Courtauld Gallery, London is hosting “Antoine Caron: Drawing for Catherine de’ Medici,” an exhibition featuring the exquisite drawings by the Renaissance French artist.
The exhibition, for the first time, presents all six sheets in the “Valois Series” by Antoine Caron (1521-99), named after the Valois dynasty, which ruled France from 1328 to 1589. One of the sheets depicts a spectacular tournament where crowds of elegantly dressed courtiers look on, as a knight on horseback gallops pell-mell towards a dragon, also known as the quintain. This drawing was executed in black chalk, brown ink, and brown wash, and heightened with white bodycolor around circa 1575. Caron’s drawings teem with incident and detail, as well as flashes of wit, hurling the viewer headlong into the astonishing world of the Valois “Magnificences.” His evocative scenes are akin to a ballet or masquerade, an ephemeral piece of dream-like choreography, designed to reflect the splendor and sophistication of courtly life.
There is close to no documentary evidence concerning Caron’s Valois Series and, as a result, art historians still debate the exact date and purpose of these drawings. Ketty Gottardo, curator of the exhibition, supports the consensus view that Caron produced the drawings, probably during the late 1570s, for the Italian noblewoman Catherine de’ Medici, widowed consort of King Henri II. The related tapestries were then woven in Brussels the following decade. Catherine, who ruled the country as regent for several years, appears in at least one of Caron’s drawings. Henri was wounded in a jousting tournament and subsequently succumbed to his injuries in 1559. The King’s violent demise may explain why, during the second half of the 16th century, tournaments became considerably less dangerous – a shift that is detectable in Caron’s drawing of the quintain.
The exhibition is on view through April 15, 2018 at Courtauld Gallery, London, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN, UK, noted The Telegraph.