CORNEILLE DE LYON
(b. 1500/10, The Hague, d. after 1574, Lyon)
Portrait of Gabrielle de Rochechouartc. 1574
Oil on wood, 17 x 14 cm
Musée Condé, Chantilly
While its attribution is not undisputed, this portrait is closely related to a group of miniature-like portraits ascribed to Corneille. Typical features include the neutral, somewhat iridescent grey-green background and the slight turn in the upper body and head, whose connection to the plane is re-established by the fall of the veil.
The cool, distanced expression on the noblewoman's face, the precise drawing of her eyes, nose and lips, and the smooth planes of her forehead and cheeks assign this panel to the sphere of French court painting. Yet there is a contradiction in the loving execution of the details of her clothes. Are we seeing here a reflection of the artist's Netherlandish heritage (Corneille de Lyon was born in The Hague)? This tendency towards "detail realism" nevertheless draws upon new technical means. The pale, puffy elements protruding from the sleeves of the dark dress are daubed on in an "Impressionistic" style, richly modulated and without clear boundaries.
Was the artist, whose work is still surrounded by many unanswered questions, familiar with Venetian painting? Whatever the case, a contemporary source tells us that Corneille painted the entire court and that he rose to become "Peintre et Valet de Chambre du Roi", the highest post that a painter could attain at court.