(b. 1504, Bologna, d. 1570, Paris)

Decoration of the Royal Staircase (detail)

Apartments of the Duchesse d'Étampes, Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne)

The Fontainebleau School had developed under the aegis of François I and the leadership of Rosso Fiorentino, but it may be argued that it peaked under the direction of Primaticcio, whose own style asserted itself as a combination of classical and contemporary Italian influences epitomised in the work of Italian-based artists such Parmigianino and Perino del Vaga.

Primaticcio's Mannerist approach gradually became more pronounced and his nudes progressively elongated. His decorations for the bedchamber of the Duchesse d'Estampes were painted between 1541 and 1544; although the original room has since been restored and transformed into a stairwell, the paintings exemplify his preference for nude figures with arms crooked behind the head so that their bodies appear inordinately long.

Influenced by Parmigianino, Primaticcio carried to an extreme the quest for grace and elegance. Lithe, slender adolescent female figures frame medallions decorated with mythological scenes. Together with the Rosso figures, these elongated and voluptuous bodies surrounded by garlands in a fantastically elegant Olympus are the masterpieces of the Fontainebleau school.