Skip to Content

Portrait of a Lady

Studio of François Clouet (ca. 1510–1572)

French, Renaissance
16th century
33.34 cm x 22.23 cm (13 1/8 in. x 8 3/4 in.)
red, brown and black chalk on handmade cream laid paper

Not on view


This drawing with red, brown, and black chalk depicts the bust-length figure of a woman wearing a dress with a tight-fitting bodice and “leg-of-mutton” sleeves secured with garter ribbons and shoulder straps over a blouse with a high, loosely ruffled collar. Her semi-circular headdress is ornamented with pearls and has a fabric train falling to the back, and two elements of this headdress have been labeled with inscriptions to the right which are now mostly illegible.

The sitter is identified at the top of the image by the inscription, brozeu, and the writing appears to be the same as that which identifies a series of portrait drawings belonging to Catherine de' Medici (1519-1589) after she became Queen of France in 1547. An inventory of the contents of the queen’s Parisian house made at the time of her death in 1589 indicates that she owned 341 painted and drawn portraits. Her desire to amass a virtual album of notable men and women of Europe inspired her avid collecting of these images. Catherine de' Medici bequeathed the drawings to her granddaughter, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Christine of Lorraine, and they became the property of the Medici family. They were later found by the English-born painter and collector, Ignazio Enrico Hugford (1703-1778), about 1737, and sold, under the name of the artist Hans Holbein. They are now attributed to François Clouet (ca. 1510-1572) and artists working in his studio (cf. Zvereva Alexandra, Les Clouets de la Reine Catherine de Medicis [Paris, 2002]). The identifying inscription, brozeu, has been variously interpreted. Possibly it is a misspelling either for the noble Angevin family, de Brézé, or de Brissac.

François Clouet was born in Tours about 1510, the son of the artist Jean Clouet, and in 1541 he inherited his father's position as court painter, serving under Kings François I, Henri II, François II, and Charles IX. He enjoyed the patronage of many court nobles for whom he executed portraits. He died in Paris in 1572.

J. Carder

Exhibition History
"Exposition des Portraits Peints et Dessinés du XIII au XVI Siècles," La Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, no. 427 (portrtait identified as Mme de Brissac), April-June, 1907.

Symposium on Renaissance Art and Music, Wilson College, Chambersburg, PA, 10/31-11/15/1953.

"Seldom Seen," Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., April 21, 2014.

Acquisition History
Probably in the collection of Catherine de' Medici, until 1589.

Probably in the collection of Christine of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, 1601-1637.

Probably in the collection of the Casa Medici, Florence.

Possibly in the collection of Ignazio Enrico Hugford.

Purchased from Bacri Frères Antiquaires, Paris (inv. no. 4095), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 8/26/1921.

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., 8/26/1921-11/29/1940.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, D.C.

House Collection