The Triumph of the City

The High Renaissance


(Renaissance  Art Map)


School of Fontainebleau

See collection:

Rosso Fiorentino



Fontainebleau school

The vast number of artists, both foreign and French, whose works are associated with the court of Francis I at Fontainebleau during the last two-thirds of the 16th century. There is both a first and a second school of Fontainebleau. The earlier works are the more important.

The palace itself can be described as charming and picturesque, though architecturally it is not a work of consequence, being chiefly a transformation of the previous medieval castle, even incorporating some of the older parts. The King began rebuilding in 1528 and by 1530 had persuaded Rosso Fiorentino (1494–1540), the first of many Italians who were to work there, to locate in France. Rosso was joined in 1532 by Primaticcio (1504–70). Artists of great merit, they evolveda brilliant system of combining painted panels with stucco nudes, garlands, and other forms sculpted in high relief. In addition, Rosso developed a much imitated “strapwork” technique; that is, he treated stucco like pieces of leather that had been rolled, folded, and cut into shape. Artists who could not visit Fontainebleau knew of the work there through engravings, and these same engravings are useful today as records of what has been lost. Much of the most characteristic Fontainebleau decorative sculpture and painting can still be seen there in the Galerie François I, the Chambre de la Duchesse d'Etampes, and the Salle de Ball.

Primaticcio was active long after the death of Rosso, and his manner of representing the human figure with long limbs, thin necks, small heads, and exaggerated classical profiles was canon for the rest of the century. Other foreign masters included the painter of mythological landscapes, Niccolo dell'Abbate, who was at Fontainebleau from 1552, Antoine Caron, Jean Cousin and Benvenuto Cellini, Florentine goldsmith and sculptor, who is well known for his saltcellar made for Francis I (1540; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) and “Nymph of Fontainebleau” (1543-44; Louvre, Paris).

The so-called second school of Fontainebleau generally refers to the painters Antonio Fantuzzi, Ambroise Dubois (1543–1614), Toussaint Dubreuil (1561–1602), and Martin Freminet (1567–1619), men who, though competent, lacked imagination and invention and were content to work within the artistic boundaries set by their predecessors at Fontainebleau.


Fontainebleau school

(Fr. Ecole de Fontainebleau)

Term that encompasses work in a wide variety of media, including painting, sculpture, stuccowork and printmaking, produced from the 1530s to the first decade of the 17th century in France. It evokes an unreal and poetic world of elegant, elongated figures, often in mythological settings, as well as incorporating rich, intricate ornamentation with a characteristic type of strapwork. The phrase was first used by Adam von Bartsch in Le Peintre-graveur (21 vols, Vienna, 1803–21), referring to a group of etchings and engravings, some of which were undoubtedly made at Fontainebleau in France. More generally, it designates the art made to decorate the château of Fontainebleau, built from 1528 by Francis I and his successors, and by extension it covers all works that reflect the art of Fontainebleau.  With the re-evaluation of MANNERISM in the 20th century, the popularity of the Fontainebleau school has increased hugely. There has also been an accompanying increase in the difficulty of defining the term precisely. 

First School of Fontainebleau (from 1531):
Rosso Fiorentino, Francesco Primaticcio, Niccolo dell'Abbate

Second School of Fontainebleau (from 1594):
Ambroise Dubois,
Toussaint Dubreuil, Martin Freminet


Rosso Fiorentino

born March 8, 1495, Florence [Italy]
died Nov. 14, 1540, Paris, France

also called Rosso Fiorentino, or Il Rosso Italian painter and decorator, an exponent of the expressive style that is often called early, or Florentine, Mannerism, and one of the founders of the Fontainebleau school.

Rosso received his early training in the studio of Andrea del Sarto, alongside his contemporary, Pontormo. The earliest works ofthese two young painters combined influences from Michelangelo and from northern Gothic engravings in a novel style, which departed from the tenets of High Renaissance art and was characterized by its highly chargedemotionalism. Rosso's most remarkable paintings from this period are the “Assumption” (1517; fresco at SS. Annunziata, Florence), the “Deposition” (1521; Pinacoteca Comunale, Volterra), and “Moses Defending the Daughters of Jethro” (c. 1523; Uffizi, Florence).

At the end of 1523 Rosso moved to Rome, where his exposure to Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling, the late art of Raphael, and the work of Parmigianino resulted in a radical realignment of his style. His “Dead Christ with Angels” (c. 1526) exemplifies this new style with its feeling for rarefied beauty and subdued emotion. Fleeing from the sack of the city in 1527, he worked briefly in several central Italian towns. In 1530, on the invitation of Francis I, he went to France (by way of Venice) and remained in the royal service there until his death.

Rosso's principal surviving work is the decoration of the Galerie François I at the palace of Fontainebleau (c. 1534–37), where, in collaboration with Francesco Primaticcio,he developed an ornamental style whose influence was felt throughout northern Europe. His numerous designs for engravings also exercised a wide influence on the decorative arts both in Italy and in northern Europe.



Madonna and Child with Putti
Oil on wood, 111 x 75,5 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg


Madonna Enthroned with Four Saints
Oil on wood, 172 x 141 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence



Musician Angei
Tempera on wood, 47 x 39 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence



Galerie François I, Fontainebleau


Moses Defending the Daughters of Jethro



Moses Defending the Daughters of Jethro

See collection:

Rosso Fiorentino



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