestry). On top of this pier is a statue of a partially draped seated female missing its head and arms. Coming across the bridge is an old woman on crutches representing Debilitas; descending the steps of the bridge is a young woman whose head has three faces and is surrounded by a swarm of bees; she stands for flattery or slander. Under the architecture at the left is an old man whose hands are raised in prayer, but whose glance is in the other direction. In the foreground, an old woman is seen riding on the back of a fox, symbol of deceit. At the right of her is an old man with ass’ ears, carrying a pair of eye-glasses and a lantern, attributes that suggest he is a spy.78 Under the bridge is a very small figure that seems to be running away.

Two other groups of details complete the decoration of this wall. Flanking the stucco salamander above, that is set in a large strapwork volute, are two painted putti, the one on the left wearing a cap with earflaps, the one on the right a kind of turban. Beneath the center picture are two dogs in profile wearing collars. The hound on the left is pug-like, the other a slender racing-dog. They are placed on either side of a painted medallion surrounded by a wreath; in the center of the medallion seems to be a baby flaming salamander (with a flame coming out of its mouth?) in contrast to the mature, perhaps even old one in gilt stucco at the top of the wall.79

The style of the large center picture, while it bears some relation to that of Rosso’s Roman prints, the Battle of the Romans and the Sabines, for example, is closer to that of the Mars and Venus drawing with its slender figures and elaborate setting. The Judith engraved by Boyvin also comes to mind. At the sides the stucco panels are festive but with their pediments and animals’ skulls they also have a serious, sacred aspect. The frescoes they contain are airy and spirited, though at the same time thematically serious and bizarre. In fact, the entire decoration of the wall has a dual nature, motivated by the implications of the meaning of its central picture.

Nicander’s story of the Loss of Perpetual Youth is the antithesis of what is meant by the Education of Achilles. The optimistic, idealistic and formative aspects of youth of the latter, as designed by Rosso, are entirely, or almost entirely, negated in the picture across from it. Not simply, however, because it depicts the loss of youth but because of the reasons for its loss as well. For the loss of youth is the result of man’s failure to attend carefully themselves this sacred gift. Hence, they were deceived by the serpent and doomed to grow old. A sacred trust was broken. And it is the sacred aspect of the story that is indicated by the scenes of worship in the background, in one of which Mercury descends to announce Zeus’ gift to mankind. With the Angoulême salamander in mind it may be equally important to recognize that sacredness in the Loss of Perpetual Youth is associated with fire, which Prometheus had brought to man who in turn received youth for betraying the Titan to Zeus.80

It seems significant that in Rosso’s picture the snake of Nicander’s tale, which is described by the writer as looking like a viper with a thin dark tail that “grows darker from the end forward,”81 is a beast, in the painting, that hardly looks like a reptile at all. Could this change have been made so that Rosso’s beast is clearly seen as not corresponding to the salamander? And thus avoid any identification of this reptilian-like creature with the deceiving snake of Nicander’s story? Or in its slightly swan-like appearance to suggest the seductive story of Leda, the subject of Michelangelos’s painting recently arrived in France? Terrasse and the Panofskys believed that the meaning of this painting, and even, it would seem, the meaning of the monster, applied to Francis I in person.82 But why should the king have wanted himself symbolized as the villain, as the instrument of the loss of Zeus’s precious gift? Any why give such importance to the king’s own loss of youth, and to the loss of vigor that the picture indicates? It may rather be that the picture warns against threats to the perpetual youthful vitality of Francis I’s reign and the French monarchy of the Valois-Angoulême line, and against threats to the sacred trust of Francis I and his dynasty. The medallion below shows a baby flaming salamander with two dogs guarding it, dogs very probably like those kept at Fontainebleau. Above is an alert though aged salamander looked at by two putti (foreign because of their headdresses?). The Vienna tapestry shows a dog’s head on the band under the stucco salamander. Although the salamander grows older it might be said that he only becomes more vigorous. The theme of youth in the Education of Achilles indicates preparation for mature leadership; the Loss of Perpetual Youth signals youth’s precarious position threatened by deceit.

Above the relief of a woman with a lion symbolizing summer, the round fresco at the left shows worshippers approaching a temple. The three figures that are actually entering it bear gifts while the youth seated on the steps without one appears in despair. As the Panofskys pointed out, among the gods above are “the two fortunate human beings admitted to the society of the immortals: Ganymede, sharing the chariot of Jupiter, and Hercules.”83 In this scene the rights due to the gods are represented, enlarging upon the scenes of worship in the center picture. At the right, above a relief symbolizing winter, is a fresco entirely concerned with various kinds of deceit, here, too, enlarging upon an aspect of Nicander’s fable. The lower left and right motifs of the wall also indicated deceit if they originally included masks, as shown in the Vienna tapestry, instead of the blank shields that appear in the gallery. At the left, there remains now a ribbon with a tassel blowing in the wind, which might suggest spring; at the right if what is represented is a harvester’s glove, autumn could be indicated.

The element of worship contained in the Loss of Perpetual Youth and in part of its flanking decoration, suggests a relationship to the mitered sacerdotes at either side of the adjoining wall with the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths. There may even be a connection in the implications of love and lust in the central frescoes of these walls. Certain of the figures, of fraud and sloth, in the relief beneath the latter painting could also be related to Rosso’s depiction of Nicander’s tale. And diagonally across from the Loss of Perpetual Youth is Rosso’s Revenge of Nauplius, a subject that deals, too, with deceit and treachery, as well as with sacrilege.

III North: The Revenge of Nauplius

[Fig. Centered III North]

III North-Revenge of Nauplius

The third scene on the north wall represents the Revenge of Nauplius as told in Hyginus’s Fabulae. The death of Ajar, the Locrian, as narrated by Hyginus in the same paragraph may also be depicted by Rosso in the left foreground but it is a minor incident in the painting compared to the representation of Nauplius’s wrath.84 The scene takes place at night and is laid in the midst of rocky shoals. In the middle distance is a high wooden and somewhat makeshift construction that has a pot of fire on the top of it. This is the signal fire that Nauplius lit to bring the Greek ships to founder on the craggy rocks. Slightly to the right of it and much farther back on the edge of the shore, is a firmly constructed lighthouse that would indicate the port, but this lighthouse is dark.85 Two ships in sail are passing beyond it in the direction of but also beyond a citadel high on a hill just to the left of the center of the picture. In the upper left corner of the painting is the bottom half of a crescent moon seen above a distant landscape beyond the harbor. In the foreground and middle distance of the picture the Greek sailing ships are moving in from the right. Some have already hit the rocks of the cliffs at the left upon which several nude survivors are climbing. A boat with a ram’s head and spear on its prow set before a griffin-like beast with a tail instead of hind legs, moves in from the right foreground steered by a standing draped man with a long pole who is accompanied by a seated figure wearing a turban. These seem to be some of Nauplius’s men. From two rowboats and from a large rock in the foreground, other of Nauplius’s men fight off Greek survivors. One dead figure is slumped across a rock at the left; the Panofskys identified him as Ajax. A few men are swimming between the boats; one man at the lower right desperately clutches the stern of one boat, another hangs on to its side. In this boat, rowed by a sturdy old man, a powerful standing figure dressed in a jerkin and undergarment swings an oar at the Greek who is trying to get into the boat and on whose shoulder the man standing in the boat has firmly planted his right foot. This energetic figure is the central figure in the drama and should in all likelihood be recognized as Nauplius himself.

This large picture is almost entirely surrounded by stuccowork composed of a flat and continuous surface or band that subdivides the wall into small sections each containing a relief. Although this scheme of decoration looks at first strictly symmetrical, the small compartments of each side are actually almost all different in shape. But each large side panel is symmetrical within itself around a tall empty niche flanked by putti with tall baskets of fruit on their heads making them look somewhat like herms. Each niche is surmounted by a lion’s head with a small vase at each side. Above and below each niche is a small painted area, the ones above containing two putti, the pair at the left embracing; the area below each niche contains a seated putto. All of these putti are executed in oil and date from the nineteenth century but Dan stated that there were “petits enfans . . . peints à fond d’or.” Slender tentacle-like ribbons of strapwork are at the top of the side panels beneath the beams of the ceiling; the rectangle between them occupies the space where the beams originally rested; immediately beneath each beam was a putto’s head with wings and a small hanging element in stucco. The outer parts of the wall again have framed garlands, with blank framed areas above and below, the ones at the left white, those at the right feigned reddish marble. Above the main picture there is a seated putto in stucco at either side of the gilt salamander. Beneath the main picture is a small painting of Neptune with a nereid and a sea animal resembling a horse, and with a monster in stucco, part animal, part plant, at either side. Compositionally the over-all decoration of this wall is the simplest in the gallery.

This decoration is enriched by twenty small reliefs set into diversely shaped coffers. The subjects of most of them are identifiable but their relationship to the theme of the main picture is not quite so clear. Some, as the Panofskys suggested, may simply have topographical significance,86 but others seem to have quite different meaning.

[Centered Fig.Barocchi 128]


Beginning at the upper left, the first relief shows a man seated on the frame of the coffer before an empty table with his face in his hands; behind him, also standing on the frame, hovers a huge monster that resembles a harpy although it does not have the head and breasts of a woman. The Panofskys suggested that this relief could represent the story of the soothsayer Phineus and the harpy Celaeno.87 For having had his children’s eyes put out when he wrongly thought they had attempted to kill him, Phineus was condemned by Zeus to eternal old age; the harpy stole the food that was laid out for Phineus and soiled with its excrement what it did not take away.

[Centered Fig. Barocchi 129]


Across from this scene is another showing two men worshipping and presenting offering in urns to a statue of Peace that is standing on clouds before an obelisk and in front of a hanging lamp. These are the only two reliefs showing narrative scenes; the first with Phineus and the harpy can, because of the element of wrath in their story, be rather easily related to Nauplius’s story, the second could also but in an inverted sense, Peace being the opposite of what is indicated by the central painting.

[Centered Fig.Barocchi 124]


Under the relief with a harpy is scene with a putto holding an arrow and riding upon the back of a dolphin, indicating water and possibly love. Across from it is a hanging basket of flowers that may be a votive offering. Below the empty niche at the left is a flamingo and across from it a flaming altar with swags. The same altar is the subject of the relief beneath the flamingo.

[Centered Fig. Barocchi 122]


Flaming altars are found elsewhere in the gallery signifying relationship with the gods. There is also a fire in the Revenge of Nauplius. Is, then, the flamingo, the bird of flame color, another reference to fire?

[Centered Fig. Barocchi 123]


Beneath the first altar and across from the second is an elephant on the back of which is a girl who holds its reigns. The Panofskys suggested that this group might be “a variation on the ever popular theme of Aristotle ridden by a pretty girl.”88 Might there not also, or rather, be a connection with the large picture of the Royal Elephant in the gallery?

To the left of the stucco salamander is a galloping centaur which can be related to the passion of Nauplius and to the pictures of the Education of Achilles and the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths.

To the left of the cartouche below are two swans in water, both aquatic and peaceful in their references.

At the other side of the wall, at the top, is another putto with an arrow riding a dolphin and across from it a ceremonial lamp in a stand.

[Centered Fig. Barocchi 121]


Beneath another putto riding a dolphin is the head Medusa across from at the right a figure of Peace holding a caduceus.

At the lower left of the right niche is a relief of a ceremonial pitcher. This vessel, the lamp, the altars, and the other religious objects suggest a sacred precinct and possibly the temple of Athena in which Ajax violated Cassandra. The figure of Peace suggests just the opposite of what Ajax’s story tells and bears a relationship to the scene on the other side of the wall where Peace is being offered two large vessels.

[Centered Fig. Barocchi 120]


At the right of the pitcher is a battleship that is easily associated with the main picture.

[Centered Fig. Barocchi 127]


Farther down to the left is a relief of a seated camel with a long ribbon twisted in the air above its head, which, according to the Panofskys, has unfavorable implications because this animal “goes for dirty waters and avoids clean ones,”89 an allusion to Ajax’s fleet, or to Nauplius’s treachery. The camel’s behavior recalls somewhat that of the harpy Celaeno at the upper left of this wall. The meaning of the ribbon above the camel’s head is unclear.

[Centered Fig. Barocchi 126]


To the right of the camel is a relief of a seated muscular nude holding a large ovoid or spherical object on his head; at his side is an oblong object with what seems to be a rope around it and with a baby’s face on a short stick stuck behind the rope. Barocchi thought the nude was Atlas, but the Panofskys suggested Sisyphus, the “proverbial example of punished pride.”90 But neither of these identifications takes account of all the details of this relief. In any case it does show a man supporting a heavy burden.

[Centered Fig. Barocchi 125]


To the right of the stucco salamander above and hence across from the relief of the centaur is a pair of running horses, suggestive, at least, of wildness.

And to the right of the lower painted cartouche, opposite to the two swans, is a goat bucking at something small, possibly an animal curled up and lying on its side. This relief could indicate something like foolish obstinacy. Add to these reliefs the salamander flanked by putti, the four paintings with putti, and the picture below framed by grotesque beasts in stucco and every available space of this wall is filled with some precise detail–except the niches at either side of the main picture. By contrast, and against our expectations, these are conspicuously empty. They are framed by putti their backs on them.

The central fresco is one of the most dramatic in the gallery, an effect heightened by the simplicity, even reticence, of the decoration that surrounds it. A deliberate contrast seems also to be made between the narrative explicitness of the very active and compositionally complicated main picture and the obscurity and obliquity of the meaning of the surrounding small and stylistically quite simple stucco reliefs. Although the two references to Michelangelo’s Last Judgment that appear in this fresco could not have been recognized by the average viewer in France in the mid-1530s their use in this scene may well indicate on Rosso’s part some degree of recognition of the appropriateness of them here for more than stylistic and dramatic reasons. The theme of the Revenge of Nauplius is itself the fulfillment of a kind of wrathful judgment. Unlike the melée of the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths the battle in the Revenge of Nauplius is much more individually fought. And it is clearly centered in one figure in the middle foreground, Nauplius himself.

While Rosso’s picture may show the death of Ajax, whom Minerva had struck by lightening for having raped Cassandra in the goddess’ temple at Troy, there is no doubt whatsoever that it shows Nauplius, the king of Euboea, and his men beating down and killing the Greeks who were returning home from the Trojan War. Tossed in a storm forced upon them by gods who were angry because of the desecration of their temples, Nauplius deceived the warriors by his signal-fire which led them to dash their ships against the Capherian Rocks instead of sailing safely into the harbor. This treachery was practiced on them to avenge his son Palamedes who was wrongly accused by Ulysses and stoned to deaths by his own comrades. The Panofskys chose to see this painting as a reference to the defection of the Connétable Charles le Bourbon91 while McAllister Johnson and Chastel, seeing it in relation to the Death of Adonis across from it, thought of it in more abstract terms, the first considering it as indicating “misfortune,” and second, “treason.”92 While the Panofskys’s suggestion is related to their conception of the program of the gallery in terms of personal events in Francis I’s life, the other two scholars’ interpretations are broader in relation to a more universal program that they believe governs the decoration of the gallery.93 All three, however, suggested that the Revenge of Nauplius must bear some relation to the Deaths of Adonis, although Chastel acknowledged that “Une grande obscurité subsiste sur la Mort d’Adonis.”94

The solution to the problem may lie in the relation of the Revenge of Nauplius to the theme of a picture that seems originally to have been intended for the space now occupied by the Death of Adonis. This may have been the Cremation of a Body known most completely from an etching by Fantuzzi. [Centered E.72] It is possible that this print more specifically represents the Funeral of Hector with his son Francus (or Francion) seated before the pyre holding a baton. This legendary ancestor of the French was mentioned by Chastel in relation to the figures alongside the Twins of Catania occupying the wall west of the entrance to the North Cabinet opposite the Revenge of Nauplius at the east of this door.95 This latter scene is not itself directly related to that ancestry except in its connection to the Trojan War from which Ajax’s comrades were returning home. But it implies its opposite, the murder of Nauplius’s heir, Palamedes, and it presents in vivid fashion the destruction of those who were responsible for his death. It is possible that the empty niches alongside the central picture symbolize Nauplius’s loss,96 heightened by the areas beneath them filled with children. Like the Loss of Perpetual Youth the Revenge of Nauplius may give warning of the wrath that would follow upon the assasination of Francis I’s own immediate heir (or heirs), specifically the Dauphin François, who, with his father were descendants of the legendary Francus. An early drawing for the Revenge of Nauplius [Centered Fig.D.59] dramatically exposes Nauplius’s genitals, most probably to emphasize the dynastic meaning of the scene. Perhaps for reasons of decorum, they were eliminated in the painting. The rights of the Valois-Angoulême dynasty may also be implied by the cartouche painted beneath the principle picture. For if it represents Poseidon and Amymone, as the Abbé Guilbert thought, then it depicts the parents of that very Nauplius who wreaks his vengeance over the death of his own son.97

III South: The Death of Adonis

[Centered  Fig. III South]

P22 III South-Adonis-tapestry Vienna

The decoration of the wall with the Death of Adonis is one of the finest conceptions in the gallery. This is not only a matter of the balanced relationship of the paintings and stuccoes, but also of the strength and expressiveness of its individual parts. A passion, conveyed visually and thematically, permeates this decoration and exceeds in its effect the emotion projected by the decoration of any other wall. But it is a passion gently relieved by the attitudes of the charming stucco putti on either side of the main picture.

In the center foreground of the main picture [Centered Fig. Death of Adonis] the nude figure of the dying Adonis is seen being placed upon a bed by two wingèd and beautifully dressed women and two putti who support his legs. A third wingèd woman crouches and cries with her hands covering her face in the lower left corner of the picture. A third putto reclines beneath Adonis’s legs and glances over at the weeping woman. The head of another woman appears behind the woman to the left of Adonis. There is no indication that she has wings but her hair is bound up like that of the three women who have them. At the far left a young and clothed woman flees from the central group with her hair becoming unbound and flying out behind her. Above her a fourth putto flies to the left holding a bundle of garments of which one sleeve falls loosely down. He glances over at Adonis. This scene takes place on a grassy knoll high above a mountainous landscape. The sea is visible in the lower right corner of the picture.

On a diagonal at a right angle to the major inclination of the group at the left Venus descends in her chariot drawn by two doves flying over Adonis’s head. They are pulling the reins that are held in the mouths of harpies that decorate Venus’s chariot. The strapwork front of it is decorated with a putto’s head. Venus’s body is turned away, her head is in profile. She tears her hair with her raised hands. Her pose resembles that of Michelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl. She is richly dressed and an eight pointed star hovers over her head. Beside her stands Cupid with his quiver slung over his shoulder. In back of Venus is seated a beautiful young woman with a weathervane on top of her head and a wheel at her side, attributes that identify her as Fortune.

At her left an old draped woman is huddled carrying two hammers; she represents Tribulation.98 Venus’s chariot descends on a bank of luminous blue-purple clouds.

To the left and right of the Death of Adonis is a rectangular stucco framed by a broad volute at the top and the bottom. Under the top volute crouch two stucco babies on either side of a blue and white painted medallion. Under the medallions hang a stucco garland of fruit. In the bottom volute are two beasts with long necks and vegetal trimmings; they flank another blue and white medallion. In the center of stucco panel is a rectangular relief flanked by standing nude children. On the left side of the center relief, the left child is male; he holds his penis as though peeing. The female child at the right looks over at the boy. On the right side of the wall, both children are male. The one on the left looks up at and points in the direction of the crouching child above him but may actually be pointing to the blue and white medallion. The child at the right holds fruit and leaves in his arms. The frames of the lower medallions are encircled with small garlands of fruit.

In the rectangular relief at the left is a young and only partially draped seated woman riding in a chariot. She seems to be pointing down to where there are two small lions. Behind the chariot are seven figures, probably all male; the one farthest to the right is playing a twisted horn (in the Vienna tapestry two more men are playing what might be bagpipes). Above the chariot flies a figure of wingèd victory, holding a palm branch and placing a wreath on the rider’s head. The painted medallion above shows a clothed male figure humbly kneeling in front of a seated nude figure holding a baton (in the Vienna tapestry two old men are kneeling before an enthroned king). The medallion below has the flaming salamander and what remains of the motto that often accompanies it: NUTRISCO ET EXTINGUO (still wholly visible in the tapestry). At the right of the wall, the rectangular relief presents a scene of a kind of orgy with four nude men and four animals. They are placed before architecture of columns and piers. In the middle, one man holds another upside down. A donkey’s head appears to the left of them with his muzzle at the place of the upside down man’s genitals. Beneath them is a fallen man with his bald head placed toward us. In the background to the left is a man playing a bagpipe, suggesting carnality (as in the Challenge of the Pierides). In front of him is a seated man with his back facing us; a dog is supporting itself on the man’s shoulder and holds his head high up.99 The lower left corner has a skull on the ground; at the far right are two goats. The blue and white medallion above has a scene with a bull wearing an ornamental cloth being led to sacrifice by two figures, the first playing a flute, the second carrying a branch (in the tapestry there is another figure and no branch; the two figures at the right are women). The medallion below originally bore the “Royal F.”

The areas above and below the stucco panels are frescoed. At the top of the wall are pairs of nude figures seated facing each other with their legs intertwined. Garlands of vegetables at the left and fruit at the right hang down behind them. The pair at the left is male, at the right female, with a bundle of cloth behind the latter. Beneath the stuccowork at the left is a large nude woman reclining on a pillow with draper hung and piled behind her. She is looking at a child kneeling at her feet holding up in front of his face a bearded mask. On the right side of the wall is a huge male nude, kneeling and bent over a fox. The man is screaming. A large piece of drapery flies to the right behind him.

The stucco salamander at the top of this wall is seated and looks back over his body. He is set between two long bands of strapwork. Below the main picture is a long relief flanked by two wingèd putti who are seated and crouched forward with their backs to the relief that shows a chariot race moving toward an obelisk at the right. There are four two-horse chariots, one of which is overturned. A dog runs alongside the horses of the third chariot (the front four horses actually look very much like dogs). There is a small figure, probably a statue, at the far left. Three blue ovals (the present blue is not original) are set in the scrolls beneath the relief. Like the other walls this one, too, has framed garlands at the sides. Above them are strapwork scrolls with a rosette in the center; simpler bands of strapwork with a rosette in the center of each are placed beneath the garland panels.

Although the figures in the central picture appear artificially posed and although their emotional expressions seem not deeply felt, the composition of the Death of Adonis nevertheless conveys a sense of tragedy, a tragedy that belongs to the gods. The diagonal downward drive of Venus’s chariot almost abruptly meets the opposite diagonal of the outer right limit of the group occupying the left half of this painting. It is at this junction that the composition turns, parallel to the picture plane, around the body of Adonis, which is exhibited to us as almost as though it were the body of Christ. Seen from the front it is, in a sense, opposite to that of Venus’s body that is turned away from us. The picture is shot with color and luminous with a mother-of-pearl tonality quite unlike any other painting in the gallery. It forms therefore less of a contrast to the white stuccowork around it which is itself touched with a bit of color, the blue of the medallions and of the ovals set within the floral band at the very bottom of the wall. Furthermore, the reliefs, although rather crudely executed—especially the one at the left—are compositionally very vigorous. The large painted figures above and below are very boldly conceived, and from the Vienna tapestry we have some idea how very plastic they originally were, too. Their grand physicality completely fills the four corners of the design of this wall and almost overpowers the drama of the central picture. But they also, by contrast, heightened its poignancy. Their “vulgarity” is also in contrast to the charming children who flank the stucco reliefs, including little boy who is peeing.

The Death of Adonis may be partly derived from Ovid’s Metamorphosis but the details given there are so very few that they provide little material for a visual conception of this scene. Certain suggestions may also have been offered by the Lament of Adonis by Bion of Smyrna, as indicated by the Panofskys, which is far richer in detail than Ovid’s account.100 And yet, except for the laying of Adonis upon the couch nothing else in Rosso’s painting specifically corresponds to Bion’s poem. Perhaps there were other sources as well. But did they provide for the inclusion of Cupid and the figures of Fortune and Tribulation in Rosso’s painting? This seems doubtful. The episode around Adonis’s body is much more inspired by the Christian scene that Rosso saw as its equivalent: the Pietà. The pose of Adonis and of the wingèd woman at the lower left are closely related to figures in a Pietà that Rosso created in France [Fig.D.71]. But it is from the language that we have seen used elsewhere in the gallery that Rosso introduces into the painting the personifications seated behind Venus.

Barocchi identified the seated woman in the relief at the left as Cybele, and Lövgren pointed out that the story of her transformation of Hippomenes and Atalante into lions is told by Ovid in the midst of his account of the love of Venus for Adonis.101 Its place there is as a warning by Venus to Adonis of the danger of lions, though Adonis was actually killed by a boar. Lövgren also identified the relief at the right as representing Cybele’s votaries participating in one of their savage rites, including self-castration.102 The same kinds of votaries appear behind Cybele in her chariot. They were called Galli, which can mean Gauls. What has not been explained is why Cybele is being crowned by a flying Victory. Because of her dominion over wild beasts? If this is the case then in the context of the decoration of this wall she could be seen as bearing responsibility for Adonis’s death. There is possibly a certain contrast intended between this goddess in her chariot and Venus in her’s in the main picture. The medallion above the Cybele relief shows a god making what seems to be a judgment over a kneeling figure. The medallion across from it implies sacrifice. Below, the medallions with the flaming salamander and the “Royal F” emphasize a relationship with Francis I.

Béguin and Pressouyre have suggested that the nudes above the stucco panels are homosexual couples, an idea that may also be indicated by their intertwined legs, and perhaps by the action of the male at the far left who bites his own arm.103 These couples may symbolize love, or at least sex, without the possibility of issue. At the lower left the reclining woman is being deceived by the putto holding up a bearded mask, while at the lower right the nude man in a rage embraces a fox, a symbol of deceit. Is it not possible that the chariot race depicted in the long relief under the main panel, though it can have funerary significance,104 may also indicate trickery, or chance, by the turning over of one of the chariots. It may, therefore, not be irrelevant that this relief contains chariots as do the main picture and the Cybele relief at the left. This last relief also shows the figure of Victory which could be associated with the chariot race. Cybele’s votaries, the Galli, were known to be eunuchs and it may not be beside the point to see them in relation of the homosexual couples above. Surrounding the scene of the tragic end of Venus’s love for Adonis most of the motifs suggest fraud and treachery associated with love and sex, and, in the relief of the chariot race, perhaps also death.

There is, however, an exception. The stucco children of the side panels, especially the standing ones, appear normal, even happy. One of them is a little girl, an unusual feature, who looks with interest over at the penis held by her peeing companion.105 Their attitudes relieve the sadness and bitterness, madness and perversity that permeate the decoration of this wall, and in the homosexual couples and Cybele’s eunuchs the implication of the absence of issue. Are the children then to suggest the element of love, of innocent love, that belong also to the story of Venus and Adonis, in spite of its tragic outcome? They may also indicate the prospect of future love and progeny in spite of Adonis’s death and the allusions to the death of Francis I’s beloved son and the threat of extinction of the Valois-Angouldme line.

The Panofskys suggested that Rosso’s picture of the Death of Adonis refers to the death of the Dauphin Francis on 10 August 1536.106 Many years later Pierre Ronsard wrote passionately of his seeing the autopsy of the young prince which brought to his mind the sight of the dead Adonis, possibly as Ronsard would have imagined it from Bion of Smyrna’s vividly detailed description of Adonis’s torn body. Although Rosso’s picture does not present this aspect of Bion’s poem the connection of the dead young Dauphin and Adonis is not an unlikely one, even well before the later moment of Ronsard’ s poem. If the fresco does refer to the Dauphin’s death then it is a kind of intrusion into a scheme for the gallery that must have preceded it. Therefore, its relationship to the picture across from it may not be as close as the connection that may exist between other pairs of pictures in the gallery.107 But it has not been universally accepted that the Death of Adonis does refer to the death of the king’s son. Chastel has also suggested that the Death of Adonis and the Revenge of Nauplius stand for Infelices causes, not related to the “vicissitudes de la vie en général, mais des fatalités et des exigences gui pèsent sur un grand régne,” and which the king has the need and power to surmount. The Adonis picture would indicate the death of a privileged person, the second would indicate treason. At the same time, Chastel admits that “Une grande obscurité subsiste sur la Morte d’Adonis.”108 McAllister Johnson has contrasted the imposed servitude of Cybele’s lions, the transformed lovers Hippomenes and Atalante, to the voluntary servitude of Cleobis and Biton, depicted elsewhere in the gallery, which gained them immortality. But here a very minor incident in the decoration of the Death of Adonis wall is made to carry the same degree of meaning as the major fresco of another wall, not however, the one across from the Adonis fresco. McAllister Johnson relates the two frescoes that face each other, the Death of Adonis and the Revenge of Nauplius, as “images de la malheur et de mort.”109

The dilemma presented by the interpretation of the Death of Adonis and by its relation to the Revenge of Nauplius may itself indicate that the former picture is indeed a late addition to the iconographical scheme of the gallery. As suggested earlier, it is possible that originally a scene showing the Cremation of a Body, that may represent the Funeral of Hector (E.71), was originally intended for the wall now occupied by the Adonis picture. Its connection to the Revenge of Nauplius would have been clearer with both referring to a relationship between a father and a son. In the Nauplius fresco the father rightfully avenges the murder of his son. In the other picture the son, Francis, holding the baton, is shown as the rightful heir of his father, Hector, who bravely defended his homeland. It may then have followed upon the death of Francis I’s own son that the Death of Adonis was chosen as the appropriate memorial to the death of the Dauphin, replacing a scene of the death of the father, symbolically Francis I himself. By this replacement, the meaning of this section of the gallery was changed. But this change took place within a context that had already proposed a death scene for this location.

With the substitution of the surviving Francus for Astyanax, who was killed, as Hector’s son, the Funeral of Hector, known from Fantuzzi’s etching and from two copies of a lost drawing by Rosso in Montpellier and Weimar (D.58 A–B) that show the scene in the opposite—and original—direction, Rosso’s composition follows rather closely the story as described in Book XXIV of the Iliad. The city is there, the great pile of wood, the wailing women of which one, near the corpse, could be Andromache, the bier on which the body was brought out from Priam’s house, all are represented. One of two draped men could be Priam. The two nude youths, in addition to Francus, could be Hector’s brothers. The great fire in the scene, related perhaps to that in the Scene of Sacrifice, reminds one of the fire in which the salamander survives.

The replacement of this scene by the Death of Adonis must have required the reconsideration of the entire decoration of the wall that it occupies. For there is almost no part of the existing decoration, with the possible exception of the relief with the chariot race and maybe even the side stucco panels without their rectangular reliefs, that makes any sense with the Funeral of Hector. But the redesigning of one wall in the gallery even after August 1536 was not impossible. The stucco workers had not yet completed their work, the painters were still in the midst of their activity, and the wood paneling would not be installed for another three years.

V North: The Twins of Catania

[Centered Fig. V North]

P22 V North Twins of Catania

On the north wall to the left of the Revenge of Nauplius on the other side of the (former) entrance to the North Cabinet is the Twins of Catania. The subject of the central picture of this wall showing Amphinomus and Aenapius saving their parents from the burning Sicilian city, was first identified by Mariette. Earlier it had been considered to represent the burning of Troy and Aeneas’s flight with Anchises and Ascanius. This earlier identification, which has not altogether lost its association with Rosso’s picture, will be considered below along with the Catania incident.110

High on a cliff in the background of Rosso’s picture is a walled city engulfed by flames. Two small figures are running down the hill from it, one of them carrying a ladder. At the right and below the cliff is a body of water with two ships sailing toward the land. The foremost ship is lined with shields. In the foreground of the fresco there are two muscular nude youths walking to the right, the first carrying upon his shoulders a nude old man wearing a turban, the second a nude old woman with drapery wrapped around her head and falling down to the ground behind her. A small nude boy clings to the left leg of the first youth carrying the old man. In front of the other youth walk three children, a nude boy riding a stick and carrying another, a clothed girl carrying a doll, and another nude boy holding a small dog. At the far left of the picture is part of a temple containing a statue of a nude youth seen from behind. The temple is preceded by a flight of steps. At one side of these steps and nearest to us are three women. The first woman, wearing a short dress and leggings, rushes in from the left and looks up at the burning city. The second woman, also young, is seated with her head bowed and her hands clasped before her. Beside her is seated an old woman whose head is also bent down. Farther to the right another woman rushes forward, to the left, with her body bent down as though she is looking at one of the two seated women. Piled on the ground near her are two coffers and a bundle. On the steps of the temple is seated a nude youth who looks up at the burning city with his right arm raised. To the right of him are two partly draped figures, one prone, the other seated, and both with their hands covering their faces. A woman rushes in from behind the temple and a male nude behind her walks in the other direction with a huge bundle on his back. To the right of him a clothed woman carrying a bundle on her head walks to the left, another clothed woman runs in the same direction, and a nude child at his side walks toward the distance.

At either side of the main picture on this wall is a niche, crowned by a shell and flanked by paired female and male herms. Those at the left are young women with bare breasts, those at the right bearded mature men. Running across each niche at the level of the top of the herms’ heads is a garland of gilt laurel leaves. Each herm is set behind a kind of rectangular shield that is attached to the frame of the central picture and to the frames of the outer painted garlands. The inner corner of each shield is decorated with an oval relief that looks like an amulet. The two farthest to the left on this wall show at the top what is probably a sacrificial scene and below a figure before an altar. Those across from them show each a warrior. To the left of the right niche the two reliefs show three nude figures with hands joined. The relief at the far upper right has a female figure pointing at a flaming urn. The lower relief seems to show a nude figure holding another upside down (Hercules and Antaeus?). Beneath each niche is an oval with the “Royal F,” and beneath each oval hangs drapery. The left niche contains an old man with a long beard wearing a heavy cloak over “barbarian” trousers, similar to the ones worn by the woman at the far left in the central fresco. In the right niche is a youth with a wreath on his head and wearing light drapery around his hips. Around his neck and over his shoulders hang small pieces of drapery that would seem to indicate an undergarment beneath a very tight body covering.

Above each niche are two large strapwork scrolls in the center of which, at the left, is a lion’s head with vegetal mane and, at the right, a large rose, and both occupying areas where beams were originally. From the mouth of the lion and the center of the rose hang huge stucco garlands of fruit and leaves that extend inward to the salamander and outward around the sides of the wall. These garlands originally hung from a ring in the center of the underside of the crossbeams. In front of these garlands, and with their feet on the niches below, are four wingèd adolescents running away from the niche to the right and left. The flaming salamander is placed against boldly projecting strapwork. Beneath the central picture is a small cusp-shaped painting of a city in flames, with the head of a vegetal-bearded man and a volute at either side. Alongside these were once painted garlands.

The earlier identification of the large painting of this wall as representing Aeneas’s flight from Troy was prompted by the center group in the foreground. Isolated from the rest of the picture these three figures could certainly be read as Aeneas carrying his father Anchises with the young man’s son Ascanius clinging to his leg—although the story also requires that Anchises carry the family’s sacred images. The flight of Aeneas is the prime example of filial piety that the ancient world had to offer. But the story of Amphinomus and Aenapias saving their parents from the destruction of Catania by an eruption of Mt. Aetna conveyed the same meaning. In Seneca’s On Benefits the second story immediately follows upon the first as an example of the same virtue. It is generally agreed that Rosso’s fresco also refers to filial piety. Why then was the Catania scene used instead of the Trojan episode? The Panofskys suggested that the fresco refers to the loyalty of Francis I’s two sons who were held hostage in the place of their father after the Battle of Pavia.11 Though it need not be true that this picture indicates this particular event—and the involuntary action of Francis I’s own sons does not make a very appropriate comparison with the heroism of the twins of Catania—the choice of an episode with two sons instead of one son does suggest a reference to Francis I’s own life before the death of his eldest son in August of 1596.112 And it makes a more fitting counterpart to the picture of Cleobis and Biton across from it. Nevertheless, the Twins of Catania does present, through its three central figures, a visual reference to Aeneas’s flight from Troy in the very middle of the fresco, similar to the use of such a group in Raphael’s Fire in the Borgo. While above them burns the city of Catania, it is not unlikely that in the small picture directly beneath them we are meant to see Troy in flames, for it would be redundant, and very unusual in the scheme of the decoration of the gallery, to show Catania burning a second time on the same wall. The filial piety of Amphinomus and Aenapias is emphasized in Rosso’s picture by showing at the left all that they leave behind, the temple, compatriots in despair, an old woman who is not being saved by her children, and a pile of worldly treasures. Farther back people flee to the left with bundles on their heads. But the twins flee to the right accompanied by four young children in the direction of the sea; a sea that will save them, unlike the destructive waters in the Revenge of Nauplius.

The double frame of reference, of Catania and Troy, that is contained in the main picture seems also to be an aspect of the stucco decorations that frame it. In the left niche the old man wearing a cloak over barbarian trousers would seem to represent a Gaul, perhaps even Vercingetorix, discussed by the Panofskys in connection with the Unity of the State as “the first Gallic chieftain to be acclaimed ‘king’ by his followers and above all, the first to unite under his scepter the major part of what the Romans called Gallia bracata (‘trousered Gaul’).”113 Chastel also recognized the statue at the left as a “Gaulois” and suggested that the statue at the right represents an ancient hero, indicating thus the Gallic and Trojan origins of the French.114 Could he be Hector or Francus, his son, the mythological ancestors of the French?115 Both statues have laurel wreaths behind suggesting that the two figures are heroes. The herms beside the two statues suggest that the latter are meant to indicate places of origin. The herms also look like guardian figures, protecting perhaps the double ancestry of the French. On the amulets the small reliefs indicate battle, worship, and concord; the elements necessary to establish a civilization. Above, the wingèd adolescents are rushing out with mouths open as though they are announcing something. It seems very likely that Chastel’s suggestion is correct and that the framing figures of this wall present the double origins of the French, Gallic, and Trojan. Looking back at the central picture the implication of Troy in the Aeneas group is not without further meaning. For the escape of the four adults with four children in the direction of the sea with its ships may enlarge upon the subject of filial piety by suggesting their flight results in their settlement of another land.116

The Trojan element in the decoration of this wall is only one of several in the gallery. It is to some extent implied in the Education of Achilles. In the Revenge of Nauplius it is an essential factor behind the action that is actually depicted. And if the Funeral of Hector was once considered for the place now occupied by the Death of Adonis, an important connection was originally made between that scene and the stucco sculpture to the right of the Twins of Catania.

V South: Cleobis and Biton

[Centered Fig.V S a]

P.22, V S a, Cleobis

[Centered Fig.Center Scene]


In the foreground of the principal picture of this wall an old woman, heavily draped and with her arms outstretched, is seated high up in a richly carved chariot pulled by two young men wearing short garments. At the front corner of the chariot is a small oval medallion bearing the “Royal F” encircled by a crown. The youths have arrived at the steps of a small open temple before which hangs a lantern. In the temple is a white statue of a woman seated on a throne; she is draped but her breasts are bare. The statue is raised on a high “gold” base, the corners of which are decorated with wingèd putti seated upon long-necked monsters. Alongside and in back of the chariot are several dead animals. There are also two dead animals, one of them an ox, just beyond the two youths and the temple. Farther back are ruined buildings, two obelisks, and what may be a farm building. In the distance at the far right are two thatched buildings, several large dead animals, including one horse, and a man running to the right.

At either side of this fresco is a round stucco relief set within a square stucco slab. A piece of rounded strapwork at either side of the relief contains three niches, each containing an armless female herm. Above each piece of strapwork is the draped head of a child with a gilt lantern on its head with a small flame. Below in each corner is the head of a baby with four raised wings set within four strapwork scrolls.

 [Centered  Fig.P.22, V S e Stucco relief at left]

Left Relief P-1.22-V-S-a-Cleobis

The large round relief at the left shows two dead youths lying on the ground, one on top of the other, before an architectural enclosure. Between, the architecture horizon may be indicated with what appears to be waves. Above them in the clouds is a woman, with only her legs covered and wearing a crescent moon on her head. She is riding in a chariot pulled by two long-necked wingèd monsters. They may resemble the monsters on the base of the statue in the main picture. With her arms are widely outstretched the woman looks down. Behind her is the band of the zodiac showing first the hindquarters of Leo and then Cancer (which would mean that she herself is in front of the sign of Gemini). These two signs are the same ones in the background of the Loss of Perpetual Youth, although in the reverse order.

[Center, Round relief at the right] ADD TO CATALOGUE

Right Relief P-1.22-V-S-a-Cleobis

The round relief at the right shows a grand city partly in ruins with small farm houses placed before it. The details of this city—a large amphitheater, a tall narrative column and a triumphal arch—suggest Rome. In the center forground of the relief is a draped man walking to the left whose right hand may originally have been holding his nose (as in the Vienna tapestry [Fig. 3]). A nude man (now headless) bent over on the ground before the walking man, appears to be sick and retching. There are five dead animals, including a horse and an ox, and a dead man and woman on the ground. In the left distance, a man flees.

Above each stucco panel is seated a stucco male putto, the one on the right holding his penis, the one on the left pointing down to the left. There are stucco masks above the corners of the stucco slabs similar to those beneath the stucco panels. Above each seated putto is a medallion with the “Royal F” where originally there was a smaller framed round disk of feigned marble; painted garlands of fruit and leaves fill the remaining wall areas at the top of this wall. Below the round stucco panels are pairs of painted muscular babies reclining and seated on volutes. At the left one putto holds a smoking ceremonial pot between him and his companion. At the right one putto holds a flaming ceremonial lamp. The salamander in the center above117 is flanked by oval stucco medallions containing the “Royal F,” the one on the right is shown backwards.

 [Centered Fig.P.22, V S c Caritas relief]


Below the main fresco is a rectangular relief in stucco set on a longer band of stucco with cusped ends. A large stucco dog is placed at each end of the relief. The relief shows an architectural setting with a large barred window in the center. Before it is seated a woman holding a restless child at her side. Her breasts are bare and the left one has a pronounced nipple. Behind the bars of the window can be seen on old man. To the left within the relief are three standing men, clothed and looking at the central scene. To the right are three nude men, one of them asleep. At the upper right there are two men at the top of a small flight of steps. Above the framed garlands at the sides of the wall are heads of bearded old men set against strapwork volutes. Below each garland are curving bands of strapwork, the one at the left with a rosette in the center, the one at the right with a screaming head.

Stylistically the central fresco of Cleobis and Biton is the counterpart to the Twins of Catania across from it. The main action in each takes place moving parallel to the picture plane, and in the same direction, eastward in the gallery. There is also a temple in each, at the west side. But, in the Twins of Catania the principle figures flee away from the temple; in the Cleobis and Biton they move toward it. The decoration of the north wall with its large and rich stucco sculpture forms a contrast to that of the south wall where the center picture is more dominant. Here the small white and recessed stucco scenes at the right and left project the fresco of Cleobis and Biton into greater significance.

Although Cassaiano del Pazzo, in 1625, seems to have known the story depicted in the central fresco, it was Père Dan, in 1642, who identified it specifically. As told by Herodotus the story of these two men who pulled the chariot of their mother to the temple of Juno when the oxen required for this trip did not come home from the fields, was used to illustrate the highest blessing that could possibly come to man. For after their mother prayed to Juno that she reward them with such a blessing, the goddess caused them to fall into a sleep in her temple, a sleep from which they never woke. According to Tervarent, it was Junius Philargyrius and Servius in their commentaries on Book III of Virgil’s Georgics who added the detail that the oxen did not return because they had died in an epidemic.118 Hence, all the dead animals in Rosso’s picture. In antiquity the story of Cleobis and Biton was not used as an example of filial piety as were the stories of Aeneas’s flight from Troy and the twins of Catania. Nevertheless, in the gallery across from the Twins of Catania, the Cleobis and Biton seems to have taken on this meaning. But why two such illustrations of filial piety? The Panofskys suggested that the second picture “testifies … to Francis I’s almost idolatrous veneration for his mother, the formidable Louise of Savoie.”119 This could be true, but it does make one wonder why such veneration needed to be illustrated by a scene involving two sons. The chariot in which the mother, the priestess Cydippe, rides is decorated with a medallion showing the “Royal F” encircled by a crown, and it is implied that such a decoration appears at each corner of the chariot. Is it not possible that this chariot was meant to be itself symbolic of Francis I? If Cleobis and Biton suggest Francis I’s sons then their piety could be seen as serving their father, or rather his kingship. And the sons as well as the father could be seen as in the service of Cydippe who fulfills her sacred duty. The ceremonial vessel and lantern in the lower corners of this wall also seem to indicate the sacred aspect of the decoration of this wall. So do the small votive figures at the sides of the round reliefs. McAllister Johnson has suggested that while the Twins of Catania concerns an act of piety in reference to parents, the Cleobis and Biton is about “le service dû à la divinité.”120 The first, therefore, is about ancestral lineage, and the second about the sacred obligations of the royal Angoulême-Valois line, with Francis I, and the chariot, as the primary vehicle to fulfill those obligations.

The side reliefs show scenes that appear to enlarge upon the story of the center picture. At the right [Fig.Right Relief] the scene of devastation and death in a site that looks like Rome seems to refer to that aspect of the story of Cleobis and Biton introduced by Junius Philargyrius and Servius. At the left [Fig.P.22, V S e] Béguin recognized the story of the brothers Agamedes and Trophonius, architects of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, whom the god rewarded as Juno had Cleobis and Biton; both stories derived probably from Giulio Camillo Delminio.121 The goddess above with a crescent moon for a crown has been identified as Diana, Luna-Semele, and by the Panofskys as Ceres-Demeter because her chariot is pulled by dragons. Ceres-Demeter is also the mother of Persephone, the goddess of the underworld to which Agamedes and Trophonius, as well as Cleobis and Biton, can be thought to have descended. The same attributes of the goddess in the relief accompany the goddess who appears in one of the ovals above the fresco of Danaë. Seen against the band of the zodiac, in Rosso’s relief, and next to the lion and the crab, the goddess, as stated before, would be covering up the sign of Gemini, a reference, it would seem, to the pairs of brothers. The two reliefs appear to indicate two kinds of death, the one leading to immortality with reference to the Angoulême-Valois line—the other to total destruction. The relief beneath the main picture shows Cimon and his daughter Pero, or symbolically Caritas Romana. The Panofskys saw this scene as referring to the aid that Marguerite de Navarre, Francis I’s sister, gave to him while he was a prisoner in Spain.122 Whether or not it has such biographical meaning is impossible to prove, however, the relief does enlarge upon the filial piety aspect of the decoration of this wall by presenting another scene of familial devotion.123 The dogs that guard this relief could simply suggest Faith. Perhaps this is also partly the intention of the hounds guarding the baby salamander under the Loss of Perpetual Youth.

*          *          *

Looking back at the four wall areas that have just been discussed and at the Funeral of Hector instead of its possible replacement, the Death of Adonis, it strikes one that all four have been about familial relationships. But each one has explored this theme in a slightly different manner. Originally these four walls, before the addition of the Danaë (or the Nymph of Fontainebleau) wall, constituted the central core of the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I. It is here, even with the Danaë, that the strongest dynastic implications of the program of the gallery have their place. And it was near here, between the Twins of Catania and the Revenge of Nauplius, that there was a bust of Francis I, over the door of the North Cabinet. On either side of this door were representations of Victory and Fame.

VI North: The Royal Elephant

[Center Fig. VI N a ]

P22 VI North Royal Elephant

The fresco of the Royal Elephant is the most obviously symbolic large painting in the Gallery of Francis I. It has almost no dramatic action; its major point seems to be the presentation of the enormous elephant to several gods in a kind of shallow arena and to a crowd of people, some scantily dressed, on a terrace atop a building at the left. Furthermore, the composition of the picture, in terms of the relationships of figures to architecture, is one of the most illogical in the gallery, matched only by that of the Education of Achilles. At II North, this scene occupies a space comparable to the Royal Elephant at VI North.

The pale gray elephant fills the center of the picture from top to bottom and wears a shabrack decorated with the fleur-de-lis and the “Royal F” encircled by a crown. On his forehead there is an armorial shield with the salamander surmounted by a crown; three ostrich feathers rise above the escutcheon, one yellow, one lavender and one green. On the strap across the animal’s chest there is the “golden” head of a bearded man. The animal is standing on green ground between the columns of a temple at the right and circular steps and a loggia mentioned above at the left. The temple is built on foundations of huge rocks upon which there rests a broken column (although no column seems to be missing from the small part of the temple that is visible). Two figures cling to one of the columns of the temple and look down upon the elephant. In the temple is a statue of a mature bearded man seated on a throne. Copies of a lost drawing (Figs. D.54 A-F) for this scene show that the side of this throne has the form of a wingèd animal with the legs of a lion. The seated figure holds a dark spherical object in his left hand, and the copies of Rosso’s lost drawing and Fantuzzi’s etching (Fig. E.65) show him wearing the head of a lion on his head with its skin hanging down his shoulder. The copies of a lost drawing also show what is probably the end of a club held by his right hand. Beneath the temple and in front of its rocky foundations stands a young man wearing a skirt and sandals who has before him a three-headed dog. To the left and alongside the leg of the elephant is a white crane. Just behind the elephant’s trunk there is standing a young man facing right and dressed in a modified cuirass; at his feet is a trident and perhaps a dolphin, of which only the tail seems visible. In the foreground, standing on the circular steps, is another young man dressed in a cuirass, cape and sandals; he appears to be stepping down toward the right. There is a thunderbolt at his feet. Behind him and between the upper platform of the steps and the loggia are five figures. The near group of three is composed of a bearded man with a walking stick leaning over and gesticulating to a reclining and partially nude man and a child before him. The child has his right hand held up to the cheek of the reclining figure. Farther to the left are two figures seen only from the waist up. The one with the long red beard has been identified as Rosso, the other as Primaticcio.124 The loggia behind them is decorated with three busts in oculi and two standing statues in niches; the second one female, nude, and armless. At the upper corner of the loggia is a statue of a nude youth of which only the lower part is visible, supported on a hemisphere and a rectangular base decorated with rams’ heads and garlands. The roof of the loggia is crammed with at least seventeen figures all of which seem to be spectators to what is happening below.

At the left of this fresco is another painting of a slightly draped woman—seen from the back, seated upon a bullthat is also seen also from the back—who is standing in water. At the right is a fresco of a partially draped woman sporting with a white horse on a bank of clouds. Above each of these paintings is a pair of wingèd adolescents in stucco seated on the frames of the central picture and on the frames of the garlands at the sides of the wall. Beneath each pair is a stucco medallion with the “Royal F,” the one at the right reversed. Stucco garlands hang between them and the adolescents. Beneath each side fresco is a pair of stucco putti holding a garland between them. The salamander above is placed on a large piece of strapwork terminating in four long scrolls. Under the main picture is a horizontal relief set between two blocks enclosing small masks and two large strapwork volutes. This relief, which is slightly damaged at the lower left, shows, in the center of a columned hall or temple, a beardless man, dressed in a cuirass and wearing a cap or helmet, standing, with his foot on the edge of the frame, before what looks like an altar decorated with a garland and a cherub’s head. On this altar is a sphere with a slight depression in it. At the bottom of it is a band, looking something like a brace, curved along the surface of the sphere. The man standing in front of the altar has a short instrument, that looks like a flat stick, in his raised right hand. His raised left hand holds another object which looks limp, and which could be a small animal, but which could also be a severed hand, or hands. Behind him stand six figures all in long loose garments except the one immediately to the left who also wears a cuirass and a cap. Two of the figures wear hoods. The man just behind the central figures looks intently at him and gestures with a pointed finger. At the far left is a nude figure partly behind a pier. At the right are five figures between the columns of the building. Two are nude, two heavily cloaked, and one wears barbarian trousers. The seated nude at the far right has a small object set beside him.

All the figures and architectural forms in the fresco of the Royal Elephant have been kept small in order to represent the elephant as large as possible. Consequently, the architecture of the left is absurdly small and the figures before it and especially on top of it are of a size that is incompatible. The style of the picture is primarily a vehicle of iconographic exposition, the content of which forces incongruities of relationships and scale upon the realistic mode of the painting. On the other hand, the side frescoes show their female nudes as large as the animals with which they consort by strongly foreshortening the bull at the left and masking much of the horse at the right with the drapery flying around the woman. The vigorous elegance, spirited activity, and humor of these compositions create a relieving contrast to the sober and stylistically rather static center picture. The relief below, similar in style to the Cimon and Pero under the Cleobis and Biton fresco, approaches, more than any other relief designed by Rosso, Donatello’s rilievo stiacciato.

Tervarent’s and the Panofskys’s interpretation of the elephant as symbolizing Francis I stems, in the first place, from the devices that it wears: the Valois-Angoulême salamander, the French fleur-de-lis, and Francis’s own personal emblem, the “Royal F” encircled by a crown.125 From Horapollon’s Hieroclyphica it is clear that this animal stands for a strong and perspicacious man as well as for a king. It was also a symbol of Julius Caesar. (Shearman has suggested that the use of this grand symbol for Francis I may have been prompted by the recollection that Leo X in Bologna in December 1515 promised to give the king his own real elephant. However, the elephant was not sent and died in June of the following year.)126 According to Horapollon the crane is a symbol of a man watchful against the ambushes of his enemies;127 the ostrich feathers ornamenting the elephant may symbolize the man who distributes justice equally to all. The Panofskys also pointed out that without a rider the elephant is furthermore seen as “free from human control.” They suggested that the Elephant stands, though not quite alone as they say, “in the arena of a kind of ampitheatre … miraculously transformed into what Guilio Camillo [Delminio] … described as a theatrum mundi. The crowd of spectators is confined to the ‘balcony,’ with only a few privileged persons admitted to that level of the arena.”128] These persons include an unbearded Zeus, with his thunderbolt at his feet,129 and Neptune, with the trident and the dolphin or some other aquatic animal; both gods dressed in Roman costume as is Francis I in the opposite fresco, the Unity of the State. At the far right is Pluto with Cerberus. The statue in the temple would seem to be of Hercules, with either an orb, signifying the sphere of power, or one of the apples of the Hesperides in his left hand.130 One of the columns of the temple is broken and turned over, and its proximity to the elephant indicates that it was the elephant that knocked it down upon approaching the arena—and perhaps by so doing exposing the statue within the temple that would not normally be visible from outside the building. The exposed rocky terrain seen under the temple may imply that even more of the temple is down. Hence, it is likely that the elephant, or Francis I, is meant to be seen as superior to Hercules, the greatest of men who was received into the company of gods upon his death. For the same reason, neither Zeus nor Neptune holds his arms because they have laid them down out of respect for the elephant. If the three standing gods also represent air (Zeus), sea (Neptune), and earth (Pluto) then the elephant can be recognized as having dominion over them. Behind Zeus are seen three figures, a child, a man with a full head of hair, and an old man with a walking stick, who seem to be conversing; the man with the stick, who has portrait-like features, may be instructing the other two. [Detail: Three Figures] Farther back, but still among the privileged persons in the arena, are, possibly, as has already been pointed out, Rosso and his associate, Primaticcio, the creators of the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I and its North Cabinet. Whatever may be the precise intended meaning of the relationships of the figures in this fresco it is clear that the elephant must be seen as superior to them all and as symbolic of Francis I and his greatness. Béguin has pointed out that later in the sixteenth century the elephant was also symbolic of eternity and hence there may be a reference here to the everlastingness of the monarchy,131 particularly of the Valois-Angoulême dynasty.132

The side frescoes showing Europa and the Bull and Saturn and Philyra have been beautifully interpreted by the Panofskys in relation to the central picture. Here the gods are “so much at the mercy of carnal desires that they debase themselves to the level of animals; the elephant is an animal so godlike in wisdom and temperance that it transcends the limitations of common humanity.”133 Should, however, the relationship of the side frescoes to the central picture be seen only in such contrast? One is struck by the emphasis on the beauty of the women and by a degree of seriousness their elegance implies, suggesting perhaps that it is not the carnality of the bull and horse that is the sole significance of these scenes. For from her union with Saturn, in the form of a horse, Philyra gave birth to Chiron, the wise centaur, who is featured so prominently in the Education of Achilles. And Europa, from her union with Zeus, as a bull, gave birth to Minos, the king and wise law-giver of Crete.

Unfortunately, the subject of the relief beneath the central fresco has never been satisfactorily explained. Guilbert in 1731 believed it represented Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot, and no alternative to this suggestion has ever been made. The spherical object and its placement on an altar in the relief do not correspond to ancient descriptions of the Gordian knot that was tied to a wagon.134 Nor do the versions of Alexander cutting the knot make any reference to his holding anything other than a sword. Furthermore, it cannot be said for certain that the central figure in the composition is Alexander, although this is not unlikely. He is young and beardless, he wears the appropriate costume, and he looks heroic. It is also possible that he is Alexander because of his descent from Hercules, who seems to be represented in the scene above, and from Achilles, who is represented elsewhere in the gallery, because he was the ancient world’s greatest ruler, and because he was known for having proved the use of elephants in battle. In the relief, this figure appears to be making a sacrifice in front of an altar in a sanctuary. The robed and hooded figures are almost certainly priests. If it is Alexander who is represented, then it is possible that the relief shows him either sacrificing whatever he holds in his left hand before the omphalos at Delphi, where Pythia called him invincible, or worshipping at the temple at Ammon, where the priest hailed him as the son of Zeus, although the ancient accounts of these visits do not specify the kind of scene shown here. One might add that whatever the object is on the altar, in shape at least it is related to the object held by the figure enthroned in the temple in the scene above and to the pomegranate held by Francis I, also wearing ancient armor, in the Unity of the State on the opposite wall of the gallery.

VI South: The Unity of the State 

 [Centered Fig. P.22, VI S a]

Unity of the State

The Unity of the State has, like its counterpart directly across the gallery from it, a somewhat undramatic composition. In the center of the fresco appears Francis I dressed in a cuirass decorated with a gorgon’s head on the chest and lions’ heads on the flaps, a cape, and boots, also decorated with lions’ heads. He wears a laurel wreath on his head. Francis I holds a partially opened pomegranate in his extended left hand and gestures upward with one finger of his right hand as he discourses with the men at the right. Before and slightly to the right side of the king a draped blond child (or a dwarf) kneels holding an armful of pomegranates of which two are visible. The bald man at the right, to whom Francis I is speaking, is dressed in a long white robe; he holds up two fingers of his left hand and with his right hand appears to be counting them off. To the left of the king is a group of six figures: at the far left a bearded man, looking beyond the scene to the left with his arms raised before him, wears a long cloak and barbarian trousers; behind him stands a man in a short tunic with his hand grasping his leg just above his knee; there follows two men in Roman armor and helmets, the second carrying a shield; to their right appears the head of a young man wearing a helmet followed by a man with gray hair and beard wearing an undergarment and a cloak that covers his head. To the right of the king and behind the man to whom he is speaking is a group of seven figures: first, the heads of two elderly men, the first of which seems to be wearing a cloak and barbarian trousers; a third man, bald, wears this same costume; behind him is seen the top of a head probably wearing a helmet followed by the heads of two young men wearing helmets; the last man, bearded, wears a long cloak over an undergarment and barbarian trousers.

The group of figures around the king is placed before a large and splendid architectural setting. What appears to be a street recedes at the left; the wall at its left has a niche with a “gold” statue of a woman in it. Above the foreground group the heads of two women are visible in this street; one of them looks up at the statue. Slightly to the left of the center of the picture is a large gray building on several levels, the walls of which contain six niches containing six “gold” statues of nude men and women. Behind Francis I, two women facing each other are seen walking in the direction of this building. Just to the right of center is a building with a balustered porch on the corner of which stands a statue, of which only the lower part is actually visible. Two draped women approach this porch by a flight of stairs at the right. After an opening showing a sky with clouds there is a slender obelisk and then a round building with an upper story. The picture is closed at the right by the façades of two houses. From a window of the first a man looks out; on a ledge of the second is a monkey. In the street below are four figures. Farthest back is a nude youth wearing a cape that billows out behind him; his hair is blown back and he looks in the direction of the center of the picture. He is grasping a man who wears a high hat with ear flaps and a short cloak apparently ragged at the hem; he may also be wearing barbarian trousers. Nearer to us is a man wearing a loose, short tunic who kneels and embraces a nude child standing before and reaching up to the man.

At either side of the main picture is a large oval fresco surrounded by almost identical stuccowork. Above each are long strapwork volutes on either side of a blue medallion with the “Royal F.” At the sides are standing nude youths in stucco, two with sashes of drapery around them, one with a shield-like object at his feet bearing the fleur-de-lis. They are standing on rectangular plaques with lions’ heads that are inserted between the oval pictures and the frames of the center picture and the outer framing garlands. The youths partly lean on these frames. Beneath each oval picture is a heavy swag of fruit and vegetables hanging in front of a broad band of strapwork. A putto stands in the center of each with his arms in the garlands. On either side of him is a gilt ceremonial vessel.

[Fig.Left side of wall]

The oval fresco at the left shows two men dressed in short tunics. The one on the right has his arms crossed behind him. The men seem to be very loosely tied together by a single length of rope; a tangle of rope appears at the side of the man at the right. The blond man to the left and in front of the other figure clings to his neck with his feet dangling behind him just off the ground, although only his left foot is visible. The men appear to be kissing. Between the chests of the two men appears a pig with two piglets set in the tangle of rope. A pig or pigs seem also to appear between the men’s legs.

[Fig.P.22, VI S c]

In the second oval fresco appear two young muscular men standing in a small boat, one in front of the other. The front one, who has only a sash of drapery around his thighs, propels the boat forward, toward us, with a long pole. From behind, the other man, with his legs wide apart, has his arms closely around the chest of the youth who guides the boat through water.

The gilt salamander above the central picture has his neck lowered as though he is looking down at the figure of Francis I in the large picture below. The salamander is surrounded by a very abundant garland of fruit and vegetables in stucco. Above the lateral framing garlands are wingèd cherubs’ heads set between scrolls of strapwork; below are elaborate pieces of strapwork.

There is also a long fresco under the main picture. In the center of it is a circle of columns forming a room in which is seated upon a throne raised on a dais a crowned nude man. He leans forward to receive the words of a lightly clad man who runs in from the right with his arms flung back. Behind him stands another man similarly dressed. To the right are three harnessed horses. There is a building with piers and volutes at the far right. Immediately to the right of the enthroned man are three standing draped men, the first with his arms raised before him expressing alarm, the other two bearded, looking at the running figure. In the foreground a man clutches a column while looking into the circular area at the seated figure. Slightly to the left a man emerges from behind another column, moving and looking toward the left in the direction of an open space with a wall and staircase in the background, and at the left a double flight of stairs in front of a building. There are two figures on the distant stairway, and two draped figures standing in front of the wall. There are several people on the other, double staircase, one running and one reclining on the top of it, and a nude seated at its other end. (The Vienna tapestry shows three others farther back on the upper landing and another looking out through the bars of a large window or door.) At the far left a figure runs out of the picture.

While the setting of the Royal Elephant places this animal in a very special location, partly secular, perhaps, but also sacred, into which only a small group of select personages are admitted, the Unity of the State shows Francis I, as a Roman emperor,135 in the middle of a splendid city surrounded by diverse people. Life in this city goes on peacefully all around him for a few figures—almost all women—appear quite oblivious to the central event of the picture. Nevertheless, the composition of the picture is centralized around the figure of the king. The arrangement of the figures here, including the placement of the kneeling one, along with the subsidiary groups in the space at the right recall the composition of Masaccio’s Tribute Money, which also has a monkey at a window in the background. At the same time the architectural background brings to mind Raphael’s Paul at Lystra. But Rosso’s painting has a much more colloquial aspect than does either Masaccio’s or Raphael’s grand picture. The mode of the Unity of the State is anecdotal, and it is in this manner that Rosso’s picture is first to be read.

The emperor has been brought, and is being offered, a number of pomegranates by the kneeling blond youth. From them the emperor has taken one and with it, one must suppose, explains with his pointing finger his concept of the unity of the state while his most immediate listener enumerates, counting on his fingers, the multiplicity of its factors. This dual concept is, of course, itself symbolized by the pomegranate with its many seeds contained within a single skin. But it is also represented by the diversity of the figures standing around the single figure of the king.136 Among these figures are: Roman warriors; an ordinary citizen(?), the man, second from the left; a Roman priest(?), the gray bearded man with his head covered by his cloak; a rich man or a scholar, the man talking to the king; and several men wearing barbarian trousers. If these last figures can be related to the statue of the man wearing the same costume at the left of the Twins of Catania fresco then perhaps they can also be identified as Gauls. If this is the case then Francis I could be seen as Julius Caesar and like him recognized as the unifier of the French within the framework of the ancient Roman order. The two pairs of figures at the far right of the composition also suggest unity: the nude figure clasping his strangely clad companion and the father embracing the child. This picture, then, is a kind of civic counterpart to the more universal symbol of the king and kingship presented by the Royal Elephant.137

The Panofskys interpreted the side frescoes, but from their slightly different appearance in the Vienna tapestry [P.22 VI a left end and P.22, VI S c], as representing a hopeless struggle, or disunity, at the left, and two men guiding a boat together, or unity, at the right.138 But this does not seem to be quite the case. The bound figure in the fresco at the left is so loosely tied up as to make his fetters no more than symbolic. Nevertheless, he cannot keep off the other man whose weight could easily bring him down. He seems incapable of defending himself because of his own limitations rather than because of the bonds around his arms. In the other fresco the man behind the other is not directing the course to be followed, as the Panofskys thought, because of his pointing finger in the Vienna tapestry that does not appear in the fresco but seems rather to be impeding the action of his fellow passenger. The one figure seems to be holding the other back. For the youth with the pole does not look forward but rather to the side as though he were averted from directing the boat because of something the other figure is saying to him. Both of these pairs of male couples may form a kind of counterpart to the scenes of bestial love across from them. Both frescoes flanking the Unity of the State may, therefore, imply a kind of disunity. It is not impossible that there is a homosexual element suggested in this, that is, a disunity resulting from a lack of dissimilarity. A similar sexual frame of reference is also found in the decoration above the side panels framing the Death of Adonis.

The small fresco beneath the Unity of the State was interpreted by the Panofskys as representing “the fateful moment when the rebellion of Vercingetorix is reported to Caesar who, thinking that ‘Gaul was quiet, had moved to Italy to hold his assizes.'” This view is related to their suggestion that in the figure of Francis I in the main fresco there is an allusion to Vercingetorix, the “first Gallic chieftan to be acclaimed ‘king’ by his followers and, above all, the first to unite under his sceptre the major part of what the Romans called Gallia bracata (‘trouser-Gaul’…).”139 Is it not more likely, however, that if such an allusion exists it is found in the figures wearing barbarian trousers that surround Francis I as Caesar? For ultimately Vercingetorix was defeated and Gaul was united by Caesar, the implication being that where the former failed Francis I, a new Roman leader, would succeed in France as did Julius Caesar. After all, Francis I does wear the laurel crown of victory in the central fresco, and he is dressed as a Roman general.

VII North: The Scene of Sacrifice

 [Fig. The Scene of Sacrifice]

D.51 Scene of Sacrifice, Reversed

The Scene of Sacrifice is the most passionately dramatic and compositionally the most cohesive of the large pictures in the Gallery of Francis I. Its only rival in these respects is the Death of Adonis but even that picture is not so charged with activity and not so concentrated in its narrative focus. The Scene of Sacrifice is also the only scene in the gallery for which a significantly different early version is known from copies of a lost drawing by Rosso [D.50 A-D] and from a print attributed to Delaune in the same direction as the drawn copies but with a few added details [Fig. E.50]. There is also a drawing related to this print [Fig. D.51] possibly derived from another lost drawing by Rosso. This early version should be considered first—primarily from the copies of Rosso’s (first) lost drawing but also from the engraving and the drawing related to it—in order to make as telling as possible the changes made in the final picture.

The early design shows a rectangular altar, just to the left of center, from the flat top of which arise flames blowing to the left. At the top of the corners of the altar are sculptured rams heads from which hang garlands. Between the two at the left is a round disk. At the bottom of the corners of the altar, which is raised on a step, there are griffins, though only one is fully visible. This altar is placed beneath a gnarled tree that is seen almost in its entirety rising at the left and arching over the altar. From this tree hang four ex votos: a sword, two small paintings showing figures praying, and an arm. The latter is partly held up and extended forward by a lightly clad youth who is astride the large branch that hangs over the altar. He is holding forward the ex voto arm in the direction of the long bearded priest who stands at the right of the altar. The priest is heavily draped, wears a mitre and extends his right arm, with the hand open, toward the flames of the altar while he looks to the right at a draped old man with a crutch who approaches the altar as he doffs his hat. It is not exactly clear what the priest is doing with his left arm but he may have it raised in the direction of the old man with his left hand touching the old man’s back. In front of the old man is a youth with his back to us who is lightly clad like the figure in the tree. He looks at the old man and gestures toward the altar. Seated and kneeling immediately to the right of the altar are four women, two with bare backs; the foremost holds a nude baby. To the left and behind the altar are two women talking; the nearest one has bare breasts, the other bare shoulders at least. Just to the left of the tree and at the far left of the scene is an old man, with bare legs, who is looking up and is seated in a traveling chair being carried by the figures that surround it. The nearest chair bearer is a nude youth. Behind the chair can be seen the head of another youth. And on the other side of it is the head of an old woman. A pair of trousered and booted legs can be seen through and on the far side of the chair’s legs. At the far right of the scene and to the right of the old man with the crutch is another old mars, bald and bearded—he has hair in the print—and wearing only a loin cloth, who is attempting to tame a swaddled baby from a large nude woman who seems somewhat to resist his action. Behind him is the hooded head of a bearded old man; behind the woman is a bald head—but with hair in the engraving. The lower right corner of the composition is filled with four young women and a child. The three immediately behind the man with a crutch are nude; the first one looks to the left over her shoulder in an attitude implying some apprehension. In the immediate foreground the fourth woman, seated and with her back bare, is seen from the back with her head turned strongly to the left as she looks at the child lying on his back across her leg. Strongly foreshortened he reaches up to this woman. In the engraving, and in the related reversed drawing, there is another, larger, child at her right whom she holds around his thigh. He looks away to the right and has his right arm raised and is pointing upward with his finger. There is no evidence for this child in the copy in Göttingen that shows this section of Rosso’s lost drawing known from several copies. In the background the terrain falls from the upper right to the level of the flames of the altar at the left. Behind the priest and the old man with a crutch are mountains; at the highest level of the land are large ruins.

More than any other composition in the gallery this early version of the Scene of Sacrifice resembles stylistically the Loss of Perpetual Youth. The figures have the same proportions, the same kinds of postures, and a similar distribution across the foreground of the pictures. Both scenes are also set in a landscape. These two pictures seem, furthermore, also to resemble each other thematically to some extent. Old and young people appear in both though in the Scene of Sacrifice the appearance of several babies makes even a greater contrast to infirm old age. And the Loss of Perpetual Youth contains within it three small scenes of worship, each before a flaming altar. But whereas the story of the latter picture involves deceit, foolishness, and the betrayal of faith in relation to the gift of youth granted by the gods to man, the Scene of Sacrifice does not.

The central person in this first version of Rosso’s picture is the mitred figure but his gesture and his placement in the scene slightly back and between the figures at the right and the altar seem to indicate that his function is that of an intermediary, as his priestly role would prescribe. It is really not around him but around the altar that the figures are gathered and to which some are being brought. Furthermore, though the tree in the foreground could be considered as merely a landscape element of this scene, its old, gnarled aspect, its location right next to the altar, the ex-votos hanging from it, and the young man climbing on one of its branches strongly suggest that it itself is a sacred tree or marks a sacred rural spot that has long been commemorated. In the drawings its trunk is actually shown growing up over the step of the altar. The lightly clad youths in the picture appear to be attendants on this sacred site. All the other figures, except the priest, seem to be visitors to it: old men, two of whom are clearly infirm, an old woman, and young women, three with babies, the other eight without children. While the ex-votos in the tree indicate that this holy site has been the source of recovery from aliments of the head and an arm, as well as, possibly, from a battle wound and hence the sword hanging from the tree—the picture shows as visitors old men, an old hag, and young women, some with babies, but no figures with obvious localized afflictions. At the far right an old but vigorous man and a young woman are both holding the same baby in a manner suggesting it is theirs and that he wishes to take the child from the woman and carry it to the altar. There is no violence indicated here, only some reluctance perhaps on the part of the woman. In other words, the picture would seem to be, in part, at least, about the curing of sterility and the consequent fecundity of the young women. By implication the old man in the sedan chair and the old man with a crutch would, then, not only be incapable of walking on their own. Some of the young women are at the altar apparently seeking fertility while others are there with the offsprings that they have been granted. There may be a slight indication that some of the offsprings are being dedicated to this sacred spot.

At first the Scene of Sacrifice that was actually executed in the gallery looks almost like the representation of a different and much more compelling event. There is an urgency and excitement about this second scene that suggests miraculous circumstances. Although the scene is still laid outdoors, there is no extent of landscape visible in the distance and the figures are so large as to all but block out entirely any view farther back. The architecture at the right is now up close and includes a portico, a wall slightly broken at the top and with an arched opening, and an obelisk with a ball at the top. The center of the picture is again occupied by a long bearded priest wearing over a veil a jeweled mitre with ear flaps. His garment is made of rich brocade. The gesture of his right hand clearly directs the attention of the figures and our attention to the altar, and not specifically to the high flames and churning smoke that rise from it. It is the design of this altar that constitutes one of the most significant changes in this second version of the Scene of Sacrifice. It is now much higher, reaching to the level of the priest’s shoulders rather than to his waist, and with flames and smoke rising up higher than the mitre of the priest. The steps of the altar are broader and begin at the very bottom of the picture. Consequently, the altar appears now more significant than the priest.140 Four strapwork volutes and four slotted marble plaques emphasize the upward thrust of the altar. Each volute is decorated with a wingèd cherub’s head. The lower half of the altar is square but also bowl shaped and is supported at the corners by large, upright griffins set between strapwork volutes. Around the volutes of the one griffin that is fully visible hang some beads to which is attached a medallion bearing the fleur-de-lis. The near side of the altar contains a heraldic shield with the “Royal F” encircled by a crown. Beneath it is another wingèd cherub’s head. Again, there is a tree to the left of the altar but one does not see it all the way to the ground. It is also less gnarled and has very sparse foliage. There is no figure in it. However, its closeness to the altar, that makes one believe it might too easily be ignited by the leaping high flames, brings these two elements—the altar and the tree—into the most intimate association. At the far left an old man is being carried toward the altar and the tree in a sedan chair supported in the foreground by a lightly clad youth in the most twisted pose. A turbaned figure at the very edge of the picture is also supporting the chair. Behind the head of the man who is being carried into the scene are the heads of three other men, the last with his arms extended to the right. Thematically this group at the left of the picture is not unlike what appears in the first version of this scene. The most significant change is the addition, in the foreground at either side of the nude youth, of a nude child carrying a pair of crutches and a young woman with bare shoulders, arms and breasts looking up and back to the left. In the center of the painting and behind the priest is the head of a young man with his hands held together before his face as he prays intently toward the altar. Immediately in front of the priest is seated a young woman, facing forward, who holds a swaddled child. Her right breast is exposed through a slit in her dress suggesting that she is about to nurse or has just nursed her child. To the right of this woman are three youths, the first one wearing a tight jerkin and loincloth, the second one nude, the third one only very partially visible, each carrying a large wine vessel. Each vessel is carried higher so that the arrangement of these three figures rushing to the left produces a dramatic counterpart to the flaming altar. The priest’s gesture directs them to the altar. To the right of these youths are five seated women, one with a bare chest, one with bare shoulders and breasts. The woman seen from the back in the foreground is almost identical to this figure in the first version of this scene. Her back is bare; she looks to the left; and a nude child is sprawled against her thigh and reaches up to her. In the fresco, however, there is another child at the right that she embraces (similar to the child in the engraving of the early scene [Fig.E.50] but which does not appear in the Göttingen copy of Rosso’s lost drawing [Fig. D.50A]. Above this group of women is the old man with crutches doffing his hat. Behind him are the head and shoulder of a gray-bearded man.

The decoration surrounding this fresco is almost entirely composed of stucco sculpture set against a fake gold mosaic background. At the right are four columns supporting a curved entablature creating in perspective a kind of small temple. In the center of it is a small altar decorated with columns and strapwork volutes. Within this altar is a fire. On top of it is a squatting lamb from beneath and behind which rise small flames. At the left of the altar stands an old, draped man whose right bare arm is raised above the lamb. (He may be holding something or may once have held something in his hand or hands). A heavily draped woman stands at the right of the altar and looks over at the man. Between them hangs a lamp. To the left of the central fresco there was originally a stucco scene that was partially destroyed when a door was set into this wall but which is known to some extent from a print by Du Cerceau [Fig.E.55,1] and from Père Dan’s description. It showed two figures sacrificing a bull that seems to have filled much of the lower half of the scene. A draped sacrificer at the right somewhat resembled the upper part of its replacement. Across from him was a partially nude sacrificer, now replaced by the woman to the left of the door.

The flaming salamander above the central picture is set against a large strapwork scroll surmounted by a lion’s head with a mane of foliage, biting on a small gilt slab. From brackets at the left and right hang swags of fruits and vegetables and leaves caught up above the temple at the right beneath the head of a bearded man that now occupies the space where the beam was originally placed. Another swag is hung to the right over to the edge of the wall above the side panel with a painted garland. Both of these may originally have hung from a ring as appears in Du Cerceau’s print mentioned above, a ring which may have been attached to the crossbeam. Beneath the stucco scene of sacrifice at the right are two seated cherubs playing long trumpets. Between them is an oval medallion painted with a flaming gold altar supported on the back of two griffins. The lost lower stuccoes at the other side of the wall were originally similar, according to Père Dan.

Beneath the central fresco is a small oval painting in the center of a stucco plaque flanked by painted garlands of fruits and vegetables. The small painting shows six draped women, some with their bare backs and breasts, dancing in a circle with their hands joined. An engraving by Pierre Milan [Fig. E.102] and the drawing for this print in the École des Beau-Arts [Fig. D.52], which must go back in its major forms to a lost drawing by Rosso, shows these women dancing around a tree hung with garlands and bunches of flowers. Some of the women wear flowers and leaves in their hair and there are flowers and leaves strewn on the ground. There is no evidence, however, that these details once appeared in the small picture painted in the gallery.141 The engraving is inscribed: “Quercum erisichtonian dryades cinxere choreis.”

The Panofskys suggested that in the second version of the Scene of Sacrifice there is an increase of emphasis on the promotion of fertility over the restoration of health and vigor. Furthermore, they pointed out that the addition of the three youths carrying wine vessels quite specifically refers to the celebration of a dies natalis in classical antiquity. On this occasion, the personal genius of the new-born was celebrated with prayers and “only bloodless offerings: cakes, flowers, incense, and—most particularly—wine, which had to be brought in by youths of noble birth.” At the sides of the fresco the stucco panels show, by contrast, the sacrifice of animals. The fresco, then, could be entitled “The King’s Dies Natalis” with special homage paid, through the image of the priest, to St. Francis of Paola, whose “divine assistance” to Louise de Savoie was responsible for the birth of Francis I. Thus it was that her son was named Francis, the first king of Francis with this name. The tree in the fresco and the women dancing in the small painting beneath it—and dancing around a tree in Milan’s print—make reference to Ovid’s story of Erysichthon who destroyed the sacred oak of Ceres and was dreadfully punished for this sacrilege. The Panofskys concluded that “the tree would thus seem to symbolize France and her dynasty; … And woe to the new Erysichthon, real or suspected, who might dare lift his axe against the sacred oak!”142

Other interpretations of this picture and the scenes that surround it have suggested that this decoration refers to the religious function of the Prince and the Pietas erga deus of the monarch. The fire of the altar has also been thought to have alchemical meaning.143 These explanations favor seeing here the symbolization of an abstract principle of Francis I’s reign rather than reference to the actual circumstances of his life that the Panofskys chose to find in it. But even they recognized a level of meaning that went beyond the simple commemoration of the king’s birth.

In both versions of the Scene of Sacrifice the mitred priest is clearly the central personage. He corresponds, as seen by the Panofskys, to the draped and mitred berms that frame the Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths. These herms hold up before them medallions showing the “Royal F” and the “Royal Salamander” and by so doing act as sacred guardians of the king and of the highest values that he represents at either side of the scene of madness and lust that is the subject of the large fresco of this wall. In effect, the priest in the Scene of Sacrifice also serves as a guardian, but here of the flaming altar at his right. In the early version of this scene this altar is decorated with rams’ heads and griffins.144 But it is not an altar for the sacrifice of animals but rather the source of a sacred flame. It is, therefore, quite unlike the altar of the stucco scene at the right of the fresco in the gallery. In regard to the function of the altar in the fresco, it has not been changed from that in the early version of this scene. But its design has been significantly altered. It now even less resembles a sacrificial table as it tapers upward to a top to form a small platform on which the sacred fire burns. And how much more abundant are the flames of this fire with their great gust of smoke recalling the flames in which the symbolic salamander restores its life! Griffins still decorate this altar,145 altered from the harpies that appear in the copies of lost drawings for this scene (Fig. D.64  Figs. 65 A–C) but the sacrificial rams’ heads have been replaced by the wingèd heads of cherubs. All suggestions of blood sacrifice have been eliminated. And most significantly this altar now has emblazoned on it, and on a large scale, the “Royal F” encircled by a crown, and on a smaller scale, the French fleur-de-lis. It may be possible to read these two decorative details as indicating that the altar belongs to the king. But it is quite possible also to recognize through these symbols that the altar itself—upon which nothing is killed and from which flames leap up like those of the Angoulême salamander—represents Francis I. As such a symbol of the king, it would resemble the elephant in the Royal Elephant and the chariot in the Cleobis and Biton. The flaming altar in the Scene of Sacrifice is the source of life, and with its griffins, of a just life. Associated with the tree next to it is also the sacred source of the Valois-Angoulême dynasty.146

It may well be that the reduction of the importance of the tree, altered from the very large old one with its abundant foliage in the first version of this scene to the less prominent and almost barren one in the fresco, is related to the increased importance given the altar. At the same time, the tree of the small painting below this fresco may have been eliminated, along with its too threatening reference to the story of Erysichthon and Ceres’s sacred oak.147 The dies natalis celebrated on this wall would then not be that of Francis I himself but of his reign which surpasses in significance the meaning of the old tree—and of the earlier benefits indicated by the ex votos hanging from it in the first version of this scene. For if the picture were about the birth of the king himself why should other mothers and children appear in the painting? And why should the action in the fresco be directed to the altar rather than to one of the babies? Or if the priest is the source of a miracle why is the worship not directed toward him? Instead, he directs the three youths carrying the wine vessels to the flaming altar.

While there is at most only one more baby in the fresco than in the first known version of this scene—and no more if the baby at the lower right in Delaune’s print is taken into account—the children and the women are far more visible in the final painting. The breasts of some of the women are more exposed and the mother in the very center of the picture is shown either about to nurse her child or as having just suckled him. In the earliest version the woman in this location is seen from the back. The old man with his hat has been pushed far to the right. The three youths with wine vessels have been added and the ex votos have been eliminated. The Panofskys were certainly correct in stating that: “In this final version the emphasis is shifted from the restoration of health and vigor … to the promotion of fertility.” But even the first version of this scene was about fertility even if other kinds of benefits were also indicated. And the expression of health and vigor has actually been increased in the fresco by the greater action of its figures and by the greater dramatic intensity of the entire scene. By comparison the scene of animal sacrifice in stucco at the right of this fresco is quite staid. The rich stucco garlands swung across the top wall certainly indicate abundance. Below the small stucco altar, two wingèd putti announce with their trumpets the good fortune indicated in the central scene as well as that implied by the small picture they frame. Here is represented a miniature version of the flaming altar with its griffins that is seen in the principal fresco. Again, a contrast is made to the stucco altar with the sacrificial lamb and consequently the importance of the altar in the central fresco is once more emphasized.

Enclosed within the framing elements that decorate this wall—with the original stucco and painted ornament at the left—the first Scene of Sacrifice would have conveyed approximately the same meaning as the final fresco. But it must have been recognized that the meaning was somewhat too obliquely conveyed in spite of the fact that such indirectness of expression characterizes so much of the thematic material of the decoration of the gallery. As the dramatic impulse of the Scene of Sacrifice as executed is most closely related to that of the Death of Adonis, it is not improbable that both were designed at the same time. Assuming that the latter refers to the death of the Dauphin it is possible that the changes made to the Scene of Sacrifice were intended to strengthen the implications of the divine status of the dynasty that Francis I’s reign founded and of the dynastic survival that was threatened by the death and supposed murder of Francis I’s son. No wonder, then, that the reference to Erysichthon’s destruction of Ceres’s sacred oak was removed from the decoration of this wall even if it meant leaving the dryads to dance, as the Panofskys said, in vacua. The absence of the tree, however, is not evident in the context of the decoration of this wall but can only be missed with the knowledge of Milan’s print. Their dance in the gallery can be read simply as a celebration of what is indicated in the large picture above them with its own tree set close to the flaming altar.

Diagonally across the entire length of the gallery the sacerdotal berms flanking the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths serve, as does the priest in the Scene of Sacrifice, the sacred power that is Francis I. In the latter, this power is seen unquestioned as the primary force of life itself. In the former, its sacredness is threatened but not destroyed by irrationality and lust. The Royal Salamander is alerted there by the trumpet-blasting giants at either side of it. Next to the Scene of Sacrifice two putti playing similar instruments affirm the power inherent in the flaming altar. By these means the two ends of the gallery are joined.

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To the left of the wall with the Scene of Worship there was originally a wide wall area that extended to the west end of the gallery. This area would have been the north wall of a small cabinet that is mentioned in the requirements for the gallery made in 1528, the space of which was then incorporated into the main hall of the gallery itself. As this wall was not described by the early visitors to the gallery it is very likely that it was occupied by a false window. To the left of this window may have been what is now to the left of the stucco woman placed between two columns that replaced that part of the stucco decoration that flanked the Scene of Sacrifice before the door was let into this wall. This small area, which was probably slightly wider than it is now, has a framed panel of feigned marble with a putto in stucco standing above it. He holds the end ribbon of a stucco garland that actually hangs across part of the stucco panel on the adjoining West Wall. Beneath the feigned marble panel was probably a painting, which now looks vaguely vegetal, that followed through the decoration beneath the stuccowork of the adjacent wall. Where the stucco woman and columns are now would have been, instead, a vertical panel with a painted garland.

VII South: The Enlightenment of Francis I

[Fig. The Englightenment of Francis I]


The large fresco across from the Scene of Sacrifice shows two groups of blindfolded figures in various postures of fear, despair, and anxiety in front of a temple through the door of which walks a bearded man, seen largely from the back, wearing a cuirass, high sandals, and a laurel wreath, and holding a book and a sword. The scene is set on a bank of clouds that extends around the base of the temple. At the far left is a nude man only partially visible. Next to him is a standing nude young woman with some drapery around her hips; her head is thrown back, her left arm is raised and she covers her blindfolded eyes with her right hand. To the right of her is a partly crouching nude young man with some drapery over his legs who looks upward to the right; he has his right arm around the nude woman and his hand on her buttock while with his left hand he holds her right breast. Behind him a clothed woman runs to the left with her arms outstretched before her. The nude youth has his left foot on the shoulder of an old man who is nude to the waist and who supports himself on his left arm, raises his right, and holds his head up and back as though striving to see in spite of his blindfold. To the right of him is a fat, bald man dressed in a short garment, who walks hesitatingly to the right supported by a stick. He is led by a young man wearing a tunic in the direction of the temple which the young man faces with his left arm lifted before him. Behind the fat man is a man with a broad bare back and muscular arms that are flung upward; a large piece of drapery swirls around his waist and in front of his face, which is turned to the right. Farther back and to the right is an old man dressed in green who is running to the left with his head turned upward and his arms held high. At his back is a seated nude woman facing the temple with her arms outstretched toward it. In the very foreground of the fresco is a seated youth facing left, with some drapery over his hips; his head is lowered. To the right of a space through which one looks back to the temple there are five more figures. The first is a nude youth completely slouched forward to the left with his head between his knees and his hands turned around each other. Behind him is a standing draped woman facing to the right with her left arm held out; she holds a blindfolded child in her arms. Behind them is a clothed and turbaned woman running to the right, her arms also raised before her. And seated in front of this woman is a draped man with his head turned to the right. The temple, set back from all these figures and to the right, appears to be circular in plan. To the left and right of its door is a large urn with a spout. Above the door, from which emanates a bright light, is an inscription, now much effaced, reading OSTIVM • IOVIS. Seated on the pediment of this door are two wingèd putti supporting between them an oval medallion bearing the “Royal F” encircled with a crown. This painted device is now only dimly visible but it appears clearly in copies of a lost drawing by Rosso for this scene [Chose one of D.61A-C, for Fig. here] and in Fantuzzi’s etching of this composition [Fig. E.74]. The copies also show [B]ONI and MALI written on the urns at either side of the doorway. The man entering the temple carries his book under his left arm and holds his sword upright in front of him with his right hand.

On either side of the central fresco is a large stucco statue of a satyr, male at the left, female at the right, both originally, it would seem, without the vines that cover their nudity now.148 Each is seated on a slab of stucco, the concave sides of which are decorated with masks of grimacing old men set in volutes. Beneath the legs of each satyr is a small platform on which are placed two small satyrs who would appear to be the children of the large ones. These platforms are supported on channeled consoles that are flanked by goats’ heads. The adult satyrs have their arms held high up and are holding large broad urns which rest on pillows on top of their heads. These urns are additions placed here when the ceiling beams were raised in the nineteenth century. In Fantuzzi’s etching [Fig.E.75] of the framing elements of this wall the satyrs are holding baskets on their heads. These, like the urns, must be substitutes for the beams that the satyrs originally supported on their pillowed heads and between their hands, as indicated in Du Gerceau’s etching [Fig.E.55,3]. Originally, then, these two figures appeared to hold up the beams of the ceiling. No other figures in the gallery function (or functioned) in this manner in relation to the actual architecture of the room. The female satyr has her head tilted slightly upward. The male satyr looks to the left down the length of the gallery.

At either side of each satyr is a painted draped figure standing on the upper edge of the slab upon which the satyrs are seated and leaning on the frames of the outer garlands and central fresco. The first is a woman seen in profile and facing left; she holds a mask up in front of her face. The second figure is also a woman who leans to the right and looks left, possibly at the male satyr or at the woman across from her. The second woman holds what is probably a grotesque mask with its face up in her extended right hand. To the left of the female satyr the third standing figure, a young man, is playing a flute. The fourth figure, a young woman at the extreme right, is leaning back with her head resting on her hand and glancing upward in an attitude that suggests she is listening to the flute music. An anonymous etching [Fig.E.147] suggests that one of the inside figures was originally to be a young man looking intently to the other side of the wall.

The small wall areas beneath the stucco satyrs are decorated with animals. First a male turkey to the left of the male satyr; to the right of him are two female turkeys.149 To the left of the female satyr are three weasels; one is eating berries attached to a leafy branch, and perhaps the leaves as well, while the weasel at the left has a piece of fruit and a leaf on the ground in front of him. Another leafy branch of a different plant fills the area above them. At the right is another small animal walking to the left; it may be the same species of animal but a male in contrast to the other three, which may be female (analogous to the single male turkey at the far left).

The flaming salamander above the central picture is set in a small structure supported by two volutes and surmounted by a pediment. Above the side garlands are shields each containing a relief of a nude youth riding a horse. The shields beneath the garlands show the head of an old woman with drapery falling down at the sides. Beneath the central fresco is a long band of scrollwork with a garland of fruit, vegetables, and leaves swung over a small relief. This relief is partly damaged but its full composition is preserved, in reverse, by an anonymous Fontainebleau etching [Fig.E.146]. All of the figures of this relief are set within a large scallop shell, in the center of which originally stood a nude woman with her left hand covering her pudendum; she had her right hand over her head which was tilted upward. To the right are two male figures, the forward one with large wings; originally the wingèd figure touched the nude woman’s arm and the inner side of her leg as though he was partly supporting her. Above his head a dove flies to the right. Below is a virile nude male (his head now missing) leaning on a large jar and holding a paddle as a rudder, the bottom of which is submerged in water. At the left is a similar figure with a paddle, but no urn. Above him is another winged youth and a very small male figure seen from the back. He is seen beneath a long, slatted vehicle, with a wheel, in which a nude youth rides pointing at the nude woman. At the far left is another muscular man with his arms thrown up to the side and above his head. He is clutching drapery, and in the etching his expression suggests agony.

The decoration of this wall is the most consistently grand of any in the gallery. In spite of their stumbling activity, the figures in the central fresco are large and firm in their appearance and their postures and gestures are physically explicit and emotionally forceful. With these figures so large and active in the foreground what appears to be the principle action in the fresco, the figure entering the temple, so small and set so far back, the fresco reminds one of Raphael’s Fire in the Borgo. But dramatic as Rosso’s scene is it does not have the high excitement of the Scene of Sacrifice across from it. The lumbering physicalness of the blindfolded figures and the clear contrast between them and the small steady Roman in the background make this fresco quite the opposite of the Scene of Sacrifice with its tighter and more twisted figures and with a composition of more centralized focus. The grandness of the fresco on the south wall is matched by that of the stucco satyrs at either side of it. Their huge size, uplifting postures and facial expressions give them a forcefulness of meaning unlike that of any other figures in the gallery except the large Michelangelesque nudes painted at the sides of the Education of Achilles. But the stucco satyrs are first of all to be recognized as counterparts to the two statues alongside the Venus and Minerva fresco located diagonally across the entire length of the gallery. These beautiful young human beings appear confident and alert and yet also at ease while the satyrs must bear—in their original state—upon their heads the heavy burden of the gallery’s ceiling.

Furthermore, they are encumbered in some sense by the playful children at their feet to whom they do not give their attention. Although the adult satyrs appear older than the young nudes at the other end of the gallery the former are not conceived as brutes as are, by their actions, the centaurs in the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths. And they are certainly less gross than the nudes alongside the Education of Achilles. In addition, although they are, like the figures in the central fresco, trapped by who they are, the satyrs possess a dignity that has been denied to the blindfolded and despairing men and women in the large painting. The satyrs are also framed by four elegant painted figures that present a certain grace around the huge stucco statues. Even the animals below them lend a naturalistic charm to the framing of this wall. The small temple above, housing the salamander, suggests the sacred element indicated in the central picture, while the full garland below and the rich relief of the Birth of Venus give an impression of affirmative seriousness.

The Panofskys suggested that the central fresco of this wall should be designated as Francis I Overcoming the Evils of Ignorance, rather than the traditional Expulsion of Ignorance.150 They recognized the androgynous figure walking with a stick as Ignorance who has collected around him the blindfolded Vices, among which can be seen Luxury, the youth at the left with his hands on the breast and buttocks of a young woman; Despair, the youth slumped over at the right, and in back of him; and Pride, the mother carrying a child. While the other figures are not specifically identifiable it is most likely that the groups in the fresco collectively represent all the Vices of mankind, and, because they are blindfolded, the “Vices born of Ignorance.” The androgynous figure of Ignorance “dominates and unifies,” according to the Panofskys, “the group of Vices in the Fontainebleau fresco.” However, although it is true that he (or “she” according to the Panofskys; the absence of breasts, however, suggests otherwise) is at the center of the group at the left in this picture he is being led forward by a young man who is, nevertheless, also blindfolded. Speaking of Mantegna’s Expulsion of the Vices the Panofskys pointed out the description of Ignorance there as actually blind as distinct from the “state of being merely blindfolded, denoting the temporary absence of sight.” And it is this distinction that characterizes not only Ignorance in Rosso’s fresco but all of the other Vices as well. The “sin” of all of them, if sin it can be called, “results from ignorance” and could be overcome by, we must suppose, some kind of enlightenment. While some of the postures and gestures of these figures in Rosso’s scene can be interpreted as expressing despair, many of them can also be read as indicating a search for whatever might alleviate their ignorant condition. Their arms reach out as through searching for the right direction and although some of them are groping in the wrong direction, some do face and extend their arms toward the temple at the right. The youth, in the very center of this composition is clearly leading Ignorance in that direction, and immediately in front of them the seated nude woman decidedly aspires to the salvation that would be available to her from the building that the Roman figure enters. That others are still totally lost does not obliterate the fact that some of the figures in the fresco appear already to have sensed, even though not actually to have seen, the way out of their ignorance. It is these figures in Rosso’s picture that introduce the element of Hope in the midst of all the fumbling chaos and despair. This element of Hope is what gives to the action of the man entering the temple a meaning beyond that of his own personal courage and victory.

In the background the doorway of the apparently round, or partially round, building is identified by the inscription above it as the entrance to Zeus’s palace, high up above the clouds on Olympus. At either side of this door is a large urn derived from those mentioned in Book XIV of the Iliad. From one Zeus dispensed good, from the other evil, or from both a mixture of the two, sent to individual men according to the whim of this almighty god and suggesting the activity of Fortune. The inside of this palace glows with light that falls on the columns outside the door. But if the inscription above the door and the two urns beside it indicate that this building is the palace of Zeus how is one to read the meaning of the “Royal F” encircled by a crown placed above the entrance? Normally such an escutcheon would signify that the building belongs to Francis I. Are we not then in this case to identify this palace as the king’s as well as Zeus’s, or that here Francis I is synonymous with Zeus? The answers to these questions must be related to the identity of the man entering the doorway of this palace. Cassiano del Pozzo, Dan, and Guilbert all recognized him as Francis I and this identification has always been maintained. But it seems highly unlikely that Francis I can actually be recognized in the physiognomy of this figure. Clearly, the man dressed in Roman costume in the center of the Unity of the State is Francis I. However, the man entering the temple does not certainly have Francis I dark beard, and the one he has does not jut out at all, as every picture of Francis I shows his did. In fact, neither the color and shape of the beard nor any other attribute of this figure in Rosso’s fresco makes him obviously recognizable as the French king. Not even his costume obliges us to identify him as Francis I. For the same costume is worn by the youth seen several times in the Education of Achilles and his physiognomy is not that of the young Francis, nor is it necessary that this youth be identified as the monarch. Two gods wear cuirasses in the Royal Elephant and they are not meant to be Francis I. And in the stucco roundel at the right side of the West Wall of the gallery is another figure, young and beardless, true, but also wearing a crown, and no resemblance to Francis I seems intended. One might also ask what would be the meaning of having Francis I enter so forthrightly into a palace that may well be his own house?

If the flaming altar in the Scene of Sacrifice, the chariot in the Cleobis and Biton, and the elephant in another fresco can all be identified as symbolic of Francis I, cannot the palace that the Roman figure enters, and that has the king’s device over the door, similarly be recognized as standinng for him? Brightly lit inside and casting its light outside the temple could signify the Enlightenment of Francis I that could serve as an appropriate title for this painting. If symbolic of the king, the internally illuminated palace, like the flaming altar, would present him as a having a meaning beyond that represented by the actual appearance of Francis I as a Roman general in the Unity of the State. Such a conclusion, however, leaves in doubt the identification and meaning of the man entering the palace, and consequently the meaning of this entire fresco.

While the Panofskys identified him as Francis I, whom he does resemble in the painting before it was cleaned of its nineteenth century overpainting, they also said that with a sword in his hand and a book under his arm, “complementary attributes [which] characterize him as a ruler no less devoted to the arts than to those of war,” he is “ex utroque Caesar.”151 This identification seems not to have been known in the nineteenth century, for in addition to making the figure look like the king the restorer removed the book from under the warrior’s left arm. The Panofskys knew this latter detail from Fantuzzi’s (Fig.E.74) and Boyvin’s (Fig.E.12) prints. Accepting the figure as “ex utroque Caesar” would we not then see him as entering the palace of Francis I-Zeus to receive there some ultimate reward or benefit not available to the blindfolded Vices that are left behind? Crowned with a laurel wreath “ex utroque Caesar” is seen as already having been victorious. His victory would have been over ignorance and vice, through which he has successfully passed guided by the light from the temple. His small size in Rosso’s fresco, compared to that of the Vices, makes his victory appear all the more heroic. If in the Scene of Sacrifice the divine source of Francis I’s authority and power is symbolized, then in the Enlightenment of Francis I the means of the highest secular achievement in his realm seems indicated, as well as the source of the highest reward for that achievement—entry into the king’s palace. Francis has made Zeus’s house his own and the king’s escutcheon’s actually surmounts the inscription indicating this building is Zeus’s abode. The man entering the temple would be “ex utroque Caesar,” but not also Francis 1.152 But he is one of Francis’s kind, a Roman emperor who by his devotion to both the arts and to war is worthy to enter from the past into the presence of a king who is even greater, in fact already god-like. It will be remembered that Francis I himself aspired to be Holy Roman Emperor, and, furthermore, that the Scene of Sacrifice seems to indicate the king’s fiery divine status. The Enlightenment of Francis I may be most obviously about the overcoming of ignorance and vice through illumination, but it is also about the king as an Olympian being.

The stucco satrys, with their children, set as they are upon pedestals supported by goats’ heads, stand, as the Panofskys indicated, for carnal lust. A response seems intended here to the scene of the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths at the other end of the gallery. The burden of the centaurs’ vice is emphasized by the function of the stucco figures as supports of the beams above them. But Rosso has conceived these figures also as heroic; they are vigorous and aware, and they are not blindfolded.153 Unlike the Vices in the fresco the satyrs are naturally lustful, and are not so because they are ignorant. The painted human figures that flank them suggest knowledge and ignorance, truth and deceit. The first figure has her face half covered by a mask, suggesting deceit; the second carries a grotesque mask but she is not actually wearing it, which could indicate truth, but then also, the possibility of deceit. The third figure of a youth playing a flute seems to indicate lust, or at least erotic pleasure, as music sometimes does, and as it appears to do in the Loss of Perpetual Youth. The fourth figure appears to be day-dreaming; her garment is strangely cut to reveal a white undergarment covering her pudendum. Whatever she is dreaming about leads, it would seem, not to the temple in the central fresco. But the indications of knowledge and ignorance, and of vice and virtue, made in the principle scene are stronger there than anywhere else in the decoration of this wall. Gradations of intelligence and stupidity or ignorance or deceit are, however, more extensive in the framing elements of this section of the gallery. At the lower level of this wall appear the animals, the stupid turkeys at the left and the weak and tricky weasels at the right.154

The affirmative aspect of the meaning of the decoration of this wall is indicated not only by the action of the figure entering the temple in the central picture and by the salamander in his temple-like abode (with its own red flames?) above it and analogous to the temple in the painting—but also by the small stucco relief below. Here is shown the Birth of Venus, a subject that can be related to the large fresco of Venus and Minerva diagonally across the entire length of the gallery. Seen rising from the sea with the aid of three genii or zephyrs and with her pudendum covered by her hand, Venus here would seem to be Venus Coelestis and possibly symbolize Truth.155 In the expression of one figure at the far right in the etching of this scene—and at the far left in the relief itself—an expression of agony seems to accompany her birth. But in the same print Venus is depicted looking upward and hence toward the salamander that surmounts the central fresco. Prominent as is the evidence of ignorance, deceit and lust in the decoration of this wall its program of course proclaims through its heroic Roman figure the value of their sacred opposites: knowledge, truth and virtue. The book that this figure carries tightly against his side can be related to the large tome that it gently being introduced into the scene of Venus and Minerva.

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To the right of the window at the right of the Enlightenment of Francis I is the usual vertical panel with a painted garland. The small wall area next to this panel has a framed feigned marble panel surmounted by a stucco putto. With his right hand he gestures in the direction of the length of the gallery as though recommending it to us; his gesture, then, is similar to that of the young nude woman in stucco at the opposite end of the gallery. The upper part of his left arm is encircled by the horn of the skull that decorates the adjoining West Wall. Beneath the feigned marble panel the wall is painted, probably originally with decoration that followed through what is painted beneath the stuccowork of the West Wall.

The East Wall

The totally destroyed original decoration of the East Wall of the gallery is only partially recoverable from a seventeenth century drawing, from Vasari’s various comments and by analogy to what survives at the other end of the gallery. The drawing of 1682 by Frangois d’Orbay156 shows what must be the disposition of the decoration as designed by Rosso without, however, giving any indication of the subject or composition of the central painting. The drawing merely indicates that the format of the center image was an upright oval. Flanking it are two roundels the slightly sketched compositions of which may represent stucco reliefs as on the West Wall, but may rather show paintings in contrast to those stucco reliefs. Unfortunately, the compositions of the roundels in d’Qrbay’s drawing are virtually illegible. The stucco and painted decoration of this wall was set, as on the long wails of the gallery, above wood paneling. Divided into three approximately equal sections, the panels at the sides, as high as elsewhere in the gallery, were vertically subdivided about in half. The panel at the extreme left of the wall was actually a carved door with a medallion in the center leading to the Chambre du roi. At the extreme far right of the East Wall was a carved false door also with a medallion in the center.157 To the right of the left door and to the left of the right one were vertical panels, each, it seems, with an escutcheon in the center. These panels were set upon a molded base. The middle section of the East Wall projected slightly. Above a base of the same height as at the sides was a broad carved panel not, however, quite as high as the panels and doors to the right and left of it. This carved center panel, decorated with two Fs set back to back, had no bench before it but was flanked by slightly projecting pedestals with their own bases. The lower part of the stucco frame of the upright oval in the center of the East Wall occupied the area between the top of the center wood panel and the upper level of the side panels. The central stucco framing unit was composed of a large vertical oval flanked by apparently identical stucco figures. These figures stood on pedestals, in stucco, it would seem, which were actually extensions of the wood ones beneath them that flanked the broad wood panel below. These extensions or bases for the statues bore some kind of stucco decoration in relief. Upon their heads, and possibly on cushions, the two standing figures carried impost blocks which in turn carried a cornice that continued across the area above the center oval. The broad center section of this cornice was recessed. Above it, in the middle, was a lion’s head; at each end, above the standing figures, was a mask, with foliage for beard and hair, surmounted by a scroll, as appears in a copy in the École des Beaux-Arts of a lost drawing by Rosso for this frame [D.57]. A large volute framed the top and bottom of the central oval, with garlands of fruit, vegetables and leaves hanging above the upper volute and below the one at the bottom. Their curved ends may have been one of the means of holding in place the panel painting that they framed. Above and below the oval frame with its volutes may have been even larger pairs of volutes. The round stucco or painted scenes of the side sections of the East Wall were set upon rectangular slabs. A horned animal skull was probably set above each roundel with garlands at either side of the latter. Above each roundel was a horizontal scene, perhaps a relief, if the round scene was a painting, with a reclining putto probably holding a “Royal F” on top of it, as on the West Wall. Beneath each round picture was a berm, in stucco, it would seem. The herms would have complemented the caryatids or telamons at the sides of the central oval. Volutes with masks set in them seem to have flanked the herms. There may have been painted decoration on the lower parts of the walls as appears at the west end of the gallery.

Unfortunately, the subjects of the round scenes at the sides cannot be deciphered in d’Orbay’s drawing. The one on the left appears to have two standing figures, the other a larger number of figures. The rectangular scenes above are illegible. The center oval is blank in d’Orbay’s drawing, as it is also in the École des Beau-Arts drawing and in Fantuzzi’s and Du Oerceau’s etchings [Fig.E.67, Fig.E. 57,11, ] that are related to it. But we know from Vasari that this oval and the other one, presumably also oval, in the center of the West Wall originally contained “tavole a olio” designed and painted by Rosso and possibly executed before Primaticcio arrived in France. In the 1550 account of Rosso’s “Life,” Vasari recorded that one was a picture of Bacchus and the other of Venus but without mentioning which was at which end of the gallery.158 In the 1568 edition of Rosso’s “Life,” Vasari gives them in the same order and says they represented Bacchus and Venus, and Cupid and Venus.”159 But again he does not specify which was where. He does, however, give a partial description of each picture and, apparently, of the motifs that framed the first, on the basis, it would seem, of the information supplied by Primaticcio.160 Of the Bacchus and Venus Vasari wrote: “E it Bacco un giovinetto nudo, tanto tenero, delicato e dolce, the par di carne veramente e palpabile, e piuttosto vivo the dipinto;…” Then, writing, it would seem, about what surrounded this painting, he says: “… ed intorno a esso Sono alcuni vasi, finti d’oro, d’argento, di cristallo e di diverse pietre finissime, tanto stravaganti e con tante bi.zzarrie attorno, the recta pieno di stupore chiunque vede quest’ opera core tante invenzioni. Vi e anco, fra l’altre rose, un satiro the lieva una parte d’un padiglione; la teste del quale & di maravigliosa bellezza in quella sua strana sera caprina, e massimamente the par the rida e tutto sia festoso in veder rose bel giovinetto. Evvi anco un putto a cavallo copra un orso bellissimo, e molti altri graziosi e belli ornamenti attorno.” One way of reading this passage would suggest that Vasari was describing what surrounded the figure of Bacchus in the oval painting. But the details he gives resemble those of much of the stucco decoration in the gallery. His reference to feigned gold, silver, crystal and “diverse pietre finissime” could indicate some painted decoration as well. One detail of his description might be loosely related to what appears in d’Orbay’s drawing, in the École des Beaux-Arts drawing and in Fantuzzi’s and Du Cerceau’s etchings. The satyr that holds up a part of the pavilion could easily be a reference to one of the supporting figures alongside the oval picture. These are not satyrs in the copy of a lost drawing and in the prints, nor do they seem to be in d’Orbay’s drawing. Perhaps Vasari was speaking of the berms under the round side scenes. Received at second hand Vasari’s information is certainly confused but it is probable that it contains some element of truth. The picture of Cupid and Venus at the other end of the gallery, whichever end that might be, had “altre belle figure. Ma quello in the pose it Rosso grandissimo studio, fu it Cupido; percht- finse un putto di dodici anni, ma crescuito e di maggiore fattezze the in quella etA non si richiede, e in tutte le parti bellissimo.”

Although it is impossible to determine from Vasari’s remarks which of the two pictures was at which end of the gallery he may be correct in his identification of the subjects of them. Another reference of his, however, slightly contradicts the information that he gives in his two biographies of Rosso. In his “Life” of Primaticcio he mentions two “quadri” by Rosso that could be the two that were placed at the ends of the gallery. One, he says, showed Bacchus and Venus, but the other, unlike what he says when writing of Rosso’s life, depicted Psyche and Cupid.161 This latter identification could be a mistake, appearing as it does as quite an incidental remark in Vasari’s “Life” of Primaticcio. Vasari’s informant could have been confused given that a picture of Psyche and Cupid could easily have looked like one showing Venus and Cupid. And Vasari may not have remembered precisely what he was told. Then again, the picture might have represented Psyche and Cupid. But a third possibility exists; that the second picture showed Venus, Psyche, and Cupid.

In 1631 Golnitz cited as the first picture in the gallery “ad introitum Bacchus, Venus et Cupido prostant.”162 As he described his visit to the gallery, entering from the east, this painting would have decorated that end of the gallery. As he says that the picture he saw contained the figures of Bacchus and Venus as well as the figure of Cupid we can very likely conclude that this is the same picture that Vasari mentioned—at secondhand—though without any reference to a Cupid.163 It is just possible that the painting at the other end of the gallery also contained three figures and that it showed Psyche along with Venus and Cupid. Consequently, from the evidence that has come down to us, it seems that that the east end of the gallery had a picture of Bacchus, Venus and Cupid, rather than of Bacchus alone or of Bacchus and Venus without Cupid, and that the west end had a painting of Versus and Cupid, rather than one showing Venus alone, or a picture with either Psyche and Cupid or with Venus, Psyche and Cupid. However, on the basis of the sixteenth-century remarks one is inclined to believe that both pictures showed the figure of Venus. In one picture, according to Vasari, Bacchus was depicted as a “giovinetto”; in the other Cupid was seen as a “putto di dodici anni,” though physically mature in appearance beyond this age. Vasari does not describe either figure of Venus, but given that she seems to have been shown with such young-looking male figures, it is not improbable that she was the principal figure in both paintings.

Although the general disposition of the decoration of the entire East Wall is known from d’Orbay’s drawing, which shows an arrangement similar to, but also different in particulars from that of the surviving stuccoes and paintings of the West Wall, the few details that can be related to the east end of the gallery do not allow for anything even approaching a full interpretation of its iconographical meaning. Only in association with what survives and can be known of the West Wall can any approximation of the meaning of the decoration of the East Wall be made. And this is best done when discussing the decoration of the west end of the gallery. All that one need conclude here is that, the central oval picture of the East Wall probably showed Venus and Bacchus, likely with Cupid. From d’Orbay’s drawing we know that there were supporting stucco figures at either side of this painting, and a lion’s head (symbolic of a king)164 and masks above it. (Fantuzzi’s etching of the center of this scheme shows Ops with a lion at the left and possibly Bacchus with a wine jar at the right—most probably in reverse of the source from which he worked. Below Ops appears a shield and torches indicating Mars, perhaps, and beneath the male figure the eagle and thunderbolt of Zeus.) The side sections of the walls had round scenes, rectangular ones with reclining putti above them, horned skulls, garlands, and herms with masks and volutes at the sides, perhaps. What appears in d’Orbay’s drawing corresponds to none of the details that Vasari describes in relation to the picture of Venus and Bacchus. And the details he describes, the vases, the satyr holding up part of a pavilion, and the putto riding a bear—a reference to anger?165—can also not be proven to have decorated the East Wall of the gallery. None of them, however, can be identified with what is known of the decoration of the West Wall but this does not prove that they were part of the lost decoration of the East Wall.

The West Wall

From what survives of the original decoration of the West Wall it is clear that it matched, in the general disposition of its parts, the arrangement on the East Wall. Divided into three areas and with wood paneling on the lower part of the wall probably also without a bench but with a door at the far right leading to the stairway that descended to the monastery and a false door at the far left—the center section, in width approximately that of the present door, was also occupied by a large vertical oval oil painting surrounded by a stucco frame and other stucco details. This painting seems to have depicted Venus and Cupid (rather than Venus alone) or Cupid and Psyche, or, possibly, Venus, Cupid and Psyche. It disappeared before the middle of the seventeenth century when the door in the West Wall was built. Unfortunately nothing is known of the stucco (and painted?), decoration that surrounded this picture. It is most unlikely that it simply repeated the motifs of the center section of the East Wall for nowhere else in the gallery does such an entire duplication exist. Furthermore, the figures flanking the oval area on the East Wall seem to have been compositionally related to the herms under the side roundels, and no such herms appear on the West Wall. In fact, only a few of the details in d’Orbay’s drawing can be found on the West Wall. In the center of each wall was an upright oval painting with round scenes at the sides. And there were secondary scenes and putti above these tondi on both walls. But as with the areas across from each other on the long walls of the gallery it is very likely that the decorations of the end walls, while resembling each other, were designed to complement rather than match one another. Over the door and above the present nineteenth-century picture of the Dispute of Athena and Poseidon, based on a composition by Rosso known from a copy of a lost drawing (D.66, Fig. j and from prints by Fantuzai (E.79 ) and Boyvin (E.13) there are now two putti with a strapwork escutcheon between them showing the flaming salamander. Although these details, probably of the seventeenth century, could possibly reflect what was originally above the lost oval painting, this is not very probable. Here one would expect an architectural arrangement similar to that on the East Wall and no putti are shown above the oval painting in d’Orbay’s drawing. Nor is there a flaming salamander shown in this drawing in spite of the fact that one appears on every other wall in the gallery, except, so far as we know, over the entrance to the north cabinet where instead there was a bust of the king himself. Only in the most general terms can the composition of the center of the West Wall be imagined and this can be done only by analogy to what appears of the East Wall in d’Orbay’s drawing.

The designs of the decorations of the surviving side sections of the West Wall are almost identical. Set just slightly below the center of each section is a round stucco relief surrounded by a broad frame ornamented with architectural moldings, lions’ heads suspended by ribbons held in the mouths of foliated masks with horns, and with a similar large mask at the bottom, the whole set against the feigned gold mosaic background of the wall. At each side of the round reliefs is a putto playing a musical instrument; three play a long horn and the fourth possibly a clapper. Stucco garlands hang down from rams’ skulls set below the cornice above and partly over the half-round elements above the round stucco reliefs. Beneath the central tondo of each side is a large slab of stucco strapwork with volutes and an inverted mask under it. In front of the slab is a pair of embracing wingéd putti. The wall areas at either side of this slab also contain painted decoration.

The round stucco relief at the left side of the wall has an architectural setting with two high arches at the left, a building with a pedimented doorway at the right, and a high pier in the center containing two niches with statues of nude men, one with the limbs broken off, at the upper level, and two plaques below. There is a palm tree at the far left. In the foreground are three nude men, two reclining and apparently asleep, with the third sitting up but with his head and body slumped forward. Under the second arch in the background are two men, standing and possibly talking to each other; the first is nude and may be holding something in his right hand. Leaning against the right side of the center pier, and with his left foot on the threshold of the door at the right is a seated male nude bent forward with his face in his hands in and attitude of despair. To the right of the door is a standing horse with a dog walking behind its forelegs and with two wine kegs seen under and slightly behind its body. In back of the horse are three figures, the actual spatial location of which is difficult to determine because of an apparent confusion with the wall of the building behind them. The first figure carries an urn on his head, the second, nude, faces left, and the third, which looks almost like a statue, is a standing male nude facing forward.

The small oval painting above the left stucco tondo shows a young man with bare legs and feet but wearing a cuirass and a crown, seated upon a throne with his legs and arms crossed and his head slightly bowed. The visible left side of the throne is formed like a lion with breasts and possibly wings, suggesting a griffin. A flying figure above is placing a crown on the seated man’s head. In front of and facing him is a standing male figure with bare legs and feet dressed in a short, belted tunic and also wearing a crown. Leaning against his body is what appears to be a shovel with a very long handle. This figure gesticulates with both hands raised before him. The painted decoration underneath the stuccoes of this section of the West Wall of the gallery, and under the return of it to the south, is very much effaced. There may have been animals and objects there including at the far right a bird on a branch.

The stucco tondo at the right of the wall has an arcaded portico at the right in the background with a railing at the top from the corner of which a small figure looks down. In the foreground is a small platform with two steps. On this platform is a young wingéd woman with a sash of drapery flying behind her who is seated upon a wheel (or, less likely, upon a mound of earth with the wheel beside her). Facing right, she extends a shallow dish to a young man who appears to drink from it. He wears a cuirass, a cape, boots with flaps at the top of them (though his feet are bare), and a crown. Bending to the left in the direction of the seated woman he carries a stick which he uses as a cane although it is too short actually to serve this purpose. It could be a baton but it seems slightly too long for one and is not carried as a baton usually is. The small oval painting above the tondo has three figures. A man wearing a crown and dressed in a loose tunic with swashes of drapery tied around it over a long skirt or barbarian trousers kneels in front of a standing man wearing a cuirass, helmet and high laced sandals. The kneeling man, with his right hand over his right breast, looks up at the standing figure and gesticulates to him with his left thumb and index finger raised. His listener responds with his right hand extended forward and his fingers spread apart. Behind the kneeling figure stands a Roman soldier with a large shield. On the lower part of the wall, at the left, a squirrel standing on a branch with what appears to be a small (fornicating?) ram on its back, and at the right, hanging from a blue-green cord, an object that looks rather like a whole ham or a leg of lamb.

Assuming that Rosso’s lost oval picture of the West Wall represented Bacchus and Venus, the Panofskys suggested that the two round stucco reliefs “might be interpreted as illustrating the good and bad effects of Bacchus’s gift to man.”166 The right one, according to them, “represents offering a cup of wine to a young hero,” although wings are not one of Fortune’s usual attributes. The other, they thought, “shows a kind of tavern scene,” with two of the figures “torpid or sick from drink.” Béguin referred to the right relief as showing Fortune Giving a Drink to a Prince and certainly, the crown worn by the young man identifies his royal status.167 She also recognized that the “baton” he carries is too short to serve him as a support while walking. If it is a baton used as a cane it would symbolize here the faltering power of the young man. Because the flaps on the prince’s boots look possibly like wings in Fantuzzi’s etching of this relief (E.E8), Béguin suggested that the figure may be Perseus, the son of Danäe who is depicted elsewhere in the gallery. But these “wings” do not appear in the relief and therefore Béguin’s identification cannot be insisted upon, especially as no other attribute of this figure suggests Perseus. Herbet thought that the other round relief represented the night preceding the taking of Troy,168 Barocchi simply called it a scene of repose.169 Both of these identifications of the relief are compatible with that of the Panofskys. The lethargy of the figures, the figure carrying an urn on its head and the two kegs represented in the relief certainly present together a reference to wine and drunkeness. The horse does look extraordinarily immobile especially in contrast to the dog who walks under it. Consequently, small though the horse seems to be, it could be the famous wooden horse received as a sign of peace by the unsuspecting Trojans. Joyous because of what they thought was the successful end of the defense of their city they celebrated with wine and allowed themselves to be destroyed by the Greeks. This story certainly illustrates the “bad effects of Bacchus’s gift to man” that the Panofskys thought was the symbolic meaning of this relief. Such a reference to the Trojan legend could be related to the few other Trojan elements that can be discovered in the decoration of the gallery: the allusion to Aeneas in the Twins of Catania, the stucco statue of a “Trojan” to the right of it, and the possibility that the Funeral of Hector was originally planned to occupy the space in which the Death of Adonis appears. But as the Panofskys pointed out their interpretations of these two stucco reliefs as indicating the good and bad effects of wine was dependent upon the supposition that they originally flanked a painting representing Bacchus and Venus.

Leaving this supposition aside for the moment it is necessary to consider first another which the Panofskys made without comment. While the left tondo relief of the West Wall can very probably be interpreted as showing the adverse effects of wine, it is not imperative that the right relief shows the reverse, as implied by the Panofskys. The decorations flanking the center pictures of the side walls of the gallery do not, except in the special case of the frescoes flanking the ambivalent scene of the Loss of Perpetual Youth, present antithetical conceptions though they may bear such a relationship to the center painting they frame. Furthermore, the image of Fortune giving a drink of wine to a young prince need not be seen as a benevolent act, provided it is wine that she offers which is nowhere actually indicated in the relief. In fact, something more like the opposite may rather be intended especially if the young prince is seen as faltering. Fortune can be seen as deceitful in as much as her good and bad influence on man are capriciously extended to him. She is generally not shown exerting her influence so directly. Hence, her offering of wine, if such it is, and beneficial as it might be, is also potentially a means of concealing the truth. It is, therefore, very possible that both round reliefs at the west end of the gallery are symbolic of the bad effects of wine.

The evidence as to which oval oil painting by Rosso was at which end of the gallery suggests, contrary to what the Panofskys supposed, that the picture of Bacchus and Venus was on the East Wall. In Vasari’s two biographies of Rosso he first mentions the picture with Bacchus which has prompted the conclusion that it was on the East Wall which, in the sixteenth century, contained the entrance to the gallery from the Chambre du Roi. In his “Life” of Primaticcio Vasari also names this painting first. In 1631, Golnitz described it as representing Bacchus, Venus and Cupid. It has been thought that by introducing the figure of Cupid into his description that Golnitz somewhat confused Rosso’s two paintings. But this need not be the case at all. For it is not at all improbable that a picture with Bacchus and Venus also contained a figure of Cupid. Awaiting further evidence, it has for the moment to be surmised that the painting at the west end of the gallery showed Venus and Cupid, as mentioned by Vasari in his 1568 “Life” of Rosso, Cupid and Psyche as he says in his “Life” of Primaticcio, or possibly Venus, Cupid, and Psyche, as a conflation of these two references gives. This latter subject, with three figures, could have been contrasted to that of the picture that Golnitz saw at the east showing Bacchus, Venus, and Cupid.

Before considering further what the subject of the central oval painting of the West Wall may have been the meaning of the other surviving decorations of this end of the gallery should be explored. Above the round relief at the left with the supposed Trojan subject, the small painting shows a scene which could be interpreted as representing the victory of the seated armored king over a rural king who stands before him. On the other side of the wall the small oval painting shows another king, dressed in civilian clothes, paying homage to an armored general. Both paintings, therefore, could be interpreted as scenes of the transfer of the highest power from one ruler to another. However, neither implies antagonism between the two rulers; the “victor” is not shown as vainglorious nor the other ruler as abjectly submissive. There is, in fact, a sense of concord in the relationship of the two rulers of each scene. An element of reciprocal honor, at least, seems to be a factor of the subjects of the two small oval paintings. Heguin has suggested that the pair of embracing wingéd putti under each stucco tondo represents Eros and Anteros, “c’est e dire 1’evocation de l’amour reciproque.”170 The squirrel with a ram (?) on its back could possibly refer to an attempted unnatural relationship between incompatible species. These representations of possible understanding, respect and love appear in opposition to the subjects of the round stucco reliefs which evoke the operation of deceit and false security due to the clouding of man’s highest powers by wine. The musical putti could be said to celebrate the resolution of conflict by love or mutual respect while the young figures at the top of the wall, holding Francis I’s personal emblem, could signify the king’s association with such concord. As elsewhere in the gallery the animal skulls introduce an aura of sacredness to the relationships created on this wall.

A picture of Venus and Cupid set in the midst of the surviving decoration of the West Wall would have introduced the most obvious reference to love. But would it have produced the most fitting central image to the motifs that would have framed it? The most obvious meaning of such an image would have been carnal love which does not seem especially in accord with the transcendent implications of the relationship of stucco and painted scenes of the West Wall. But then, of course, one would have to know just how the figures in the painting were related. Given the other possibility, offered by Vasari, that the picture showed Cupid and Psyche, it seems actually both a richer and more appropriate image to occupy the center of the West Wall. As told in Apuleius’s The Golden Ass and interpreted in the Renaissance the ordeals suffered by Psyche to regain Cupid—a story not without the element of mutual deceit—resulted in a divine love beyond the fulfillment of mere carnal desires, a love that was celebrated by the gods.171 As Venus’s own jealousy of Psyche and wrath towards her son Cupid were also overcome by her recognition of the worth of this love so she too could appropriately have had a place in Rosso’s picture. She could well have been the main figure in it. To the immediate right of the West Wall the Scene of Sacrifice, with its sacred references to fertility, could be read as bearing some relation to the story of Cupid and Psyche whose offspring was Pleasure. To the left the Enlightenment of Francis I could also be seen as having a meaning related to Psyche’s story in which overcoming ignorance is of paramount importance. Furthermore, it is under this fresco on the south wall that there appears the small relief of the birth of Venus.

At the other end of the gallery the oval painting of Bacchus and Venus, which very possibly also showed the figure of Cupid, must, in some fashion, have carried a meaning related to that of the picture on the West Wall. Speaking of the former, the Panofskys mentioned Apuleius’s reference to Bacchus as “the aider and abettor of” Venus.”172 Having just received a flagon of oldwine, Apuleius speaks on to Fotis, saying “let us therefore drink up this wine, that we may do utterly away with the cowardice of shame and get us the courage of pleasure, for the voyage of Venus wanteth no other provision than this, that the lamp may be all night replenished with oil, and the cups filled with wine.”173 In the context of this passage the references are clearly to carnal love, but through the agency of wine this love could also be interpreted as achieving a kind of fearless and transcendental character. Whether or not Rosso’s picture was related to this passage, the subject of his painting most certainly brought together the goddess of love and the god of wine. And it is likely that it did so to affirm the value of love rather than to denigrate it. For if the stucco tondi on the West Wall use wine symbolically to suggest deceit it would seem perverse to have extoled this aspect of its influence in the central image of the East Wall, at one of the cardinal points in the decoration of the gallery. The picture of Bacchus and Venus could, like, possibly, the central painting of the West Wall, have suggested a love beyond that of mere drunken carnality. To the left of the decoration of the East Wall was the scene of Venus and Minerva, diagonally across the entire gallery from the relief of the Birth of Venus. To the right was the scene of the Battle of Centaurs and Laoiths, the main themes of which are drunkeness and lust at a wedding scene. However, this fresco is flanked by the priest-herms which can be related to the sacred Scene of Sacrifice diagonally across from it and just to the right of the West Wall.

Unfortunately, none of the subjects of the stucco and painted scenes of this wall are, at present, recoverable. Perhaps the round scenes made some kind of reference to the central image of the West Wall, paralleling in this manner the relationship of the western tondi to the scene of Bacchus and Venus.174

However one interprets the inclusion of scenes of Venus at two ends of the gallery—and any conclusive definition of their meaning would be dependent on evidence of their actual compositions—it seems clear that they introduced into the gallery the theme of love as a paramount force. They could, therefore, have borne some at least tangential relationship to the other images of love within or connected to the gallery, the panel in the center of the south wall, and the lost Jupiter and Semele in the now destroyed north cabinet. The decorations of these parts of the gallery now need to be explored.

IV South: The Manned South Cabinet, theNymph of Fontainebleau, and the Daniae

Although the decoration of the center wall of the south side of the Gallery of Francis I is intact and does not seem to have undergone any serious alterations since it was first completed, its history is not entirely clear. But as its history affects the interpretation of the decoration that exists an attempt must be made to determine the sequence of events that resulted in what we now have. It is certain that at an early moment in the plans of the gallery this wall was to be occupied by a doorway leading into a small cabinet that would have projected from the center of the south facade of the gallery. This cabinet would have corresponded to another across from it on the north side of the gallery, a cabinet that was actually constructed and decorated and which survived into the eighteenth century. That cabinet was decorated with a picture of Jupiter and Semele. But the project for a south cabinet seems already to have been abandoned in 1534 when the construction of the kitchens and larder—surmounted by a terrace on the south side of the wing containing the gallery—was decided upon. This resulted in a more continuously articulated south facade without a central projecting room. For while a window could have been planned to replace the entrance to the south cabinet and around this window, or at least at its sides, something of an earlier projected decoration for this location in the gallery could have been maintained. There is, however, no proof that such was the case at any moment. So far as we know no actual window was built or contemplated for this place in the gallery; instead the area intended for a doorway was replaced by a wall. This area along with those areas that would have flanked the doorway provided a new expanse of wall that received the decoration that still exists: the center oval fresco of Danäe by Primaticcio surrounded by stucco and painted decoration designed by Rosso Fiorentino. This is the only instance—as distinct, probably, from what was in the north cabinet—of a picture by Primaticcio in the gallery itself. But there is one piece of evidence, mentioned earlier, that suggests that Rosso intender another image to occupy the center oval area of this wall. The engraving by Pierre Milan and Pend Eoyvin [E.103] that shows, in reverse, the decoration of this wall has in its center not the Danäe by Primaticcio but the figure of a nude woman reclining upon a piece of draper beside a brook. Her left arm, in the print, is placed upon an overturned urn from the youth of which water tours into the stream. Behind her is a fen of bulrushes in which there are two sleek hunting dogs wearing collars. The Latin inscription beneath this print has sometimes been judged incomprehensible but that was certainly not the intention of the engravers who inscribed it. Obscure as it may seem to be its meaning is not altogether opaque. The inscription reads, in translation: “0 Phidias, 0 Apelles, could anything have been devised in your era more beautiful than this sculpture (whose representation you here see): a sculpture that Francis I, most puissant King of France, fostering father of beaux arts and belles lettres, left unfinished in his Palace, under [sub] a statue of Diana reposing after the hunt and pouring from a Jar the waters of Fontainebleau.” The incomprehensibleness of this passage is caused by the cord “sub” which could, however, be a mistake for “sine” (without).175 What almost certainly seems to be indicated here is that the center image re-presents Diana and the “waters of Fontainebleau”, that it was designed for a location in Francis I’s chateau at Fontainebleau and that it was never completed. The frame of this image must surely indicate that the intended place of this image that was now occupied Primaticcio’s Danäe. The print is also inscribed:”Rous.Floren.Inuen.”176 However, while nothing on the engraving indicates that the central image represents the Nymph of Fontainebleau it has always been recognized as showing this subject. The identification of the reclining woman as Diana must be a later designation with reference to Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henry II during whose reign the print was made.177 The figure shows no attributes that specify her as the goddess of the hunt.178 Any argument that this figure is a replacement in the print of the picture of Primaticcio’s Danäe unreasonably ignores the fact that the engravers explicitly state that what they have presented was left incomplete in Francis I’s chateau. As we can now see, it is what appears in the center of their engraving, that was not executed and which, therefore, left this conception of picture and frame incomplete in the gallery. Furthermore, we can see in the gallery that Primaticcio’s painting replaced what the engraving shows Rosso intended for the oval center of this decoration.

In what manner, it must be asked, did such a replacement came about? If we assume, as the evidence permits, that the north cabinet contained an oval painting of Jupiter and Semele by Primaticcio then it is likely that he too was given the responsibility for the picture that was to decorate the south cabinet during the short period when it was envisioned as an extension of the gallery. Primaticcio may originally have been assigned all the decoration, in stucco and painting, in the north and south cabinets. The elimination of the south room naturally cancelled its projected decoration for which the subject of Danäe, as the counterpart to the subject of Semele, could have been planned. Neither one of these pictures need have been devised to have a direct relationship to the scheme of the decoration of the gallery itself even if they functioned as a kind of extension of its meaning. When Rosso was then provided, probably by his own decision, with a new area of wall to decorate in the gallery—and one in the very center of it at that—he had the (intendede) opportunity as well to devise an appropriate and new focus to his program, which beforehand had been partially divided in half by the entrances to the north and south cabinets. Consequently, he invented the scheme of decoration having a large relief of the Nymph of Fontainebleau in its center as recorded in the print by Milan and Boyvin. This scheme was probably planned in 1534. Stylistically the evidence presented by the Milan-Boyvin engraving, especially the figure of the nymph, points to such an early date.

If before 1534 Primaticcio was given the assignment to decorate the south cabinet, it is not necessary to assume that he designed his existing painting of Danäe at that time. The south cabinet may never have been fully constructed and then it was abandoned as a project, and yet probably not before a scheme of decoration had at least been envisioned for it. This scheme would have been related to that of the north cabinet. Only when the time actually came to replace the image of the Nymph of Fontainebleau that Rosso planned for the oval center of the wall did Primaticcio invent the Danäe that was actually executed. This picture was probably painted before the wood paneling of the gallery was installed in 1535.179 It may have been done about the same time that Rosso re-designed the compositions of the oval medallions set above the Danäe.

That Primaticcio’s Danäe was a replacement for Rosso’s Nymph of Fontainebleau is almost certainly also indicated by the iconography of the elements of the frame that was executed and that surround it; Rosso’s figure in the Milan-Boyvin engraving. While related to the Nymph the elements of this frame bear little or no relationship to Danäe. The substitution of Primaticcio’s Danäe created a rupture in Rosso’s intended meaning for the decoration of this center wall in the gallery. And it did so by the intrusion into the gallery of a subject that was once, it seems, only allied to the scheme of its decoration and was not an integral part of it, as was the case with the painting of Semele in the north cabinet. But the Danäe and the Semele may not have been seen in quite this secondary way by Primatiocio, or by those who originally helped plan the program of the gallery and its cabinets. Furthermore, the assignment to Primaticcio of the decoration of the north and south cabinets, rule him, in a sense, a collaborator of Rosso in the decoration of this large complex; which included with the gallery the two small rooms that opened off the center of it. Primaticcio’s appearance at the side of Rosso in Rosso’s Royal Elephant suggests such an understanding. Here, as in the Pavilion of Pomona, Primaticcio was to have a share of the work, most probably not only the major pictures but also the stucco work and other paintings in the north and south cabinets as well. With the elimination of the south cabinet, possibly at Rosso’s instigation, Primaticcio’s contribution was cut in half. It is not altogether unlikely that Primaticcio felt that the decoration of the new central south wall should have been his. To him, and others, the inclusion of his Danäe in the gallery itself to accompany his Semele in the north cabinet would not have been seen as an intrusion on Rosso’s scheme for the gallery but rather as the just fulfillment of his part of the original program and decoration for this complex. For Rosso’s own new invention for the central south wall could be seen as even more of an intrusion on the program as devised earlier. A certain rivalry may be indicated by this hypothetical reconstruction of the relation of Rosso and Primaticcio, and rumors and other indications from the past at least suggest that some such difficulty may have existed.180 In the end, Primaticcio executed his painting in the context of Rosso’s frame. This, of course, he had already done at least once before in the Pavilion of Pomona. As indicated above, it is probable that all of the decoration of the north cabinet was due to Primaticcio.

The original identity of the figure as the Nymph of Fontainebleau is partly preserved in the Milan-Boyvin print by the inscription that she is “pouring from a jar the waters of Fontainebleau.” In the riddle of the seventeenth century, Lean believed that Fontainebleau received its name from a dog named Bleau that discovered a spring during a chase in the forest of Biere.181 Thus, the spring was called Fontaine de Bleau. The central image of the Milan-Boyvin print would seem to show this story, with the spring personified as a beautiful reclining nude woman leaning on an urn from which water rushes. Eventually she became known as the Nymph of Fontainebleau—in spite of the inscription naming her Diana—as did Lellini’s bronze relief for the entrance to Francis I’s chateau. Then, too, Cellini’s work became indentified with Diana when it was made the frontispiece of Diane de Poitier’s chateau at Anet.182 But the invention of a personification of Fontainebleau by Rosso would initially have involved a recollection of Diana, the goddess associated with hunting with whom both Francis I, given his passion for this sport, and the chateau at Fontainebleau, in origin a kind of hunting lodge situated in the forest of Bilre, can easily be related.183

The Nymph of Fontainebleau’s identity is enlarged by the decoration of the wall that was planned to surround her and that was actually executed. Above her would have been two small and framed oval frescoes, the two that are now above the Danäe. They are placed at either side of the central gilt flaming salamander and in front of stucco garlands that hang from lion’s mouths at either side of the salamander. The oval at the left seems to show Sol (or Sol-Apollo), surrounded by an aureole of light, riding in his quadriga to the right and to the east in the gallery. (There is an inexplicable line that crosses his left arm.) In front of him runs ahead a nude woman with an hour glass on her head representing, one would suppose, the flight of time. At her feet reclines a male nude, seen from the back, with his left arm: behind him and his right hand held against the side of his head, possibly supporting it. He could represent sleep or possibly a figure awakening from sleep. The whole oval-shaped scene suggests the approach of day. The other oval snows a draped woman in a chariot pulled by a dragon, the figure and chariot seen against a very large crescent moon. Her attributes identify her with the woman above the dead, or eternally sleeping, figures of Agamedes and Trophonius in the stucco tondo to the left of the large fresco narrating the story of Cleobis and Biton. Because her chariot is pulled by a dragon she has been identified as Ceres-Demeter. But in both the stucco tondo and especially in the small oval fresco she is clearly identified with the moon. It is most likely, then, that she roust also be identified as Luna (or Luna-Diana of Luna-Selene), especially as she is seen in relation to the figure of Sol in the oval fresco at the left.184 Beneath her is a draped male figure wearing a domical hat which could be read as a helmet. His stance and gestures present him as startled, as though by the quick approach of the goddess or of the night. At the right is a lame reclining male nude apparently deeply asleep, as his arm over his head may signify. (His Michelangelesque aspect may indicate that the two oval scenes above the  Danäe, which are quite unlike the other small frescoes in the gallery, date from not before late 1533, and possibly, from the time that Primaticcio conceived his Danäe.) Behind him is an upright male nude who looks up at the goddess. In his right hand he holds a flaming and smoking torch, and in his left a baton (?) both of which are more clearly visible in the Vienna tapestry. All of the elements in his small fresco seem to indicate that it represents the approach of night.

Placed above the figure of the Nymph of Fontainebleau like celestial bodies, the figures of Sol and Luna, in addition to whatever other complex meanings they may have, suggest the diurnal and nocturnal range of the reclining nymph’s presence. She is, in effect, the lovely symbol of this place called Fontainebleau,185 in all of its days and nights. (In the Milan-Boyvin print the figures are more clearly and more simply Diana in a chariot before a moors, and Apollo riding his chariot in a blaze of light indicating the sun, suggesting that the compositions of the oval in the engraving is earlier than those of the executed pictures.) The extent and diversity of her benevolence seers indicated by the painted and stucco elements that decorate the wall in the center of which the Nymph of Fontainebleau was originally to be seen. At either side of the present central oval picture is a group of three nude female herms almost identical to each other but in reverse. The three joined bases of each trail are composed of elongated Volutes decorated with foliage and lion’s heads from the sides of which fall small lengths of cloth. Each group of three bases rests on the heat of an old bearded satyr with long gilt horns. The three young women, placed before a large slab of strapwork, hold up together on their heads and each one with a raised arm, a lame basket of fruit and vegetables. From these originally rose two volutes that embraced a beam of the ceiling. These two groups of figures functioned somewhat as caryatids to the structure of the gallery itself though not to the extent that do other comparable figures in this room, the male and female satyrs that flank the Enlightenment of Francis I. With their beautifully formed bodies and high full breasts—the outer figure of each group holds one of her breasts in her hand—these women and the overflowing baskets on their heads certainly indicate fertility and abundance. From the center of the wall and from the upper corners of its fall garlands of fruit and vegetables. Upon the garlands at the corners is seated a putto. Above these garlands fly a painted duck and pheasant, also suggesting natural richness, and the hunt. The fact that the stucco figures are conceived partly as terns holding up the ceiling of the gallery suggests, furthermore, an identity of them with the place of Fontainebleau and its chateau that would also, then, relate these figures to the reclining figure of the Nymph of Fontainebleau who would have marked, one might say, the very center of the place she personifies, midway between the satyrs—flanking the Enligtenment of Francis I and the beautiful nudes that frame the Venus and Minerva.186 Why however, are only female figures used here, and why three of them in each group? It is just possible that we are intended to recognize in them an allusion to the Three Graces who along with Venus in the oval paintings at the ends of the gallery would also have presided at Fontainebleau.1887

While the decoration of the center of this wall, the upper half of it and its sides with painted garlands of fruits and vegetables suggests, as do other parts of the gallery, the natural abundance of Fontainebleau, the decoration of the lower section of this wall presents another kind of richness, though not in any sense distinctly removed from what appears above. The rustic masks at the lower corners of the wall complement the satyrs’ heads beneath the pedestals of the herms. But the small stucco garlands and birds holding masks hung from ribbons in their mouths that appear beneath the central image and alongside the “Royal F” framed by two strapwork volutes, present domesticated details combining nature with art. (In the reversed Milan-Boyvin engraving there are instead a painted monkey chained to a weight holding a piece of fruit at the left, and a small fat, old and shabby dog guarding two tunes at the right, which contrast with the elegant dogs, especially Bleau himself, in the central scene, suggesting baseness, perhaps indicated also by the ape.)188 Painted at either side of the pedestals of the herms in the gallery is a pair of small boys, each wearing a sash of drapery except the last figure who is entirely nude. Two of the boys at the left have garlands of flowers on their heads; one at the far right has a band of drapery around his. These eight figures are painted as though they are actually standing on the lower ledge of the decorated part of this wall, or just above the wood paneling. At the far left the pair of boys are looking at a book they hold between them. The second pair also shares a book, though only one boy looks down at it; the other glances at his companion. From the expression of the mouth of the second figure, the fact that the boys are sharing the books, the size of the books and the appearance of what appear to be musical notes on an upturned page of the first book in the Vienna tapestry, it can be concluded that the boys are singing. The boys at the other side of the decoration of this wall are also musicians. The first one plays a small harp; at his feet is a cylindrical box, perhaps a drum, a gourd rattle, against which is leaning a book which in the Vienna tapestry has musical notes on its pages. Next to him, his companion stands alongside a bass gamba. The third boy plays a transverse flute and the fourth a lute.189 There are a few other references to music in the decoration of the gallery, two of which may have some bearing upon the meaning of the musicians in the central wall of this room. In the Education of Achilles, at the upper right, Achilles is learning to play an instrument, clearly an indication of the importance of music in the ideal instruction of a young man at Francis I’s court. We are reminded here of Castiglione’s praise of music as one of the necessary accomplishments of the perfect courtier. In the Loss of Perpetual Youth one figure carries a lute but there are also two abandoned instruments in the lower left corner. Although these two instruments can at first be associated with love and youth in the form of the woman reclining near to them, they are also related to the loss of love and youth in as much as the instruments are not being played. There may be in the abandonment of them an allusion here to the lethargy of the sleeping nude, as distinct from the aliveness of the youth who carries and may be playing his lute. Music is therefore seen in the gallery as a vital aspect of life and love, and the absence of music seems to be recognized as a loss. Its appearance in the decoration of the central wall of the gallery, actively performed by young boys, enlarges the reference to benevolent presence suggested by the image of the Nymph of Fontainebleau and by the female triads with their abundantly filled baskets. Furthermore, the eight young musicians present the art of music on its own terms and not as part of a narrative or allegory as it appears elsewhere in the gallery. The depiction of music being played here extends the range of civilized values represented by the decoration of this room. In the center of the gallery and placed within the context of its most symmetrical and stately decoration, the art of music lends its charm and harmony—Phre Dan’s ” harnonius concert”—not only to the presentation of the image of the Nymph of Fontainebleau but to the entire conception of this room. In the center of the gallery nature and art are thus associated as the ideal of life under Francis I’s reign, and especially as that reign had transformed and was transforming Fontainebleau. Except possibly in the decoration of the end walls, the original aspects of which are not altogether certain, the central wall of the south side of she gallery is the only one on which Francis’s symbols, the flaming salamander and the “Royal F,” both appear on the central axis of the composition.

Conceived in the first instance, and already then possibly as a horizontal oval, for a place in the aborted south cabinet, Primaticcio’s Danäe was probably not meant originally to have the importance it now has in relation to the other decorations in the gallery. In the south cabinet, and like what would also have been the case with Primaticcio’s Jupiter and Semele in the lost north cabinet, the Danäe would not have been easily visible from within the gallery itself. The doorway to this room could not have been too large if, like its counterpart on the north, it was to have figured decoration at the sides and above. It is possible that this doorway was planned to be as wide as the central wood panel of each bay. But it would have been higher than this panel, allowing a view into the south cabinet and a glimpse of its decoration. But that this glimpse would have been sufficient to make possible the identification of what the decoration in the room represented seems doubtful. It is very likely that both the north and the south cabinets were meant to provide separate and more intimate experiences as a kind of relief from the largeness, length and multiplicity of the decoration of the gallery itself. What, unfortunately, is not known, is whether or not the entrances to the cabinets were hung with doors which would have made possible the closing off of these small room altogether. However, Mariette spoke of the actual door to the north cabinet as an “arcade.” In any case, it is quite probable that the cabinets and their decorations were to be seen as something separate from the gallery, though, of course, tangentially related to it. Iconographically this seems also to have been the case.

In contrast to the relief of the Nymph of Fontainbleau probably a virgin by analogy with Diana that Rosso intended for the center position in the gallery, Primaticcio’s painting presents us with the seduction of Danäe by Jupiter in the ford of a shower of gold. Primaticcio snows two putti with Danäe, one with his head beret way down and therefore represented as though asleep or deliberately averting his glance from the shower and  Danäe; the other putto, with his back to Danäeand pushing away her old servant to prevent her, it would seem, from collecting the fading gold in the urn she holds at her side. The scene is set in a splendid chamber with a gilt statue set in a niche at the back. The statue is of a standing draped woman who seems to be holding something in her raised right hand. In the Vienna tapestry only the lower half of the woman is seen and she is accompanied, at her left, by a small lightly draped child. Beguin has suggested that they are Venus and Cupid190 in which case it is strange that the woman is clothed and that the group is not more clearly conceived as representing these figures. It is possible that the statue is of a goddess related to maternity rather than to sensual love alone.

Though undeniably a scene of divine ravishment Primaticcio’s fresco is not necessarily meant to signify merely material and venal love. True, this aspect of the picture must he recognized, as it must also be understood in the painting of Jupiter and Semele that was in the north cabinet. And this very aspect of these pictures may be one of the reasons why they were to be enclosed within the small rooms adjoining the gallery. Except for the possibility that at the west end there was a picture of the love of Cupid and Psyche the gallery itself contains no scenes directly comparable to the Danäe and Semele. Nor, for that matter, any central scenes that are narratively so clear and uncomplicated. In addition, however, to being a scene of seduction, the Danäe, like the Semele, is of a theme that results in the issue of a hero, Perseus, the son of a god and a mortal. The vehicle of Zeus’s power in this story is gold which a putto in Primaticcio’s painting prevents the old maid from obtaining. May there not be symbolized here Francis I’s own riche used to bring forth at Fontainebleau, and elsewhere, the divine order of his earthly realm as symbolized by Zeus’s union with Danäe as splendidly apparent in the decorations of his own grand gallery?191 In the south cabinet this idea, centrally indicated by the picture of Danäe, would have been elaborated by the stucco (and painted?) decoration that would have surrounded it. Nothing, however, is known of what this might have been, nor of what would have decorated the other areas in this room. It is also not known if any decoration had originally been conceived for the gallery side of the entrance wall to the south cabinet. The present surroundings of the picture of Danäe probably have nothing to do with the theme of this painting. It was in the north cabinet that the theme of Danäehad its counterpart and complement.

IV North: The (destroyed) Entrance to the North Cabinet, and the (destroyed) Forth Cabinet and Jupiter and Semele

The destroyed decoration of the wall in the gallery with the entrance into the destroyed north cabinet192 is known from Pierre Dan’s description of 1642 and the Abbe Guilbert’s of 1731. Above the doorway, which later Mariette spoke of an “archade,” was a half-length stucco portrait in relief [aid in a niche?] of Francis I carried on the heads of cherubim. Guilbert’s remark: “au milieu d’un Cordon de Saint-Michel” could indicate that the king was shown wearing the ribbon of this order though literally he says the bust was placed in the middle of this. “Cordon de Saint-Michel” suggesting that it was hung around the whole statue of the king. In any case, this detail would have been the only Christian symbol in the entire gallery and the north cabinet. At either side of this bust, it seems, a cherub, in stucco probably, yield the “Devise” of Francis I; one might suppose that each was holding a sculpted “Royal F” as appears elsewhere in the gallery. At either side of the door, apparently, was a large figure painted on a gold [feigned gold mosaic.?] background; one representing Victory, the other Fame. They had “pareils embellissemens” by which Pierre Dan may have meant stucco work though other small painted decoration could also have been used.

It cannot be known for certain when this decoration was invented and whether or not it bare any relation to what, at some early moment, may have been intended to decorate the entrance wall to the south cabinet. The visual evidence that can be related to the center north wall is Domenico del Barbiere’s engraving of Gloria (E.5) which has been thought to snow Rosso’s figure of Fame, mentioned by Ban and Guilbert, and an anonymous etching of Victory (E.141) which seems to record the figure at the other side of the door; although both prints are probably derived from drawings by Rosso made for the frescoes rather than from the paintings themselves. Stylistically Barbiere’s slender but in pose broadly expansive figure closely resembles Rosso’s Philyra and Europa that flank his fresco of the Regal Elephant. These figures and Barbiere’s Gloria do not loom like the earliest work that was designed for the gallery. The same appears true of the Victory although the etching of this figure is a less expert record of Rosso’s image. They seem to belong to a second phase of activity preceding, however, the period of the last designs for this room. Given this relative dating it seems likely that the entrance wall to the north cabinet was designed in relationship to one change of program that took place in the center of the south side, that it, in relation to Rosso’s Nymph of Fontainebleau and the frame that now surrounds Primaticcio’s Danäe.

While the decoration of the central south wall with Rosso’s Nymph of Fontainebleau largely symbolized the place of Fontainebleau, its natural abundance and its cultural richness, the north wall centered on the person of Francis I himself. It is true that the king is symbolically present in the decoration of each section: of the wall of the north and south sides of the gallery and that he appears in at least one of the frescoes in this room. But above the entrance to the north cabinet his actual image presides over the entire gallery. It is difficult to visualize how this bust was carried on the heads of cherubim. Did they actually support it like small caryatids and therefore correspond to some extent and in their small way to the large figures across the gallery that hold up large baskets of fruits and vegetables? Used in this way, the cherubs might have suggested a kind of apotheosis of the king.193 They may, however, simply have been part of a decorative arrangement of figured and architectural motifs that supported this bust. The cherubs at the sides of it holding up the “Devise” of the king presented, nevertheless, alone with the portrait of the king, the aspect of an armorial image. And this was expanded by the large painted personifications of Victory and Fame at the sides of the door which themselves could have lent meaning to the conception of the apotheosis of Francis I. As Barbiere’s engraving reverses Rosso’s image, indicated by the direction of the landmasses on the globe, it was most probably at the left of the door showing the figure looking up at the bust of the king. With wings spread out—and either modified in the fresco or partially out by its frame in the narrower wall in the gallery—and soloing up two trumpets194 hung, with banners, with which to broadcast Francis I’s achievements, she is seen standing upon the sphere of the earth showing in the light and in the center the landmasses of France and Italy below. Abundance is probably indicated by Fame’s bare breasts and richness by her splendid clothing. Seen high above the clouds that encircle the earth the fame she symbolizes is meant for the whole world, perhaps even the universe. The location of her in the heavens may lend some support to the possibility that above the door the king was seen in apotheosis. Victory painted at the right of the door to the north cabinet showed a bare headed draped woman striding to the left upon a pile of arms and armor and holding up a laurel wreath toward where the bust of Francis I was placed. The military triumph she indicated is worldly as distinct from a realm of other activities implied then by the figure of Fame.

While this decoration surrounded the door that led into the north cabinet, what we know of this decoration indicates a relationship to the gallery as a whole rather than to the program inside the cabinet. One must assume that the decoration of this wall, though it lacked a center picture, was in all other respects as rich and interesting as that of the other walls in the gallery. The lack of a center picture did, however, give special importance to the image of Francis I and this special importance must have carried its effect throughout the gallery. First, by the authority of the king’s own image and the symbolic enlargement of his person by the attributes of Victory and Hume. And second, by the position of that portrait placed where it, and the spectator standing in the doorway beneath it, might survey, from the best viewpoint, and, in a sense, from the king’s own point of view, the entire gallery, seeing most easily before them, in Rosso’s Nymph of Fontainebleau, the personification of the very place where they were. That is, according to Rosso’s final intentions after the plan for the south cabinet was abandoned, possibly at his own instigation. With Primaticcio’s Oanat~ [sic] there, instead, of Rosso’s Nymph of Fontainebleau, an aspect of the decoration of the south cabinet was revived, but now in the gallery itself, to bear a relationship to what could only be seen inside the north cabinet:.

The lost decoration of the destroyed north cabinet is first, known from Pierre Dan’s short description of 1642. According to him this small room contained “a picture… in which is seen the story of Semele burned by Jupiter’s fire, for having wished to see him in the brightness of his celestial majesty. The frame of this picture is oval, beneath for beneath which are some figures of reclining women, accompanied by some small children, and wholly above this frame there are other children holding a crowned F, all in relief. In the same cabinet is a fireplace, very richly decorated with figures, some in relief, others in low relief, with various moresques and grotesques”195

By the time the Abbe Guilbert described this room in 1731 the painting of Semele had already been replaced. Whether or not other changes had also been made is not known. Guilbert’s description is more detailed than Dan’s and adds to the information given by the latter. Guilbert writes: “In the cabinet which is decorated like the gallery, there was formerly an oval picture representing Semele, in place of which is now seen Minerva Goddess of Sciences and Arts, on canvas, by Boulogne le Jeune. It is carried and supported by a young man and a young woman reclining on garlands of flowers in relief, and surmounted by some children who are looking at a salamander. . . . The fireplace in the antique manner is decorated with little Vulcans and Cyclops in relief, and with different grotesques that accompany a small picture showing the burning of the false books of the sibyls.”196

We also know from a document of 1539 that the north cabinet was to have wood paneling like that in the gallery, including a bench against the wall across from the fireplace. From the placement of the chimney in one of Du Cerceau’s views of the chateau it is clear that this fireplace was against the West Wall of the room.

The lost picture of Jupiter and Semele is almost certainly recorded, in reverse, by Leon Davent’s oval etching of this subject, the style of the composition of which is clearly Primaticcio’s. It was, therefore, both in format and in style the complement to his Danäe, intended originally, it can be assumed, for the south cabinet. in the etching Semele is shown nude lying supine on a bed, her head thrown back and one of her arms hanging limp at her side. She is shown either dead or dying. Jupiter straddles her body with one of her legs slung over his thigh. His arms are raised in the direction of his blazing thunderbolt, the appearance of which has caused Semele to expire. Above the foot of the bed, on a bank of clouds, a nude youth crouches, blowing air in the direction of Jupiter and Semele. In the background, behind Semele, is a woman with long (and wet?) hair, with her mouth open, and with bare breasts from which milk flows. She holds in each arm an upturned urn from which a liquid pours forth. At her side is a large child with one hand covering his eyes, the other hand perhaps held over his ear. Behind him may be the head of a bald and bearded man. The bare-breasted woman could suggest abundance or personify a place but she, like the figure blowing on Jupiter and Semele, also presents, it seems, an attempt to reduce the heat of Jupiter’s presence and hence save Semele’s life.

Like Jupiter’s love of Danäe his love of Semele resulted in the issue of a son, in this instance, Bacchus. While this god was represented in the gallery, with Venus, probably, on the East Wall, it is not necessarily true that there was any direct iconographical relationship between that scene and the one in the north cabinet. Nor does there appear to have been any connection between Danäe’s offspring, Perseus, and any other scene in the gallery.197 The story of Semele’s love would seem to be most importantly related to Danäe’s own story (the fact that they had children by Jupiter is not an unusual aspect of their love affairs). While Jupiter’s appearance to Danäe was in the form of a shower of gold [shining like fire?], symbolizing possibly Francis I’s worldly wealth, the highest of the gods appeared to Semele in all his celestial splendor, in Primaticcio’s picture indicated by Jupiter’s blazing thunderbolt. The terrible awesomeness of his fiery presence—recalling the flaming salamander—would seem to indicate another duality of Francis I’s power, but one that lies beyond the riches of this world. Semele had insisted upon seeing Jupiter in his full godliness and granting her wish that his appearance destroyed his mortal lover. But Jupiter tore the child from Semele’s womb and nurtured it in his own thigh until the time of its birth had come. The love of Semele for Jupiter was seen by Seguin as a purified love in contrast to Danäe’s which was merely venal and sensual. But it is doubtful that such a contrast was intended giving, by comparison, such negative meaning to the Danäe that was eventually brought into the gallery to occupy a central position in it. The meaning of Jupiter’s power and love in the Semele story is ambivalent depending on whether it is interpreted from the godliness of Jupiter or from the mortality of Semele. But, as the iconography of the gallery is about Francis I it is the meaning conveyed by Jupiter that must be important. The power of Semele’s Jupiter is of the most divine and hence most terrible and awesome spirit. But this is not a willfully destructive power. Primaticcio’s Jupiter recoils and tries, it appears, to protect Semele from the heat of the thunderbolt. In Ovid’s telling of this story he says that Jupiter even brought with him a lesser thunderbolt in an attempt, as it may be interpreted, to protect Semele against his full power. By analogy, the power of Francis I is like Jupiter’s that exists beyond the possibilities of human endurance and understanding. This divine order of Francis I’s strength together with his wealth, as represented by the gold in the Trance, are what gave issue to all that surrounds one at Fontainebleau and in this king’s realm. The pairing of worldly and divine aspects has some analogy in the pairing and definition of Fame and Victory at the sides of the entrance to the north cabinet.198

Both Dan and Guilbert described the decoration that surrounded Primaticcio’s oval painting of Semele. In most respects, their descriptions agree though Guilbert’s is somewhat more detailed. From them it would seem that this decoration, unlike that of the walls of the gallery, did not form a triptych with the large painting. Dan says there were reclining women and children, in stucco relief apparently, beneath, as one should probably interpret his words, the oval painting. Guilbert specifies that there were two figures, a young man and a young woman, reclining on garlands of flowers and that they were shown holding up the picture. Above this painting, according to pan, were some children, in stucco, holding up a “Royal F” encircled with a crown. Guilbert says these children were looking at a salamander. Assuming that no changes had been made here between 1842 and 1731 it might he suggested that there were two children, one at each side and each holding a “Royal F,” with the salamander in the center toward which the children were looking. The wording of sun’s description would allow for such an arrangement of the children. The male and female figures together with the children that accompany them would seam to enlarge upon the theme of love in Primaticcio’s painting. Without actually knowing what they looked like it would be impossible to attempt any more specific interpretation of them.

Recently it has generally been believed that Primaticcio’s painting was placed above the fireplace in the north cabinet.199

Across from the fireplace was a bench from which position, it has been suggested, the picture and its frame could he comfortably studied.200 And from there the fire in the fireplace could equally have been enjoyed. But there is no real evidence that this picture was above the fireplace. Both Dan and Guilbert mention a fireplace but they do not specifically connect it with the Semele. They merely go on to say that there was a fireplace in the room and then proceed to describe it. If the Semele and its frame were above the fireplace it leaves one to wonder what decorated the East Wall of the cabinet, above the wood paneling and bench. Certainly this wall area was not left blank, for empty areas are not a part of any of the decorative schemes of Primaticcio and Rosso that we know. It therefore seems much more likely that the Semele was on the East Wall and that the fireplace and its decoration occupied the West Wall across from it. Could not the arrangement of the latter have looked something like the fireplace in the Chambre de la Reine with Primaticcio’s small paintings and stucco decoration above it?201 Then, at least, from the descriptions of Dan and Guilbert, one could envision a total scheme of decoration for the north cabinet.

It is, therefore, very probable that it was not the fireplace proper that received the other decoration in the room but the projecting wall area above it. In the center of it seems to have been the small picture described by Guilbert as showing the burning of the false Sibylline books. This picture, by Primaticcio, round like that of the painting above the fireplace in the Chambre de la Reine, is, known from the counterproof of a drawing of it by lean Thulden or Diepenbeeck. Around it were “petits Vulcains et Cic.lopes” in relief, stucco relief one would assume, and, in lower relief, “diverses moresques and grotesques.”

All of the subjects of this decoration described by Guilbert are appropriate to the ornamentation of an area above a fireplace. The vulcans and Cyclops can also be related to the Semele in which appears one of Jupiter’s thunderbolts that they made. Assuming that the decoration of this West Wall store an iconographical relation to that of the wall across from it, as is true in the case of the decorations of the facing wall in the gallery, then the scene described by Guilbert as showing the burning of the false Sibylline books must have some connections with the Semele event if it is not as direct as it would have been had they both been on the same wall. We in saw this small picture as another scene of purification by fire paralleling, in a mina ’slay, the consuming of Semele by the trite knowledge of Jupiter.202 By contrast, Danäe’s was blind love, without knowledge. The burning of the books must refer quite obviously to the destruction of false beliefs and therefore could point up, by contrast, the sublime truth contained in Jupiter’s appearance before Semele. But again, I doubt that, by further contrast, his love for Danäe was necessarily to be understood as inferior. Both the Semele and the Danäe bust symbolize the rightful powers of Jupiter, and thereby, of Francis I, too.

A passage in Ovid’s Metamorphosis may give some support to the affirmative connection between Semele and Dianas. Ovid joins, partly by implication, these two women at the beginning of his stories of Perseus, the grandson of Acrisius, who is the fatther of Danäe.203 Here Ovid says that Acrisius, the king of Argos, forbade the entrance of Bacchus within the walls of his city and refused to believe that he was the son of Jove. Nor would he admit that Perseus was Jove’s son by his daughter, Danäe. “And yet,” continues Ovid, “such is the power of truth, Acrisius in the end was sorry that he had repulsed the god and had not acknowledged his grandson.” He was eventually killed by Perseus, as had been foretold. Is it a mere coincidence that the stories of these two mortal lovers of Jupiter should be brought together by Ovid and by the scheme of the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I? Should not the truth of Jupiter’s love for both of these women be, in the gallery and in the north cabinet, proof of his power in bringing together heaven and earth through Jove’s? One might be inclined to see implied here the necessity of recognizing the legitimacy of Francis I’s heir or heirs.

Only the stylistic evidence of Leon Davent’s etching of Semele, and the supposition that this oval print represents the oval painting of this subject that was in the north cabinet, give real support to the possibility that Primaticcio was the author of this picture. Some further support, however, of this possibility is offered by the appearance of his Danäe in the gallery where the entrance to the south cabinet would have been and by Vasari’s reference that Primaticcio had a hand in these decorations. The copy of the round picture in reverse above the fireplace also shows Primaticcio’s style. The descriptions of Dan and Guilbert of the stuccowork around the Semele could indicate either Rosso or Primaticcio as its author. Guilbert’s reference to the fireplace as “A 1’antique” sounds more like the classicizing Primaticcio than the more bizarre Rosso but Guilbert’s phrase does not necessarily refer to the decoration of the fireplace and may simply indicate the kind of fireplace it was. In 1731 the phrase “A l’antique” could have indicated Rosso’s kind of decoration, too. It is undoubtedly pushing the point to see an indication of style in Jan’s terms “moresques” and “grotesques,” or in Guilbert’s mention of “petits ’Julcains et Oiclops de relief” decorating the fireplace. These terms do suggest, however, in their reference to a kind of Raphaelesque decorative vocabulary, more of what we might have expected from Primaticcio than Rosso. Although Rosso could have designed the decoration of this room into which Primaticcio’s pictures were simply inserted it is also very possible that the entire room was designed by Primaticcio. If this is true it would heighten the importance of Primaticcio’s role and argue for the right of his supposed insistence that the Danäe be maintained even though the project of that cabinet was abandoned. For the entire decoration of that cabinet, too, could originally have been assigned to him.

One issue concerning the decoration of the north and south cabinets can still be considered, though a wholly satisfactory conclusion concerning it cannot be reached. As soon as the project for a south cabinet was abandoned and Rosso introduced his Nymphs of Fontainebleau and its frame onto the central small of the south side of the gallery, only the north cabinet was left as a kind of supplement to the gallery itself. Is it to be concluded necessarily that the projected decoration of the north cabinet would then have remained the same as it had been when at an earlier moment it was conceived in relation to a scheme of decoration for the south cabinet? It is quite likely that no change was planned and that alone the decoration of the north cabinet would simply have presented half of the original scheme that once would have connected the two small rooms. For Primaticcio and for others who had participated in the planning of the original program of the gallery this reduction of the scheme could have remained a point of argument, especially as the new wall area on the south side of the gallery provided an area upon which Primaticcio could have fulfilled his role in the decoration of this complex at Fontainebleau. That is assuming, from the evidence of his Danäe, that Primaticcio would have been responsible for the decoration of the south cabinet. The introduction of Primaticcio’s Danäe into the gallery and its thematic relationship to the Semele of the north cabinet strongly suggest that both belonged originally to the plans for the rooms adjoining the gallery. And although the placement of the Danäe at a last moment in the gallery itself disrupted one of Rosso’s plans it also restored, in part, a conception that had some prior authority.

*          *          *

The Gallery of Francis I is undoubtedly the grandest renaissance scheme of painting and sculpture to have been created in France in its time. Although some of the later decorations at Fontainebleau equaled and even surpassed it in size, it is doubtful that any approached in sumptuousness and complexity what Rosso devised for this gallery. Even today, it is an overwhelming experience. But it is a difficult one, too, artistically as well as intellectually. In these respects the original intentions of Rosso’s decoration are probably felt today to some significant extent as they were when the gallery was just completed. Still, the effect of that decoration on us cannot be wholly the same and insofar as the difference can now be intuited, it must bear union our estimation of what Rosso achieved in the gallery of Francis I.

The appreciation and understanding of the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I does not assume the same kind of cultural milieu as that in which the decorations of the Sistine Ceiling and Raphael’s Stanze and Vatican Logge were created. Given its secular character it might be more to the point to compare the decoration of the gallery to Raphael’s frescoes in the Farnesina and to Peruzzi’s in the same villa. Or to the stuccoes and paintings in the Villa Madama. But it is not so much a matter of secular versus religious art that is an issue here in the difference between Rosso’s decoration and those earlier Roman schemes. It is rather a matter of what, in either case, secular or religious, was selected for representation and how, in its presentation, it would be related to the level of sophistication and range of expectations of its audience. Neither of these later factors can be known for certain, but some sense of them can be had from a knowledge of the art that immediately preceded that of the time which concerns us and from a knowledge of the other contemporary cultural factors. These include not only what had been accomplished but also, more importantly, what was aspired to.

In the case of Rosso’s decoration of the Gallery of Francis I—and of what else he created in the last decade of his life—there is also to be recognized the degree of discrepancy that had to exist between what he, having come from Italy, knew and what his audience in France knew was possible within the realm of the visual arts. For Rosso brought with him a frame of reference that most men in France actually knew little if anything about. Francis I, himself, had never been to Florence, to Rome, or to Venice. In Milan he may have seen and much admired Leonardo’s Last Supper.204 But neither there nor in Bologna, which he also knew, could he have seen anything approaching the range and richness of Renaissance art that was known to Rosso. Francis I could never really have been aware of the full extent of what he was going to receive from his artist, except from what the king could have intuited in the dragiris [sic] that had been sent him from Venice. Although he could possibly also have known the prints that Rosso designed in Rome, impressions of which had certainly made their away north by 1530 as we known from Pink’s copies of the Gods in Niches. At the same time through Leonardo’s art that Francis I knew, and from, the pictures he owned by Raphael and Sarto, the king did know a level of grand artistic achievement that he wanted to have enrich his realm. It must, however, he stated that even with more specific knowledge of the most recent Roman and Florentine art Francis I could not have been altogether prepared for what Rosso presented him in the Gallery of Francis I. Nor, for that matter, could Rosso probably have described to the king the kind of decoration he provided prior to his having actually invented it. For it was novel not only in the contest of French art but also in relation to what preceded it in Italy. Rosso’s decoration is astounding in France, but it would also have appeared extraordinary in Rome in relation to the art from which it drew its major inspiration.

It seems, however, likely that Rosso was also influenced by what he saw at the Palazzo del Te in Mantua. To some extent Guilio Romano’s creations there may give us a better idea of what the possibilities of palace decoration were in the years immediately prior to Rosso’s work in the Gallery of Francis I. One might also include Perino del ’daga’s decorations at the Palazzo del Principe in Genoa though it is less likely that Rosso knew any of this work. As Freedberg pointed out the schemes of decoration by Guilio and Perino primarily stem from Raphael’s of the last decade of his life.205 And while Rosso’s is also least, indebted to the scheme of the Sistine Ceiling. And herein is the source of a mind of difficulty or complexity in Rosso’s decoration that differentiates it from the art of Perino and Guilio Romano. But like their decorations, Rosso’s exhibits on a grand scale an abundance of invention that is greater than what earlier seemed required for the decoration of a room of comparable size and kind. Such an abundance, inevitable as it may partly have been as a next step in the impetus given by the art of Rome, may also indicate a new means of realizing artistic ambitions, especially as made possible in the context of the ambitions of the courts for which Guilio, Perino and Rosso’s worked.

The decoration of the Gallery of Francis I still commands attention today. Its very survival testifies to a certain continuous respect for it through the centuries when so much else at Fontainebleau was destroyed. But it would be unrealistic to say that its value and its meaning for us today are equal to what we experience to be the case with the Sistine Ceiling and the paintings by Raphael in the Stanze. Rosso’s decoration is also different in kind from what decorates the Farnesina and the Villa Madama. But in its particular and refined but also robust sophistication Rosso’s is also unlike Guilio’s decoration in Mantua and Perino’s in Genoa. Furthermore, to be appreciated now, Rosso’s decoration must also be evaluated outside of its original context. For only in attempting to do this can we recognize how and to what extent we are able to take this decoration seriously today.

The present visitor to the gallery is first of all confronted by an architectural experience of extraordinary dimensions. Unlike the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Btanze the long space of the gallery prescribes walking through it, or back and forth in it. In this respect it is much more a loggia, the long casement windows being in effect like the open arches of colonnade in an Italian loggia, which, however, as Cellini pointed out is open only on one side.206 As these large windows originally provided views of the gardens, lake and grounds of Francis I’s estate on both sides of the gallery it functioned rather like an enormous outdoor pavilion.207 One might compare it with Raphael’s logge in the Vatican and the loggia, also decorated by him and his shop, at the Farnesina. But the experience at Fontainebleau was, and is, quite different. This is partly due to the fact that the gallery is more enclosed. But it is also due to the placement and character of the art that decorates it. As the architecture is trabeated and not vaulted the decoration of the gallery is placed on the walls and between the windows, and therefore competes, as it were, with the views from the windows. Furthermore, it is much more insistent as decoration than any that had been planned by Raphael. The plasticity of the stucco sculpture and its combination with large frescoes create an impression that cannot be lightly set aside for whatever other pleasures the room might provide, of walking, conversing or viewing the grounds outside. One might even conclude that the presentation of the decoration of this room is its primary function. Partly for this reason the gallery, now and in the middle of the sixteenth century as well, one might believe, provides an experience that is particularly demanding. And much more demanding than any decorations by Raphael, or by Cuilio and Perino. It requires a concentration more like that necessary to comprehend the decoration of the Sistine Ceiling, but even more like that necessary to understand, in its parts and in its tonality, what Michelangelo seems to have intended for the Medici Chapel, with its architecture, sculpture, and, as may be supposed, its planned colored frescoes. In Rosso’s gallery, as in Mlichelangelo’s chapel, the plastic elaboration of the wall tends to reduce its function as a spatial limit and hence to reduce the value of the space of the gallery as an architectural entity. One is almost literally forced to look at the decoration, and the benches, originally placed against the sections of the sidewalls, provided the places from which the decorations were to be studied at length. Unlike moveable furniture, these fixed seats determined that the visitor to the gallery would be the spectator of its decoration.

That spectator was certainly meant to be impressed, and one who had never been to Rome would have to have been overwhelmed by all the invention that he saw in the gallery. The spectator was also richly entertained and delighted too. So much so that it is unlikely that he would have been concerned by the fact that the decoration was executed largely by Rosso’s assistants. But what the spectator comprehended of the gallery’s decoration is a matter that no contemporary account gives us, and we can only guess at. Although Francis I himself patronized learning, as he did the arts, and although there was a fine library with works from ancient authors housed on the floor just above the gallery, there is no reason to believe that either the king or most of the visitors to the gallery were the scholars that they needed to be to understand what was represented in this room. The visitor would have required a guide to know what he had before him to the extent that we now wish to know the full intentions of the iconography of this room. Even Francis I, in November of 1540, had to refer Wallop, the English ambassador, to an assistant to explain the details of the decoration.208 The use of such extraordinary erudition as the basis for a program of decoration seems unprecedented in Roman and Florentine art of the early sixteenth century. For all the knowledge they reveal neither the Sistine Chapel nor the frescoes of the Stanza della Segnatura present us with such extensive or complex frames of reference. Nor does the art of the Quattrocentro provide any real parallels on the same scale. Only Guilio’s decorations in Mantua and Perino del Vaga’s in Genoa suggest something of the same kind of ancient scholarship as that employed at Fontainebleau, and used there, too, to enhance the image of a ruler. But the iconography of Rosso’s decoration would seem to draw upon a more extensive range of sources and it utilizes these literary sources to form a system of emblematic meaning that is not fundamentally continuous in the relationship of its parts and which it seems to be French in origin.209 At the Palazzo del Te and apparently at the Palazzo del Principe in Genoa the decoration of each room follows a program composed, in general, of rather clearly related historical, mythological and astrological subjects. The sources may not be familiar ones to us today and the use of them may be such to create an iconography that is very special to a particular patron and circumstance. But the mode of the iconography—the manner in which its individual subjects are joined to maize what one might call a system of relationships—is one of a repetition of similar themes forming a series of complementary parts. Some motifs support each other; others make a point by contrast. There is also underlying this iconography a sense of the value of narrative continuity in its major parts. And if not narrative continuity then the appearance of sets of related elements: the gods, the seasons, ancient heroes, or similar historical or religious events. Even without full prior knowledge there is in the selection and arrangement of parts in the decorations in Mantua and Genoa the appearance of an order that could, at some basic level, be fairly easily understood. In the case of the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I this is not the case. The major scenes do not form a narrative cycle nor do they seem to illustrate a single set of concepts. Furthermore, the parts that decorate any one wall do not seem to be joined by any consistent frame of thematic references. To read the scenes of Europa and the Bull and Saturn and Philyra with the Royal Elephant that they flank, is not to know how to understand the meaning of the empty niches in relation to the Revenge of Nauplius that they frame. Correspondences throughout the gallery are obliquely made. Although the iconographical arrangement in the gallery might he considered more subtle than what appears in the Palazzo del Te and the Palazzo del Principe in Genoa, it is less likely that it should be understood as more profound in its meaning. For one has to recognize a certain intentionally obscuring ingenuity of invention that presents meaning on the basis of references drawn to a large extent from the outer reaches of knowledge and experience. This, along with the stylistic munificence of the gallery, was certainly meant to impress the spectator. Not, however, with a greater magnitude of the degree of meaning that was already his—as is the case with the Sistine Ceiling and the Vatican Stanze—but with the implications of various meanings that were to he faced here for the first time. One may even have to recognize in the intention to be obscure the wish to distance the viewer and prevent the kind of experience in which art seems to have the same actuality as life, and in many cases even more. The grand scheme of the iconography of the Gallery of Francis I, invented for Rosso and with him for his visual articulation of it, is a dazzling and idiosyncratic accomplishment in support of a system of monarchical and dynastical presentation that were tenuous to begin with and that have only academic value for us today. This scheme belongs to the past and even then was soon not understood.210

The artifice of the decoration of the gallery survives today as its most significant factor. Almost in the manner in which we appreciate and apprehend music, a chord is struck in the basic order of each wall that responds to the architectural structure of the gallery. Divided first into three parts and then into smaller units that find their counterparts throughout the gallery each area of wall has a decorative substructure that it shares with all the other wall areas in the room. In such a large complex a general scheme could hardly be done without. But it is the extraordinary range of invention wrought within that substructure that constitute the glory of the gallery’s decoration. This was in part surely prompted by the complex iconography of the room. And yet, this iconography could have been visualized in a much more pedantic manner. Or, one might say, in a much more straight-forward and concentrated manner. This possibility, however, presupposes a program for the gallery that was fundamentally literary in its conception. And this must be true in regard to the basic tenets of the gallery’s iconography. But it is highly unlikely in regard to all the details of the decoration and the disposition of them. It seems most improbable that the empty niches that flank the Revenge of Nautlius could have been programmed; the meaning of them indicated by their emptiness, as suggested by McAllister Johnson, seems a totally visual inspiration. And the scattering of the small reliefs with their most varied motifs around the central architecture of this wall is really not comprehensible at all as the result of a preexisting verbal conception. Throughout the gallery one sees motifs, of masks, putti, wingéd youths, statuettes, dogs, perms, garlands, volutes, and hands, that join and separate the larger elements of the decoration in the most unexpected ways. The sense they have cannot really be “read” as though they were integrated into some all-embracing intellectual order. Each wall does suggest a kind of highly-figured blazon rich with symbolic elements. But as these can not all be precisely interpreted, nor, we might assume, were they meant to be, they speak more of artistic inventiveness than of some kind of symbolic system to reveal a truth about experience. Taken too seriously the iconography of the gallery verges on the absurd. Fortunately, the kind of artistic inventiveness that constitutes the decoration of this room tends to alleviate the pretentiousness suggested by its iconographical program. By and large, the scenes in the gallery lack the expression of real passion. There is wit and elegance, and even a very driving narrative force in some of the paintings and reliefs. But the decoration of the gallery as a whole is most passionately invented. The walls abound in motifs, and their density, diversity, and vigorous definition make of them a kind of exuberant and grand mock language, or rhetoric. Actually, the diversity and number of motifs is not as extensive as appears in the painted and stucco decoration of the Vatican logge and the Villa Madama, where, however, forming together grottesque decoration, they are small and joined to create a kind of veneer to the walls they ornament. But in the gallery the reticence of grottesgue decoration has been broken and what was once decorously discreet has become a major part of art in the grad manner. What was earlier thought to be appropriately superficial has become substantial. It is partly for this reason that it is not precisely the point to speak of the frescoes and stuccoes in the Gallery of Francis I merely as decoration. At the same time, their effect is not exactly that of the great schemes of the frescoes of the Sistine veiling and the Vatican Stanze. In the gallery the superficial has become significant by the sheer enlargement of its terms which serve now not principally to delight as decoration but to dazzle and impress as grand invention. The copious narrative and symbolic elements of the program of the decoration: are matched by the manner in which Rosso brings them into his artistic scheme. Whatever meaning the gallery had and may still have in regard to enlightening us upon the absolute monarchical and dynastic aspirations of Francis I, it now primarily survives as a monument of art, which would have been Rosso’s original intention as his artistic powers also served the king’s own more varied ambitions. 211


1DESTROYED PARTS OF THE GALLERY OF FRANCIS I, Château, Fontainebleau. Those parts of the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I that have not survived and are discussed in this chapter are also considered in the catalogue entry of the gallery (P.22), but Birnenbaum and Pressouyre, 1972, and Beguin and Pressouyre, 1972, should also be consulted. The most serious losses are listed below in the hopes that more visual evidence related to them may be identified than has already been found.

  • I North: Venus and Minerva. The two framed imitation red marble panels beneath the main fresco may be later additions, in which case, what Rosso designed for these areas is lost.
  • III North: The Revenge of Nauplius. The putti painted in oil above and beneath each of the lateral empty niches are nineteenth century additions. Presumably they replace other putti that Rosso designed for these areas and that are noted by Dan.
  • IV North: Entrance to the North Cabinet. The original decoration of this entire wall was destroyed in 1786. It is described by Dan and Guilbert as having a half-length stucco portrait in relief of Francis I carried on the heads of cherubim, with a cherub at each side holding the “Devise” of the king; flanking the door were large figures of Victory and Fame on a gold background, with “pareils embellissemens.” The figure of Fame seems to be represented in an engraving by Domenico del Barbiere [small Fig.E.5], that of Victory in an anonymous etching [small Fig.E.141].
  • VII North: Scene of Sacrifice with a Bull. Toward the end of the seventeenth century, the stucco panel to the left of the main fresco was destroyed with a doorway broken into the wall to give access to a newly constructed stairway. The panel was then remade in two parts placed at the sides of the doorway. Rosso’s composition is partially preserved in an etching by Du Cerceau [small Fig.E.55].
  • West Wall. The decoration of the center of this wall was destroyed in the seventeenth century when the present doorway was built. In general the stucco decoration that was there must have resembled what appears in d’Orbay’s drawing of the wholly destroyed decoration of the East Wall, but the center of the West Wall would not have been identical to that at the other end of the gallery. In the upright oval center, there was an oil painting on panel by Rosso depicting Venus and Cupid, Cupid and Psyche, or, just possibly, Venus, Cupid, and Psyche. The surviving frescoes below the side stuccoes of this wall are much effaced.
  • East Wall. The decoration of this entire wall was destroyed in the middle of the eighteenth century but the general character of it is known from a drawing of 1682 by Francis d’Orbay [Small d’Orbay drawing a]. In the center there was originally an oval oil painting on panel by Rosso representing Bacchus, or Bacchus and Venus, but most likely Bacchus, Venus, and Cupid. The center section of the wall, but without its oval painting, is also known from a copy of a lost drawing by Rosso [Small Fig.D.57], and from etchings by Fantuzzi [Small Fig.E.67] and Du Cerceau [Small ig.E.56,3 and Fig.E.57,6]. D’Orbay’s drawing would seem to show what was executed in stucco around and at the sides of the central oval painting, but some of what appears in his drawing could have been executed in fresco, not only the small subsidiary scenes but also smaller decorative elements. There are four areas that would have received scenes; the two roundels at the sides and the horizontal rectangular areas above them. There is some possibility that one of the rectangular scenes was the Contest of Athena and Poseidon known from prints by Fantuzzi [Small E.78] and Boyvin [Fig.E.1].
  • East end of the north and south walls of the gallery. The decoration of these areas of the gallery must have been damaged when the East Wall was re-made in the eighteenth century. Some of what exists, perhaps at the top and something of the framed imitation marble panels may be from the sixteenth century, or reflect what was there, but one would expect the decoration here to have been more like what is at the other end of the gallery. There the stuccoes, and probably also the painting at the bottom, were related to what was on the adjoining West Wall. Hence, it is likely that what is at the east end is also related to what was on the adjoining East Wall, and that what is here is not quite what Rosso intended. The standing putti at the bottom are certainly not his and occupy areas that may originally have had frescoes on a fake gold mosaic background.
  • West end of the north and south walls of the gallery. On the north wall the decoration at the east was damaged and reworked when the doorway was let into the adjacent area but some of what is there may be of the sixteenth century. Originally this area would have been slightly larger. The painting at the bottom of this small area is almost totally effaced. So, too, is the comparable area at the west end of the south wall.

There are two areas of loss in the gallery that are more pervasive. All of the vertical garland panels at the embrasures of the windows have been repainted, and were not cleaned in the recent restoration. It is probable that the nineteenth century restorers recreated what Rosso designed but the degree of their faithfulness is not known. Secondly, all the stucco decoration that occupies the areas where the beams originally were are inventions of the nineteenth century. In some cases, the substitutions are quite minor. But in others, they significantly change some of the intent of the stuccoes that flank the large frescoes. This is especially true at I North, Venus and Minerva; IV South, Danaë; VII South, The Enlightenment of Francis I, where the large size figures in stucco were related to the support of the original lower-set beams. On two walls, V North, Cleobis and Biton; and VII North, Scene of Sacrifice, stucco garlands appeared to hang directly from the beams.

2Cellini-Ferrero, 1971, 452–453. Cellini goes on to say that Primaticcio exhibited in the gallery the bronze casts that he had made of ancient statues and that Cellini himself presented his statue of Jove there. In November 1540 Wallop, Henry VIII’s ambassador, reported that in the gallery, “There are antique statues between each window, and five [fine?] ‘tables of stories’ as Lucretia and others” (Gairdner and Brodie, 1898, 118; Terrasse, Charles, Francois Ier, III, Paris, 1970, 75; Chastel, 1972, 143; McAllister Johnson, “Diplomatic Correspondance,” 1972, 51–53). The size of the room, the lavishness of its decoration, and the seats built into it clearly indicate that it was not built merely as a passageway, as remarked also by Babelon, 1989, 206, in regard to the smalleness of the doors that gave access to the gallery. See also Pressouyre, “Cadre architectural,” 1972, 13, and McAllister Johnson, 1972, 158, 169, ns. 64 and 65. On earlier French and Italian galleries, see Shearman, 1980, 7, and Tedone, Giovanna, in Potere-Spazio, 1980, 123–124. On a gallery in Ferrara as early as 1505, mentioned by Shearman, see Goodgal, Dana, “The Camera of Alfonso I d’Este,” Art History, I, 2, 1978, 164–165. Cellini’s “androne” would seem to indicate a kind of waiting room; Serlio’s definition suggests a place in which to stroll, and the length of the gallery along with its tall casement windows on both of its long sides certainly indicate a place for promenading. As it was, at its east end, connected by a door to the king’s room (and was not so connected to any other area), the gallery was the room to await an audience with the king; with the visitor having entered it at the west end and the place to which the king could lead his guests from his own quarters. The latter was in fact the case when Wallop visited Fontainebleau in November 1540. Dan, in 1642 (218–219), stated, on the basis “de divers mémoires de ce temp-1à,” that when Charles V was received by Francis I at Fontainebleau 24 December 1539 they dined in the “Salle du Bal.” This would not have been the “small gallery” which Dan also mentions and which was replaced by the present Salle du Bal very shortly after this visit. There does not seem to have been a ballroom at Fontainebleau at the time that the emperor was there. It is therefore possible that Dan’s source called the gallery the “Salle du Bal.” As the kitchens were under the gallery it would have been a likely place for a banquet.

3 See Jestaz, Bertrand, “Étiquette et distribution intéieure dans les maisons royales de la Renaissance,” Bulletin monumental 146 (1988): 111; and Shearman, 1980, 7.

4 This would also seem indicated by the fact that the block does not abut the gallery where this room would be located. Du Cerceau’s plans do not show clearly the number or disposition of the windows.

5 See McAllister Johnson, 1972, 158, 170, n.69.

6 Zerner, in Actes, 1975, 34, n.6, records that Paul Vanaise, during the colloquium on L’Art de Fontainebleau held in Paris and Fontainebleau in 1972, mentioned a document that he said shows not only that the south cabinet was built but that it existed until after the death of Francis I. This document would then contradict the visual evidence of the view of the south façade painted in the gallery [Fig.P.22, In,h]. There is no reason not to believe that this view is contemporary with the rest of the decorations of the wall of which it is a part and to which it is related iconographically. The decoration of the Venus and Minerva wall was probably done in 1535 or early 1536. Until the document is published, it seems reasonable to base one’s understanding of the situation from the known view of the gallery painted in the gallery. It should also be pointed out that the contract of 2 April 1539 to Scibec de Carpi concerning the wood paneling and benches in the gallery mentions the north cabinet (“du costé du jardin”) but says nothing of a cabinet on the other side of the gallery (see McAllister Johnson, 1972, 158, 170, n.59). On the terrace, see Pressouyre, “Cadre architectural,” 1972, 18, 23, ns. 35, 37.

7 Babelon, 1989, 203, 206, thought that originally the gallery was carried on open arches to allow for the public way (“chemin de servitude”) to be maintained [that was on the land purchased in 1529. With the closing of this public way the arches were doubled—that is, a second arcade was set before the first—and the terrace walkway placed upon the added arches. Babelon also thought that the horizontal communication of the terrace walkway was related to the walkways with iron guardrails that were built in front of the façades of the Cour Qvale after the destruction of the staircase towers. Miller, 1977 (1966), 104–106, noted documents of August 1535 of payments for a fountain to be placed in the area in front of the south façade of the gallery indicating further plans for the full redesigning of this area. Prinz, 1970, 18, wrongly thought that the organization of the decorations in the gallery took its form from the large and small arches (niches) of the existing arcade which, however, was built after Francis I’s death.

8 This designation of Rosso’s position at Fontainebleau appears only in the second edition of Vasari’s Lives (Milanesi, V, 167): “Il re [Francis I] … lo [Rosso] fece capo generale sopra tutte le fabriche, pitture, ed altri ornamenti in quel luogo [Fontainebleau].” Although none of the French documents give him this title it is not unreasonable to assume that he held this position. He was the highest paid artist working at Fontainebleau, earning twice as much as the next highest paid artist, Primaticcio. Furthermore, by all reports, from Mini’s letters, from Vasari’s biographies, and from all the documents concerning Rosso’s life in France, he was exceptionally well considered there. In his letters patent of 1532 the king referred to Rosso as his “cher et bien amé painctre ordinaire” (Fréville, 1855, 114). When he was made a canon of Notre Dame in 1537 he was immediately asked to make a design for an architectural and sculptural project in the cathedral. He was, after all, the most accomplished artist working in France and it is more than likely that the king valued his every opinion especially concerning the enlargement and decoration of Francis I’s favorite château at Fontainebleau, including very possibly, the staircase in the Cour Ovale (see A.2, and Chapter VII).

9 No windows appear in these locations in Du Cerceau’s view showing the exterior of the north side of the gallery although there is probably one at the east blocked from view by the apartment added later but not abutting the gallery. As the central window on the south side was a false one as seen from the outside, there is no reason not to surmise that a false window was also used inside the gallery. There was a false door at the south end of the East Wall and there was probably a false one in the West Wall.

10 As the suppression of the south cabinet would seem to be related to the decision to build “six cuisines et gardemangers … en forme de terrasse” beneath and in front of the gallery, it is very possible that no actual plans for the decoration of the south cabinet were ever devised even if earlier they had been envisioned. The contract for the kitchens, larders, and terrace was made with Le Breton on 14 April 1534 and the work was completed by 13 November 1534 (as known from a later document of 18 February 1535; Laborde, I, 1877, 58–59). The carpentry specifications for the centering of the vaults of the kitchens and larders made on 4 March 1535 state that two of the arches, which were at ground level, would remain enclosed the south cabinet. This would seem to refer to the original foundation arches of the south cabinet. Already by this time, it could have been decided to destroy the superstructure of the south cabinet and this decision could have been made as early as 1534. Some work on that superstructure was done, for Josse Maillart’s carpentry work on it seems to be included in the work certified on 6 March 1535 and paid for on 12 May 1535 (Laborde, I, 1877, 91–92). But one cannot know how much of it was actually finished. See also note 6.

11 The five chimneys could have been related to five fireplaces, one in each of the cabinets, including the one planned for the west end of the gallery, one in the chapel at the east end, and one in the gallery, or more likely two, with no fireplace in the chapel, perhaps. As no fireplaces were actually built in the gallery it may be that it was supplied with heat through ducts leading from fireplaces in the kitchens below, the contract for the construction of which was made on 14 April 1534 (see n.10). The exterior southern view of the gallery in the small painting under the Venus and Minerva [Fig.P.22, I N h] shows six huge chimneys rising above the gallery; there may be two very effaced and much smaller ones flanking the gable above the central blind window which are clearly visible in Du Cerceau’s print [Fig.Du Cerceau North detail]. However, these chimneys may have been related to the kitchens on the ground floor or to the fireplaces on the top floor; they would seem also to have something to do with the heating of the gallery. They must have been connected as well with the Appartement des Bains on the ground floor, but it is not known when it was built. However, it is not unlikely that this series of rooms was built at the same time as the kitchens. See Pressouyre, “Cadre architectural,” 1972, 23, n.39.

12 Shearman, 1980, 7–8, thought the 1535 project was for intarsia in the Italian manner, replaced by the present lambris which “does not look particularly like an Italian basamento.”

13 A bench attached to each center panel of the wood paneling of the north wall is shown by Charles Percier in his drawing of the gallery (Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Institut) made in 1786 [Fig.Percier Gallery, full view]. The filling in of the windows in this drawing with wood paneling up to the level of the other paneling certainly does not represent the original appearance of the gallery. The central panel under the Danäe may not have had a bench because there was no large picture across from it (see McAllister Johnson, 1972, 158).

14 On the woodwork in the gallery, see Sylvia Pressouyre, “Les boiseries,” in “Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 20–21, and Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 141. It has been suggested (Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 124) that the woodwork in the gallery may have been designed by Rosso. Although this is not impossible, none of the decoration of the wood panels—those that seem to be original or copies of lost originals—looks particularly like what might be expected from Rosso on the basis of his use of similar motifs in the stucco work in the gallery. The very detailed specifications for the woodwork of 2 April 1539 makes no reference to Rosso. On the possibility that Scibec’s escutcheon designs had an influence on Rosso’s use of strapwork, see Chapter VII.

15 This cornice is different from the evenly spaced row of rectangular brackets that appears in each of the six tapestries, in Vienna [Fig.P.22, III S, Tapestry, a], that are related to six of the decorated wall areas in the gallery. At the bottom of the tapestries, the uneven appearance of a perspectival representation of the actual cornice would probably have looked awkward.

16 See Chapter VII.

17 It has been assumed (“Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 41) that the beginning of work in the gallery is indicated by payments to three stuccoers, Francesco Pellegrino, Simon le Roy, and Andrd Seron (Laborde, I, 1877, 90–91), for work specifically stated as done in the gallery between 13 April and 22 August 1535. However, an earlier and longer list of payments for work done between 31 December 1533 and 24 March 1535 (Laborde, I, 1877, 88–90) also includes payments to these stuccoers for work done between 12 April 1534 and 24 March 1535, for Pellegrino, and between 24 November 1534 and 24 March 1535, for Seron (here called Selon); Le Roy is paid for five months work, but the months are not given. Unfortunately, the gallery is only named in the heading of this list, along with “Chambres du Roy et de la Reyne”, and is not mentioned in any of the individual entries of payment. But unless the heading of this list is mistaken, it must indicate that stucco work in the gallery was already being done in 1534. Dimier (1900, 35, and n.2) also read this list as indicating that work in the gallery had begun by 12 April 1534, as did Barocchi (1950, 101), who thought it might even have started earlier. Preparatory work may have begun in 1533 as indicated by a payment to painters and other workers on 28 August of that year for work in July, August, and September (see Laborde, I, 1877, 223–224, Vanaise, 1973, 185–186, and Béguin in Actes, 1975, 226).

18 Shearman, 1980, 8, thought that the oval paintings may have been “pre-existing, independent paintings, not made for this purpose,” that is, not made for placement in the gallery. But this is very unlikely given that they were oval. Shearman also thought that there was a precedent in the use of pictures placed in stucco frames in the Appartement des Bains, but the decoration of these rooms is first documented in 1541 (see Dimier, 1900, 279–284).

19 However, Dimier (1925, 6) stated that “Tout porte à croire que le milieu de ce côté fut destina à recevoir la Nymphe de Fontainebleau, que Boyvin a gravée avec les stucs visibles en cet endroit.” The same was believed by the Panofskys (1958, 165, n.10), and by Bardon (1963, 22–24). Herni Zerner has suggested (“Le système decoratif de la Galerie François Ier à Fontainebleau,” in Actes, 1975, 33) that the arrangement of the lateral stuccoes and paintings in the gallery clearly indicates that the wall decoration of the south center section must have been part of Rosso’s overall scheme.

20 As suggested by Béguin (1972, 166) who believes Primaticcio’s picture was done as early as 1537. Vasari said (Milanesi, VII, 408) that Primaticcio was called back to France from Rome when Rosso died and the decoration of the gallery was left incomplete. Then upon executing the bronze casts from the molds that he brought back from Rome, according to Vasari, Primaticcio finished the gallery, but the biographer does not state what it was that had to be completed. Dimier (1900, 301–302) dated the Danäe after Primaticcio returned from Italy but concluded that because of all the work that Primaticcio did between the time of his return and the years 1544 and 1545 the Danäe cannot be placed later than 1542.

21 See note 17.

22 The beginning of painting in the gallery has generally been dated from a document (Laborde, I, 1877, 97–98), the last paragraph of which mentions Rosso as “conducteur desdits ouvrages de stucq et painture” in the gallery in April 1536. The heading of this document, which is a list of payments to Rosso’s assistants in the gallery, makes reference to both stuccowork and painting, and the first listed payment, to Francesco Pellegrino, states that the length of time covered by these payments extends from April 1535 to the end of April 1536. This may well mean that painting had begun as early as April 1535. A date of 1536 is also supported (Barocchi, 1950, 101, and “Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 41) by reference to a document (Laborde, I, 1877, 96–97) recording payments for pigments and gold leaf for “la painture desdits ouvrages de la grande gallerie et chambre [de la Reyne].” Although this document appears in the published Comptes des Bâtiments du Roi in the section referring to the year 1536, no date actually appears in the document itself. It follows upon another containing the date March 1536 (old style 1535) and upon another that records payments going back to November 1535. As the payments for pigments and gold leaf was for materials already delivered and as these payments could have been made early in 1536 or even late in 1535, it is quite possible that these materials were delivered in 1535. As indicated by many of the Fontainebleau documents a considerable amount of time often elapsed between work that was done and the payment for it; this might also have been the case with the delivery of and payment for materials.

23 As pointed out by the Panofskys (1958, 145).

24 See Tolnay, V, 1960, P1. it (the second group of figures from the right edge of the fresco).

25 See Tolnay, V, 1960, 102, n.11, where it is stated that the cartoon was done during the Ponticate of Clement VII. Clement died 25 September 1534.

26 See Tolonay, III, 1948, 190–191, n.1.

27 Rosso’s version, in the Royal Academy in London, of Michelangelo’s Leda would, on stylistic grounds, seem to date not from before 1536 (Fig.D.74). Rosso’s Nymph of Fontainebleau, engraved by Pierre Milan and René Boyvin (Fig.E.103), seems to reflect Michelangelo’s Leda in the position of one arm coming forward and crossing the opposite leg just above the knee. However, in spite of this knowledge, the Nymph of Fontainebleau is otherwise not very Michelangelesque at all, perhaps because his art did not provide models for a nymph that would match French tastes.

28 See Tolnay, V, 1960, Pls. 14 and 39.

29 As suggested by the Panofskys (1958, 143–144). The death of the Dauphin occurred during the period of the most intense activity of the painters in the gallery, between April and November 1536 (Laborde, I, 1877, 97–107), during which time Rosso’s activity there is continuously documented. The accounts indicate that the stuccoers were still active throughout these eight months.

30 See Barocchi, 1950, 101–102, n.7, and Pressouyre, in “Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 97–101. The records of the stuccoers and painters who assisted Rosso in the gallery are also discussed by Barocchi (1950, 101–109, 181–185). Although she made no attempt to identify hands in the execution of the paintings, which had not been cleaned when she wrote, she did recognize certain stylistic traits in the stuccoes that led her to point out some of those that were done by the Flemish, French, and Italian stuccoers, “mais avec des résultants contestable” as Béguin (“Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 101) justly remarked. Béguin rightly recognized the impossibility at the present moment of identifying the hands of any of the stuccoers who are documented as having worked in the gallery.

31 Chastel, 1972, 143–149, and McAllister Johnson, 1972, 159–163. Other interesting points are made by Henri Zerner in Actes, 1975, 31–34.

32 On which see Chastel, “Salamandre,” 1972; Lecoq, 1975, 93–104; and Lecoq, 1987, 35–52.

33 Mentioned by Shearman, 1980, 9.

34 On Davidson’s suggestion of connections between the decorations at Genoa and Fontainebleau, see Davidson, 1990, 48–49[?], and below, n.123.

35 On the subject of the relation of the gallery to earlier decorative schemes, see Sydney J. Freedberg, “Rosso’s Style in France and its Italian Context,” in Actes, 1975, 13–16.

36 As mentioned by Shearman, 1980, 2.

37 See endnote 2.

38 While in the tapestry the man in the background of the scene at the right of the Unity of the State appears to be pointing in the direction that his companion guides their boat with his pole (see Panofsky, 1958, 127), in the gallery the one man appears to be simply embracing the other which may convey something quite different from what the tapestry designers chose to indicate. In the gallery the small animal in the cartouche under the Loss of Perpetual Youth, which would seem to be a baby salamander with flames coming out of its mouth, in the tapestry, according to Sylvia Pressouyre (“Le témoignage des tapisseries,” in “Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 111) it is a chameleon catching a fly with its tongue. See also Chastel, 1972, 152. In the principal picture, the tapestry designers have changed Rosso’s swan-like monster into a much more reptilian creature, which may accord better with Nicander’s story that is narrated here but not with Rosso’s interpretation of it in the gallery fresco. One should perhaps not over evaluate these small changes but unlike merely decorative additions they seem slightly to change the meaning of what is represented. However, one may account for these changes, through ignorance or a wish to change what is represented, they seem to record already in the 1540s slight shifts in the understanding and appreciation of what Rosso had depicted in the gallery.

39 Especially by Cassiano del Pozzo in 1625 (Pozzo-Müntz, 1886, 270), Père Dan in 1642 (86–94), and the Abbé Guilbert in 1731 (I, 78–101).

40 Beginning with Terrasse in 1949, Barocchi in 1950 (109–113), Lövgren in 1951, Tervarent in 1952, and culminating with the article by Dora and Erwin Panofsky in 1958. Further research was published by Guerts in 1963–1967, by Alleau (and Destanque) in 1967, Chastel in 1968, and by Pressouyre in 1970 leading to the variety of articles by Chastel, McAllister Johnson, and Béguin, and the review by Béguin and Pressouyre of the research that has been done on the iconography of the gallery in “Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 125–172. See also Pressouyre, and Zerner in Actes, 1975, 31–34, 127–139, and Shearman, 1980, 2, 8.

41 See note 17.

42 Vasari-Ricci, IV, 250, and Cellini-Ferrero, 1971, 452.

43 The animal also appears on a roundel held by the priest-herm at the right of the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths, as a baby salamander beneath the Loss of Perpetual Youth and on the headpiece worn by the elephant in the Royal Elephant. Salamanders also decorate the wood paneling. Although the east and West Walls had putti holding the “Royal F” it is not clear from d’Orbay’s drawing or even from the present salamander on the West Wall that this animal originally appeared at the ends of the gallery; but see Béguin, 1972, 165, who states they were.

44 See Chastel, “Salamandre,” 1972, 151–152.

45 See Chastel, “Salamandre,” 1972, 152, Fig. 245.

46 Russell, 1985, 33–34, commented on the permanence of such devices within the royal family.

47 It is quite probable, as discussed in each case below in the text, that in the major pictures whatever the “Royal F” is attached to is symbolic of the king in some particular capacity. Hence symbolic of Francis I himself would be the gymnasium in the Education of Achilles, the chariot in the Cleobis and Biton, the elephant in the Royal Elephant, the altar in the Scene of Sacrifice, and the temple in the Enlightenment of Francis I. On this symbol, see Lecoq, 1987, 157–161.

48 On the shaback of the elephant in the Royal Elephant, on the banner of the trumpet held by the giant above the right side of the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths, on the altar in the Sacrifice, and on the shield-like object at the side of the stucco nude at the far left of the Unity of the State.

49 Vasari-Milanesi, V, 168.

50 See notes 39 and 40. Dan (1642) and Guilbert (1731) believed that the scenes in the gallery referred to major events in the life of Francis I and to certain of his qualities as king, but neither attempted to interpret all of the pictures and reliefs. Nor did they recognize a prescribed iconographical program for the gallery. The iconography of the gallery was not much further considered in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Kusenberg (1931, 61–62) barely touch upon it and merely repeated Dan’s remark that the frescoes make allusion to the life of Francis I, adding, however, that although the king appears in two of them no tradition confirms Dan’s general thesis. Terrasse (1949), whose short article deals with only two of the large pictures in the gallery, did not define any overall program. But his interpretations of two pictures, wrong as they are, follow along the lines of Dan and Guilbert by relating one scene to a specific event in the king’s life (unfortunately dating from a time after the gallery was completed) and the other to a supposed personal quality of the king. Barocchi (1954, 109–113) did not attempt to interpret the gallery herself but acknowledged that its scenes allegorically celebrate the life of Francis I. Lövgren (1951) was only interested in the mythological subjects of three of the Vienna tapestries and did not relate them to any other context. Tervarent’s study of 1952, the first to indicate how some of the major scenes across from each other on the north and south walls are related, is more concerned with identifying and associating the subjects of the pictures than with interpreting them in regard to some larger frames of reference. However, he does recognize the actual or implied presence of the king in five of the large paintings, but always indicating an aspect of Francis I as king rather than specific events in his life. Tervarent is the only author to suggest a biblical connection with one of the scenes. The Panofskys (1958), who attempted an explanation of the entire gallery as “a running commentary rather than the realization of a pre-established blueprint” (159), identified almost all the major scenes with specific events in Francis I’s life and two more generally in terms of aspects of his existence, war and old age. Their analysis of the gallery’s decoration more or less fulfills Dan’s suggestion (1642, 93) that the scenes there represent “les actions principales de la vie du gran Roy François.” Guerts (1963–1967), as reported by Chastel, Béguin, and Pressouyre (“Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 125, 127–128, 130, 135, 136–137, 145, 168, n.15), interpreted the gallery in terms of moral ideas with regard to culture, the state, the king, and the individual. However, one might criticize her conclusions; Guerts’ interpretation is the first to suggest that the meaning of the gallery goes beyond allusions to events in the life and to qualities of Francis I alone. Alleau and Destanque (1967) explained the eastern half of the gallery as representing the “Theâtre de la vie humaine” and the western half, the “Theâtre de la vie royale.” Chastel’s interpretation of the gallery (1968, expanded in 1972) defines a full iconographical program that “n’illustre pas la vie du roi mais la réalité institutionelle de la monarchie qu’il incarne” (1972, 12). The paired walls of the eastern half of the gallery illustrate “Infelices cases,” “Juventus perpeta,” and “Bellum”; those of the western half are designated with the general titles “Sacra,” “Imperium,” and “Pietas.” To this monarchical program (see McAllister Johnson below) is related a mythological program (see Béguin below) presented by the decoration of the end walls, of the center south wall, and of the (destroyed) North Cabinet. Details of Chastel’s conception partly draw also upon the historical origins of France. Chastel’s explanation of the gallery, that indicates the definition of a complete program for the gallery before its decoration was begun, is the most thoroughly comprehensive iconographical scheme that has been suggested for the gallery. Pressouyre’s two studies (1968 and 1975) follow through, to a certain extent, Chastel’s monarchical program by considering the decoration of four of the walls as concerned with “Pietas,” with spiritual illumination through humanistic learning, and with Fortune. She suggests dynastic implications in one case and the specific appearance of Francis I in another. McAllister Johnson (1972) adds a few details to the “programme monarchique,” indicated by Chastel, and also mentions the mythological program as integrated with the other. Béguin’s interpretation (1972) of the mythological program of the gallery suggests allusions to Francis I. Zerner (1975) is primarily concerned with the decorative scheme of the gallery but his conclusion that the decoration of the wall with Danäe must be part of the original conception of the gallery lends importance to its mythological aspect.

51 Terrasse (1949) was the first to recognize an order in the gallery in the thematic relationship of the decorations of the north and south wall areas across from each other. He also saw that the subordinate parts of each compartment are iconographically related to the main picture. Terrasse’s structure of the iconography of the gallery is based entirely on what is represented. The same is true of the Panofskys’ conception, which is based on Terrasse’s but adds the division of the gallery into three parts of two bays each. They also recognized thematic relationships diagonally across the length of the gallery. Guerts (1963–1967), according to Chastel’s diagram of her program (“Système,” 1972, 168, n.15), defines a program based on the thematic content of six pairs of wall areas, each one next to the other (including the walls at either side of the center bay). Chastel (1968 and 1972) while accepting the pairing relationship pointed out by Terrasse and the Panofskys, also recognized an order based on the zig-zag disposition of the subsidiary painted and stucco parts of the decoration of the north and south walls that indicate a program divided into two parts of three bays each. From the disposition of the stuccoes and paintings, McAllister Johnson (1972) and Zerner (1975) pointed out that there must have been a pre-determined iconographical program for the gallery because there was a predetermined decorative one. The former, however, does not necessarily follow from the latter. The original diamond shaped disposition of the mythological paintings on the end walls, in the center of the south wall, and in the North Cabinet was recognized by Chastel (1972), McAllister Johnson (1972), and Béguin (1972). This recognition is again based, of course, on thematic relationships.

52 See Chastel, 1972, 149; McAllister Johnson, 1972, 161–162; Shearman, 1980, 8; and Schneebalg-Perelman, 1982, 151. For Delminio, see below on the decoration of the Cleobis and Biton wall.

53 See Chastel, 1972, 146. But there was originally a door also at the west end.

54 I wish to thank Molly Nesbit for looking into this detail for me.

55 Fantuzzi’s print (E.70) shows a smaller basket of fruit that may also have been placed there to replace the beams; there could, possibly, have been some stucco fruit around the beam in its lower position in the gallery.

56 On this view as related to the meaning of the salamander above the fresco, see Lecoq, Anne-Marie, “La représentation du château, Add superscripts to e & e:XVe–XVIe siècles,” L’information d’histoire de l’art, 1974, no. 1, 17. Terrasse, 1981, 34, titled the fresco Venus et Eros à la fontaine,” and Béguin, in Delay, 1987, 206, called the goddess “Venus bellifontaine.”

57 Zerner, 1969, L.D.27.

58 The possibility that this might be the meaning of Rosso’s painting was suggested to me by Edgar Wind’s discussion of virtue and pleasure and his illustration of a print in Achille Bocchi’s Symbolicae quaestiones showing Minerva and Venus embracing in Wind, 1968, 71, and Fig. 56.

59 See Panofsky, 1958, 176, n.109. The theme of Venus overpowering Cupid was suggested to me by Michael Levy’s discussion of Bronzino’s Venus, Cupid. Folly and Time in “Sacred and Profane Significance in Two Paintings by Bronzino,” Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Art Presented to Anthony Blunt on his 60th Birthday, London-New York, 1967, 30–33. Unfortunately, it is not self-evident what Venus’ extended arms signify. In the print of the early version of this scene the gesture of Venus’ right hand suggests that she is making a pointed comment. Rare as it is the print may not show the original drawing for it in reverse as Venus’s pointing gesture is with her right hand. Venus’ outstretched arms may be an indication of her acknowledging the meaning of the book held by the putto in both the etching and the fresco. Perhaps she is indicating for the putto to be quiet so not to wake up the sleeping Cupid.

60 See Panofsky, 1958, 157–158, and Chastel, 1972, 146. For a review of other interpretations of this wall, see Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 125.

61 Ovid-Miller, 1926, II, 194–219, lines 210–535.

62 See Panofsky, 1958, 155–157, and Chastel, 1972, 147–148. For a review of the iconographical explanations of this wall, see Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 126.

63 Panofsky, 1958, 156.

64 Panofsky, 1958, 151; see also Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 127.

65 See P.22, under II N, where the relation of the main fresco to the relief in Lille attributed to Donatello is discussed.

66 Panofsky, 1958, 151.

67 As mentioned by Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 127.

68 Not, for example, Orazio Farnese, as suggested by Terrasse (1949, 176–177) which, in any case, is chronologically impossible (see Panofsky, 1958, 152–153).

69 Panofsky, 1958, 153–154.

70 As indicated by McAllister-Johnson, 1974, 29.

71 Panofsky, 1958, 153.

72 Terrasse, 1949, 177–178.

73 Tervarent, 1952, 39–40.

74 Picard, 1963.

75 Nicander, The Poems and Poetical Fragments, edited with a translation and notes by A.S.F. Gow and A.F. Scholfield, Cambridge, 1953, 50–53, lines 340–356. The story is part of Nicander’s description of the dipsas because “the affliction of Christ did the deadly brute receive from the braying ass, and imparts it with its feeble blows” (lines 356–357).

76 Nicander merely says (lines 334–337) that “… the form of the dipsas will always resemble that of a small Viper; … Its thin tail, darkish throughout, grows blacker from the end forward.” Rosso’s animal looks like a bird with the head of a snake, but without scales; its leg and paw resemble those of a lion. In the Vienna tapestry the animal has been transformed into a wingèd and scaly reptile which quite misrepresents what Rosso seems to have intended, but seems more in keeping with what is indicated by Nicander. The tapestry could preserve an early idea for the fresco that Rosso changed.

77 Recalling the antique Sleeping Ariadne in the Vatican since 1512, as pointed out by Jacob, Sabine, “From Giorgione to Cavallino,” Apollo, 123, no. 289, 1986, 188.

78 On the identification of these figures, see Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 129, and Chastel, 1972, 170, n.85; see also Marianne Grivel, in Ronsard, 1985, 99–100, no. 131 (B.N. drawing).

79 See Panofsky, 1958, 148–149, where, however, the ages of the salamanders are not discussed. The small animal beneath the main picture was identified, from the Vienna tapestry, as a chameleon by Lövgren (1951, 72) and by Pressouyre (1972, 109–111). This seems, however, to be a case where the tapestry misrepresents the picture in the gallery; see n. 31, and also Chastel, 1972, 152.

80 On the unprovable identification of this scene with Aesculapius see Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 128–129. Picard (1963, 69) believed that Mercury descending in the background was bringing a message to man concerning Prometheus’ gift of fire. It seems more likely, however, that the god comes down from Olympus to bring Zeus’ message about his gift of perpetual youth.

81 See n.76.

82 Terrasse, 1949, 178; Panofsky, 1958, 148–150.

83 Panofsky, 1958, 150.

84 See Guilbert, 1731, 93–95, who saw it as the Shipwreck of Ajax, and Tervarent, 1952, 37–38. But, as Tervarent states it, one of the bodies on the rocks “peut-être celui de Ajax.” The Panofskys (1958, 145) recognized “the dead body of Ajax draped over an isolated rock,” which is possible but not absolutely certain. They also recognized the death of Nauplius in the background but this is not really apparent at all.

85 But see Pressouyre, in Actes, 1975, 127–139, who believes the second lighthouse also shows a light. This is certainly not obvious; if there were a light it would seriously affect the drama of Nauplius’ revenge. However, Pressouyre sees this fresco as emblematic of “Fortune” without, however, exploring why, if this is the case, the story of Nauplius was chosen to represent it rather than some other and clearer story or scene indicating Fortune. On the topos of the “phare pour le navire du royaume,” see also Lecoq, 1987, 51.

86 Panofsky, 1958, 147, and 173, n.81.

87 Panofsky, 1958, 147.

88 Panofsky, 1958, 173, n.84

89 Panofsky, 1958, 173, n.84.

90 Barocchi, 1950, caption of Fig. 126; Panofsky, 1958, 147.

91 Panofsky, 1958, 145–146.

92 See Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 130, and Chastel, 1972, 147–148.

93 Wilson-Chevalier, in Fontainebleau, 1985, 211, under no. 155, stated her opinion that “Un lien avec un événement précis, plus que possible, ne nous semble pout tant pas en constituer l’explication essentielle.”

94 Chastel, 1972, 148.

95 Chastel, 1972, 148.

96 The importance of the emptiness of these niches was suggested by McAllister Johnson, 1972, 161.

97 Guilbert, 1731, 130, and Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 130.

98 Panofsky, 1958, 142.

99 Wilson-Chevalier, in Fontainebleau, 1988, 107, 241, under no.185, saw in this relief acts of sodomy and bestiality.

100 Panofsky, 1958, 139–143.

101 Lövgren, 1951, 66–67.

102 Lövgren, 1951, 68–69.

103 Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 131.

104 See Panofsky, 1958, 171.

105 On female and peeing male putti in Italian art, see Barocchi, 1950, 183–184, n.2. See also the discussion of the peeing putto in Rosso’s Narcissus (D.44, and E.49) in Chapter VII. Paired female and male putti appear on the thrones of the Sistine Ceiling.

106 Panofsky, 1958, 143–144. This was also suggested by Mariette(Mariette, Abécédario, V, 1858-1859, 21).

107 Unless, of course, the Revenge of Nauplius is a later addition to the gallery invented also after the death of the Dauphin and in response to it. But, aside from the fact that there is no evidence of an earlier picture for this place and that the Nauplius scheme makes sense with what seems to have preceded the Death of Adonis, there is the unlikelihood of too many significant changes after 10 August 1536 by which time so much of the gallery seems to have been done.

108 Chastel, 1968, 187 and 1972, 147–148.

109 See Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 131.

110 For a review of the iconographical interpretations of the scene, see Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 134–135.

111 Panofsky, 1958, 137.

112 It is not certain that any of the scenes in the Gallery of Francis I makes reference to a specific event in the king’s life except the Death of Adonis, which seems to have replaced another scene of death.

113 Panofsky, 1958, 129.

114 Chastel, 1972, 148.

115 On these subjects, see R. E. Asher, National Myths in Renaissance France. Francus, Samothes and the Druids, Edinburgh, 1993, 9–43, 111–155.

116 Pressouyre, 1970, 125–130, identified the figure in the fresco carrying the mother as a woman and supported her observation with the Latin inscription that appears under Boyvin’s engraving (Fig.E.11), an inscription, however, that was connected to this scene at least twenty years after Rosso invented it (but see McAllister-Johnson, 1972, 157, where, to avoid this identification, “haec” and “ille” are translated “the latter” and “the former”). Pressouyre believed this woman to be Aeneas’ wife Creusa, who had already been mentioned by Guilbert in the eighteenth century, although Creusa died during the flight. In the cleaned fresco the large breast, nipple, and hip give this figure a certain resemblance to a woman, although this is not the case in Boyvin’s engraving nor in the anonymous etching of this scene (Fig.E.142). Béguin (Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 134) did not accept this identification. Pressouyre interpreted the scene as having two complementary themes, Pietas erga parentes and Pietas erga filios. This interpretation is not improbable, but it does not necessarily require that the second youth be recognized as a woman. The small children in the scene appear to belong to the twins, a boy to one, and two boys and a girl to the other. But no wives are represented, possibly not only because they are not part of either the Troy or Catania stories, but also because their appearance would make less clear the subject of filial piety (or parental piety) as well as the theme of ancestry that this picture seems to imply. If one of the twins has been changed into a woman in the fresco, there is no reference to Francis I’s two sons. By the time the scene was actually painted one of the sons held hostage in Spain may have died. I thank Professor Gregory Leftwich for his thoughts on the meaning of the scene.

117 Chastel (“Salamandre,” 1972, 157) thought two salamanders were represented here, but the “second” would seem rather to be flames rising behind the single animal.

118 Tervarent, 1952, 36.

119 Panofsky, 1958, 187.

120 Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 136.

121 As reported at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, in 1989, with reference to its appearance, as well as the story of Cleobis and Biton, in Giulio Camillo Delminio’s L’Idea del Theatro, on which, see Bolzoni, Lina, Il teatro della memoria: Studi di Giulio Camillo, Padua, 1984, 136, 140, n.114.

122 Panofsky, 1958, 137.

123 On the subject of the relief, see Deonna, W., “La légende de Pero et de Micon et l’allaitment symbolique,” Deux études de symbolisme religieux, Collection Latomus, XVIII, 1955, 5–50. Davidson (1990, 48–49, and n.51 with bibliography on pietas and caritas) noted a similarity of Rosso’s scene with Perino’s of the same subject in the Palazzo Doria in Genoa. I do not see that they are visually similar except that Cimon’s head is behind the bars of a window through which he suckles Pero’s breast. But if Perino’s influence reached Fontainebleau it could have been through his brother-in-law Luca Penni, his helper at the Palazzo Doria before he went to France (see Parma Armani, 1986, 183). But I do not see any influence of Perino’s art on Rosso’s in France.

124 The traditional identification of the one figure as Rosso is mentioned in Panofsky, 1958, 170, n.52, where it is stated that his companion might be Primaticcio. Both heads resemble the respective portraits in the 1568 edition of Vasari’s Lives; see also Destanque in Alleau (and Destanque), 1967, 217–218, and Carroll, 1987, 50, 52, Fig., 52–53, n.7, under no. 1, and 267, under no. 53.

125 Tervarent, 1952, 31–32; Panofsky, 1958, 131–135. See also Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 136–137.

126 As reported by Shearman at the Colège de France, 18 October 1972. Shearman said this gift recognized the sovereignty of Francis I. See also Shearman, 1975, 154; Ludwig Pastor, The History of the Popes, ed. Ralph Francis Kerr, St. Louis, VII, 1912, 74–76; Frederick A. Cooper, “Jacopo Pontormo and Influences from the Renaissance Theatre,” AB, LV, 1973, 383, and n.26; Peter Partner, Renaissance Rome 1500–1559, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London, 1976, 196–197; and Sylvia Ferino, Giulio Romano, 1989, 262–263, 265.

127 Wilson-Chevalier, in Fontainebleau, 1985, 55, under no. 17, pointed out that the bird with wings open in Fantuzzi’s etching of this scene has also been identified as a stork, but the size of its bill in both the fresco and the print seems to indicate a crane. Marianne Grivel, in Ronsard, 1985, 106–107, under no. 136, seems also to prefer recognizing it as a crane.

128 Panofsky, 1958, 133–134.

129 The Panofskys (1958, 134, and 170, n.53) identified him as Mars, which is possible but not as likely as Zeus, whom they saw as appearing in the temple (see following note).

130 The Panofskys (1958, 134) identified the statue as representing the Egyptian Jupiter Ammmon. But the ram’s horn which they saw upon the figure’s head would seem rather to be a lion’s ear, at least so it appears in the drawings related to this scene and in Fantuzzi’s etching, all of which also seem to show a club held by the figure’s right hand. Béguin and Pressouyre (1972, 136) did not see that the figure holds a spherical object in its upward turned left hand.

131 Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 137.

132 As remarked by Marianne Grivel, in Ronsard, 1985, 106–107,under no. 136.

133 Panofsky, 1958, 133.

134 For sixteenth-century representations of this scene, see Taddeo Zuccaro’s drawing and related painting (Gere, J.A., Taddeo Zuccaro, His Development Studied in his Drawings, London, 1969, Pl. 128 a and b), and Pellegrino Tibaldi’s fresco (Briganti, Giuliano, Il manierismo a Pellegrino Tibaldi, Rome, 1945, Fig. 110).

135 On the association of Francis I with Julius Caesar, see Lecoq, 1987, 215–257; and Scalliére, 1992, 54, no.8, 55, P1. 81 and Fig.34. I do not know that the figure of the king as emperor in Rosso’s fresco was meant to refer to Julius Cassar specifically, as Lecoq’s earlier material suggests and Scalliérez seems to believe, or to Roman emperors in general.

136 As remarked by Jean Jacquart, Francois Ier, Paris, 1981, 319; see also Lecoq, 1987, 432, for an earlier representation of this unity and diversity related to Francis I; and Chevalier-Wilson, 1993, 34–35, who, partly following Jacquart, recognized the figures as “members of the aristocracy (men of arms, an ecclesiastic), the bourgeoisie (magistrates, scholars and merchants), and—though compositionally and numerically more marginal—the pesantry, too.”

137 See Hoffman, 1978, 32, also noted that the king is being offered several pomegranates and that, with imperial implications, the picture might rather be titled: “Le roi est empereur dans son royaume.”

138 Panofsky, 1958, 127.

139 Panofsky, 1958, 129–130. Zerner thought that an etching by Fantuzzi (RE.54) of Vercingetorix was a first idea for the central figure of the Unity of the State, but this etched figure seems not to have been based on an image by Rosso.

140 But see Knecht, 1977, 102, on the “sacerdotal character” of Francis I.

141 Although the present painting “`a la détrempe” is due to an old restoration (see Binenbaum and Pressouyre, 1972, 89, and 92, Fig. 125) it most probably records the painting that was originally there. Both Dan and Guilbert mention a Dance of Dryads but not a tree that appears in Milan’s engraving and the related drawing.

142 Panofsky, 1958, 120–126.

143 See Chastel, 1968, 187, and 1972, 148; Pressouyre, 1970, 131–135, and Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 139.

144 The rams’ heads suggest sacrifice. The griffins look like guardian beasts, on which, and on their religious significance, see Charbonneau-Lassay, Louis, La mystérieuse emblématique de Jésus-Christ. Le bestiare du Christ, Bruges, 1940, 364–377.

145 See the griffins guarding a flaming torch on the Tomb of Piero da Noceto in the cathedral of Lucca (John Pope-Hennessy, Italian Renaissance Sculpture, London-New York, 2nd ed., 1971, Fig. 63.).

146 See Panofsky, 1958, 126, where, however, it is the tree in Milan’s Dance of the Dryads that is discussed. Francis Hackett in his novelistic biography of the king (Francis the First, New York, 1935, 54) reports a story that Francis I was born under a tree.

147 See preceding note. The importance of Ceres’ tree and the story of Erysichthon is also indicated by a series of prints by George Boba (see his Dance of the Dryads under E.102).

148 Rosso may here have recalled the pair of ancient Pan telamons that decorated the courtyard of the Palazzo della Valle in Rome (see Frommel, 1973, II, 336–354, III, Pls. 148–153; and Bober and Rubenstein, 1986, 109–111, no. 75, 479–450). It was in this palace that Rosso found refuge during the Sack of 1527 (see DOC. 10).

149 On this new world bird, see Lise Lotte Möller, “Der Indianische Hahn in Europa,”in Art the Ape of Nature. Studies in Honor of H. W. Janson, New York-Englewood, 1981, 313–340.

150 Panofsky, 1958, 119–120, and Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 140–141.

151 Panofsky, 1958, 120; on the anticipation of Francis I’s “gloire culturelle” following his “gloire militaire,” see Lecoq, 1987, 64–65. Vasari (Milanesi, V, 433) described Boyvin’s print after Rosso’s composition (Fig.E.12) as representing “il re Francesco che passa solo al tempio di Glove.” But this print shows the inscription OSTIV IOVIS not on the lintel of the door but on the oval held by the putti above where the “Royal F” has been eliminated. The same appears in Zenoi’s copy of this engraving; the long inscription under this print makes no reference to Francis I. (Renouvier, 1858–1856, III, 30, described Zenoi’s print as showing “François I abordant le temple de Jupiter à travers la foule aveuglée.”) Fantuzzi’s etching (Fig,E.74) shows the “Royal F” but not the inscription. In none of these prints can the figure entering the temple be recognized as a portrait of Francis I. Cassiano del Pozzo, in 1625, Dan, in 1642, Guilbert, in 1731, and Goujet, in 1758, all identified the figure as Francis I, but none mentioned his device above the door. While the force of tradition would indicate that the man entering the temple is the king none of these identifications is the result of taking into account all that is represented in this scene. Vasari’s identification dates from about thirty years after the picture was painted, and in any case he knew it only by hearsay and from Boyvin’s print; by the time he wrote the meaning of some of the scenes in the gallery was probably already becoming misunderstood

152 Unless one wishes to read the picture as showing the king boldly taking over Zeus’ house rather than having already ascended to his position there, as the escutcheon above the door would seem to indicate. It seems unlikely, however, that the fresco is intended to show an assault on the palace of the mightiest of the gods with whom Francis I wished to be identified.

153 On the satyr as nobel savage in earlier Northern Renaissance art, see Kaufmann, 1979, 78–121.

154 For the turkeys, see Panofsky, 1958, 165–166, n.14. For the weasels, if that is, in fact, what these animals are, see The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo, trans. George Boas, New York, 1950, 92, no. 33.

155 See Panofsky, Erwin, Studies in Iconolocy, New York-Evanston, 1962, 142–143.

156 Published by Pressouyre, “Cadre architectural,” 1972, 15 and Fig. 5. See later publication and reproduction in color.

157 Gabriel’s eighteenth century design for the East Wall (“Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 16, Fig. 9) also indicates a “Porte feinte.”

158 Vasari-Ricci, IV, 1927, 250.

159 Vasari-Milanesi, V, 168.

160 In Bologna in 1563; see Dimier, 1900, 200.

161 Vasari-Milanesi, VI, 407.

162 Golnitz, 1631, 171.

163 Bdguin (1972, 171, n.110) says that Qolnitz is wrong by placing in one picture the figures that Vasari says appeared in two different paintings. But it is more likely that Vasari, who never visited Fontainebleau, was mistaken.

164 See Bdguin, 1989, 837, n. 51.

165 See Bdguin, 1972, 165, who also mentions the bear in the relief under the Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths; on the latter bear see Panofsky, 1958, 156 where, however, the reference to bears under the Enlightenment of Francis I (165-166, n.14) is certainly wrong.

166 Panofsky, 1958, 176, n.112.

167 Bdguin, 1972, 166. Bdguin thought, as reported by Jacques Foucart, in EdF, 1972, 201, Fig., 203, 205, no. 229, that a drawing in Brussels attributed to Van Thulden and thought to show Apollo and the Muses is perhaps after Rosso because of the motif of the god offering a drink to a young man wearing barbarian trousers. But I do not see Rosso’s style here. The subject of this drawing could be Apollo with Castalia beside him giving drink from her spring to a pilgrim on the way to Delphi, the waters conferring on him poetic inspiration.

168 Herbet, 1937, 185.

169 Barocchi, 1950, 178, and caption under Fig. 157.

170 Bdguin, 1972, 166.

171 Apuleius-Gaselee, 1957, 184–285, Book IV, 28–Book VI, through 24. See also Wind, 1968, 59–60, 164–161, 175–176.

172 Panofsky, 1958, 176, n.112.

173 Apuleius-Gaselee, 1957, 64–67, Book II, 11.

174 It is just possible that Rosso’s horizontal composition of the Contest of Athena and Poseidon, known from a copy of a lost drawing (D.66), from an etching by Fantuzzi (E.78), and from an engraving attributed to Boyvin (E.13), the latter used as the model for the painting now above the door of the West Wall of the gallery, was one of the horizontal scenes (in stucco?) above one of circular ones (painted?) of the East Wall. Thematically this picture could have joined the Venus and Minerva on the north wall area immediately to the left with the central oval picture on the East Wall showing Bacchus and Venus, perhaps with Cupid, as thought possible also by Bdguin, 1989, 831. The Panofskys (1958, 176, n.112) thought that the Contest of Athena and Poseidon might have been designed in relation to the ex utroque Caesar theme of the Enlightenment of Francis I, but the victory of Athena over Poseidon might have made it more appropriate in relation to the Venus and Minerva. Bdguin, 1989, 831, and Fig. 23, thought that a round compositor of the Battle of Centaurs and Laniths by Fantuzzi might be related to one of the tondi of the East Wall. But aside from my opinion that its composition is not Rosso’s (see RE. 50), it is very unlikely that this subject would appear a second time in the gallery.

175 This translation was made for me by Professor James Day Professor Eric Havelock suggested the substitution of “sine” for “sub.” Sterling (1955, 51) translated the latter as “surrounding,” but whereas this substitution gives sense to the inscription it does not clarify what was left unfinished of this scheme of decoration. It is also possible that a word or phrase following “sub” has been left out, the phrase originally indicating perhaps something like: “in (or under) the form of.

176 This is the only print of the many that were made in France of the decorations in the gallery that shows a central figured scene surrounded by a frame that appears in the gallery. All the other prints of frames in the gallery have landscapes replacing Rosso’s pictures. Certainly, some significance must be recognized in the combination that appears in the Milan-Boyvin engraving.

177 I thank Minna Lee for this suggestion. On this shift of meaning, with regard also to Cellini’s Nymph of Fontainebleau, see ffolliott, 1989, 139, 141, and Bdguin, in Delay, 1987, 68, 201.

178 For an approximately contemporary image that clearly shows Diana, see Léon Davent’s etching (Zerner, 1969, L.D. 13).

179 See note 19.

180 See Dimier, 1900, 48–51. Dimier questions the truth of these late rumors especially inasmuch as Vasari makes no mention of any rivalry. At the same time, what we know of Rosso’s personality from Vasari and Cellini concerning Rosso’s relationship to Raphael’s pupils, to Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, and his comments about Michelangelo’s art it would not be uncharacteristic that he was difficult with Primaticcio.

181 Dan 1642, 11–12. Dimier, 1925, 6, stated that this legend was known in the time of Francis I, and that Fontainebleau was frequently represented by a naiad with the attributed of Diana. Dan also related another legend that Francis I’s daughter discovered the spring and thought it so beautiful that it became known as Fontainebleau. Dan argued that this story couldn’t be true, as the place had its name four hundred years before Francis I’s time.

182 Pope-Hennessy, 1985, 133–146.

183 See Bardon, 1963, 16–24.

184 See Bdguin, 1972, 167.

185 That Francis I would have been interested in such a personification is indicated by Cellini’s account of his Nymph of Fontainebleau when he says that “il Re desiderara di averci [above the Porte Dorde7 una figura, the figurassi Fontana Beli[?].” (Cellini-Ferrero, 1971, 415–416).

186 Wilson-Chevalier, in Fontainebleau, 1985, 134, under no. 79, reported Bdguin’s suggestion (1972, 167) that triads may be related to the statues that in antiquity honored Hecate at crossroads. I have wondered that they might indicate the Horae of antiquity. McAllister Johnson and Graham, 1968, 9, thought that these figures were executed by Primaticcio around 1541, but there is no evidence that he did stuccoes in the gallery which would seem to have been completed by the end of 1539.

187 In Rabelais’ Garaantua, Chapter 55, there is a fountain of the Three Graces with cornucopias in the lower court of the palace of Theleme, the whole arrangement of which recalls the palace of Fontainebleau.

188 On apes as symbols of physical apetite and baseness, see Janson, 1952, 155, 287.

189 I should like to thank Professor Janet Knapp for identifying these and the other musical instruments represented by Rosso.

190 Bdguin, 1972, 166–167.

191 Bdguin, 1972, 166, thought that Danäe is shown as a symbol of venal love as opposed to the pure love of Semele. Millner Kahr, 1978?, 46, thought Danäe personified Avarita (see also Bdguin’s reply, in AB, LXI, 1979, 663).

192 See Bdguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 131–132.

193 Bdguin, in E_F, 1972, 144, Fig., 145, no. 154, thought a drawing for a pediment by Primaticcio in the Hermitage (Inv. 5169) might be a recollection of Rosso’s scheme above the entrance to the north cabinet. But no decorative elements in this drawing suggest Rosso, as she pointed out, nor is the Order of St. Michael shown.

194 McAllister Johnson and Graham, 1968, 17, stated that the two traditional trumpets shown in Barbiere’s print indicate Gloire favorable and Gloire dnfavorable, but I doubt that unfavorable fame can be intended in Rosso’s image for the king’s gallery.

195 Dan, 1642, 92.

196 Guilbert, 1731, 96–97.

197 Bdguin (1972, 166) would identify the young man in the round relief at the right of the West Wall as Perseus because of what she recognized as wings on his boots in Fantuzzi’s etching (E.68). But it is not at all clear that these decorations are wings (unusually placed at the top of the boots), and hence that the figure is Perseus.

198 Bernice F. Davidson (“The Furti di Giove Tapestries Designed by Perino del Vaga for Andrea Doria,” AB, LXX, 1988, 449) suggested that Jupiter in the Danäe and Semele may be connected to Charles V for whose visit the decoration was completed. In a temporary festival construction this might be possible, but I doubt that in the permanent gallery dedicated to himself Francis I would have wanted Zeus’ amourous powers referring to anyone but himself.

199 See Pressouyre, “Cadre architectural,” 1972, 16, and Beguin, 1972, 167, where it is implied that the Semele was above the fireplace. Beguin, in Delay, 1987, 61, 196, thought Dan saw the Semele on the mantle of the fireplace, but Dan does not specify the location of the fresco.

200 McAllister Johnson, 1972, 158.

201 Blunt, 1973, 62, Fig. 38.

202 Bdguin, 1972, 167. In a forthcoming article, Bdguin will mention that the subject of the picture is close to Constantine Burninc the Arian’s Book with reference to a work by Livia Agresti in the Vatical Library.

203 Ovid-Miller, 1926, I, 220-223, lines 607–614.

204 See Vasari-Milanesi, IV, 31–32, where, however, the “re di Francia” is not specifically named; Vasari could mean Francis I, but he could also be referring to Louis XII.

205 Freedberg, in Actes, 1975, 13. Candace Adelson, in a talk which I did not hear (“Rosso between Decoration and Ornament,” Studies in Renaissance Art: Rosso Fiorentino, London, National Gallery, 3 December 1988), discussed “as possible factors [of influenced Francis I’s two other major decorative projects of the time, the Chtteau at Boulogne (surmaned Madrid) and Giulio Romano’s Scipio tapestries, as well as the position of the Gallery within the Chateau of Fontainebleau and the relation of its structure to northern traditions of architectural decoration” (quoted from an abstract).

206 See note 1.

207 Prinz and Kecks, 1985, 166–167, 348, 356, noted the alignment of the gallery with the landscape views from it, including the swimming pool on the south side visible in the painting of the gallery under the Venus and Minerva. They also commented that it was like an “antikengalerie.” Beguin, in Cox-Rearick, 1972, 3–4, thought that the decoration of alternating stuccoes and paintings was related to that of Roman baths. Later Vasari (Vasari Milanesi, VII, 408) was to say that at Fontainebleau the king had made “quasi una nuova Roma.” But it does not seem to me that the Gallery of Francis I looks very antique in comparison to what ancient decoration was known to be in the 1530s.

208 See notes 1 and 36.

209 As attested by many of the iconographical inventions before 1525 related to Francis I discussed in Lecoq, 1987. See also the comment of Jean Michel Massin in his review of Lecoq, 1987 (BM, CXXXI, 1989, 653): “…the pages of [Franrois] Du Moulin’s Liber enicmatum and his Bonum / oulchrum / 3ustum diagrammaticmanuscript will astonish even the most sceptical student of inconography.”

210 Biagoli, 1993, 11–112, writing of the court of Cosimo I in Florence, commented on emblematics as more than a parlor game, as played by Castiglione’s courtiers, and as a “powerful tool of self-fashioning,” differentiating the identity of court society from that of the lower classes “by controlling access to meaning.” But the game of emblematics—and the iconography of the Gallery of Francis I—may have also been meaningful to court society as a means of keeping its mind off of other matters, either of the ruler’s power or of the problems of those he ruled.

211 As seems also implied by the comment of Lecoq, 1987, 19–20: “Pour le rAgne de ce roi, en fait d’oeuvres A signification politique, on connaissait surtout la galerie Francois-Ier de Fontainebleau. Il est vrai que ce n’est par rien: le chefd’oeuvre du Rosso et de son dquipe est probablement la crdation la plus subtile, dnmimatique et exquise que V art ait produite en France sur le thAme du monarque. Aussi a-t-ii beaucoup interesst les historiens de l’art. Mais it dtait impossible ou bien de le replacer Bans un ensemble ou bien au contraire de mesurer son isolement, car on ignorait pratiquement tout ce qui s’Atait pass& dans ce domaine avant et aprAs la rAalisation de la galerie.” She went on to comment:  “L’enquAte mdritait d’autant plus d’@tre entreprise que le rdgne de Francois Ier, de 1’avis unanime des historiens, marque `le renforcement des tendances absolutistes ddjA Ovidentes depuis longtemps dans la monarchie francaise'”(J. Poujol, “Cadre iddologique du dAvelopment de 1’absolutisme en France A 1’evAnement de Francois Ier,” Theorie et praticue politioues A la Renaissance (Colloque international de Tours, 1974, Paris, 1977, 259–272).