Framed Dimensions:37 x 25 cm. (14 5/8 x 9 2/3 in.)
Provenance:Private Collection, France, from at least the mid-19th Century.
The Weiss Gallery, A Connoisseur’s Eye, London 2020, p. 18, cat. 2.
Further information:This newly discovered and beautifully preserved portrait by the Valois court artist Corneille de Lyon depicts Madeleine of France (1520 - 1537), the favourite daughter of the venerable French king, François I (1494 - 1547). The singular virtuosity with which Corneille has captured the young princess's sweet and somewhat wistful expression places this portrait amongst the most ravishingly beautiful and endearing of all Corneille's oeuvre.
At the time this portrait was painted, the sixteen-year-old princess was being courted by King James V of Scotland (1512 - 1542), eventually marrying the twenty-four-year-old in January 1537. James V travelled to France in September 1536 to marry a French princess to cement the 'auld alliance' between France and Scotland. Although he was initially contracted to marry Marie de Bourbon (1515 - 1538), James instead became infatuated with the French king's favourite, but sickly daughter, Princess Madeleine. The feeling was apparently mutual, and the young couple persuaded François I to break the contract with Marie de Bourbon and give consent to their marriage. This he did reluctantly due to Madeleine's particularly delicate health, for she was already suffering from tuberculosis.
The couple were married at Notre Dame on 1 January 1537, after which they waited until the milder spring weather for their departure for Scotland. On the young royals' arrival in Leith on 19 May 1537 Madeleine's health was fast deteriorating, and tragically on 7 July 1537 she died at their palace, Holyroodhouse, reportedly in her new husband's arms, before she had even had an official coronation. Madeleine's reign was so short - not even two months - that she became known as James's 'Summer Queen', and pivotally, her death precipitated the British royal lineage we know today, providing us with a fascinating historical 'what if?'.
Had she lived to produce an heir, there would have been no Mary Queen of Scots, (daughter of James V by his second wife, Marie de Guise), who famously challenged her cousin Elizabeth I for the English throne. Mary's son, James I, would not have been born or succeeded Elizabeth I, nor would the English and Scottish crowns have been united on his accession. His own son, Charles I, a portrait of whom is exhibited by us for London Art Week's "Revolution and Renewal" exhibition, would not have been born and thus the brutal Civil War and Cromwell's Interregnum would never have happened. Indeed, there would have been no Caroline Restoration, no Jacobite rebellions, and the Hanoverians would never have succeeded to the English throne meaning, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth II would not be here today.
This jewel-like royal portrait, painted by one of France's most celebrated Renaissance artists, will be presented at The Weiss Gallery this July in reverence to her having been Scotland's 'summer queen'.