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France 1500: Between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance at the Galeries nationales Grand Palais
PARIS.- This exhibition explores a time of unprecedented artistic contact and creative effervescence in France, which many people know little about.

It is the first major exhibition devoted to a turning point in French history, in the reigns of Charles VIII (1483-1498) and Louis XII (1498-1515), which was dominated by the personality of Anne de Bretagne, successively the wife of both kings. A period of economic recovery, demographic growth, and territorial ambitions with the famous Italian wars, as well as cultural development in the humanist spirit. It was also a time of exceptional flowering and sharp contrasts in art. Nonetheless, these movements are often skimmed over to the extent that most books on Europe European art in the period barely mention France at all.

The exhibition draws on recent research and presents 200 masterly works which give a clearer view of France at a crucial intersection in history, while questioning the ideas of tradition and movement, continuity and breaks. It brings together exceptional ensembles by great artists, for example, paintings by the Master of Moulins, alias Jean Hey, the most famous “French” painter of the period, on loan from Chicago, Munich, Brussels, Autun or Paris. Remarkable collections of sculptures and stained glass from all over France, tapestries owned by public or private collections in Europe and the United States, and rare pieces of gold work complete this panorama. The decoration of manuscripts or printed books was a significant aspect of art at the time, and is represented by a number of masterpieces, some generously lent by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which has a particularly rich collection of books from this period.

The exhibition is divided into three main sections, taking a closer look at various facets of the art of the time:

The Stimulus: Patrons and Artists
The first section explores the stimulating effect of direct contact between patrons and artists. The political capital of France in 1483-1515 did not have a monopoly of cultural activity. On the contrary, there was creative ferment throughout the country. Without seeking to give an exhaustive “tour of France”, the exhibition focuses on several significant art centres in which individual and group commissions triggered creative endeavour: the Val de Loire, a favourite haunt of the French kings, the Bourbonnais, under the influence of great princes, Normandy, Champagne, Languedoc ….

Images of All Kinds
The recent invention of the printing press made the circulation of pictures and designs possible on an unprecedented scale and artists used recent or new media such as books and printed images as well as medals or enamel work. Versatile artists illustrated manuscripts and printed books and adapted the same models for cartoons for stained glass and tapestries. Innovation was not always where one might expect: “modern” Gothic ornament and “ancient” Roman models were both successful and sometimes surprisingly found side-by-side.

Northern and Southern Influences
The last part of the exhibition, rising to a crescendo, looks at the interaction between men, works and forms, some local and others coming from the north or south. Artists settled permanently or briefly in France; imported works provide evidence of the vitality of some sites (altar pieces from Antwerp, for example) and the interest shown by French collectors. The exhibition offers spectacular groupings and comparisons, such as the four panels by the Master of St Giles, brought from London and Washington. Exceptional loans from the Louvre and the Art Institute of Chicago remind us that the French king and his entourage had bought works by artists such as Andrea Solario, Baccio della Porta (Fra Bartolommeo) and Leonardo da Vinci before 1515.



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