DELORME, Philibert
(b. ca. 1515, Lyon, d. 1570, Paris)

Tomb of Francis I and Claude de France

Abbey Church, Saint-Denis

The 'transi' or transitory tomb became popular in the early fifteenth century in northern Europe, but not in Italy or Spain. The worldly honours of the deceased are juxtaposed with the mortal body's inevitable decay. This type of tomb, shorn of its most macabre elements, remained popular well into the sixteenth century. Its transformation is evident in the tomb of Francis I and Claude in the royal abbey of St. Denis outside Paris. The king and queen are rendered below as nude corpses, however, their bodies lie on top of ornamental, Roman-style burial urns. They are framed by a great arch, with reliefs depicting the resurrected Christ, angels, and the four evangelists adorning its vault. Low sculpted reliefs of Francis's victories at the battles of Marignano (1515) and Ceresole (1544) fill the stylobate (or top section of the base). Finally, Francis and Claude piously kneel at their prayer stalls accompanied by three of their deceased children.

This tomb, designed by Philibert Delorme, was commissioned by King Henry II, their son, in 1548. It was executed by the sculptor Pierre Bontemps.