Exhibition, Le Goût du Prince: Art and Prestige in Sixteenth-Century France

Saint-Porchaire Workshop, Salt Cellar, mid-16th century

Saint-Porchaire Workshop, Salt Cellar, mid-16th century. Lead-glazed earthenware. Private Collection

The French Renaissance blossomed during the reign of King Francis I (r. 1515–47), known as the “prince of arts and letters.” Inspired by the opulence of Italian High Renaissance art, Francis attracted Italian artists to his court to decorate his château at Fontainebleau, which became a major artistic center. Everything at Fontainebleau, from the architecture to the tableware, was meant to display the sophistication and taste—and thus the power and prestige—of the king. Other nobility followed the king’s lead, seeking out the best artists to portray their likenesses and decorate their own castles. Through a selection of sculptures, prints, paintings, enamels, ceramics, and medals, this exhibition explores the relationship between art and power in 16th-century France. Together, the artworks reflect the preferences of the cultured, aristocratic figures of the day—the “goût du prince,” or “taste of the prince”—and highlight the enduring impact of such preferences on French art and culture in subsequent centuries.

On view through August 28, 2016