(b. 1494, Firenze, d. 1540, Paris)

Interior view

Galerie François I, Fontainebleau

At the châteaux of Blois (1515) and Chambord (1519), Francis I had favoured a rich external decoration with the internal walls left bare for tapestry. At Fontainebleau, however, this was reversed: the façades are of an austere simplicity, as the stone used was unsuitable for sculpture, while the interior received rich and permanent decoration. In 1530 Rosso Fiorentino was entrusted with the decorations of the interior, later joined (1532) by Francesco Primaticcio. Together they developed the style of the first Fontainebleau school, in effect the first extensive and consistent display of Mannerism in northern Europe.

Rosso died in 1540, but Primaticcio is known to have worked here as late as 1555, having been joined by Niccolò dell'Abbate in 1552. The most complete interior surviving from Francis I's reign is the gallery bearing his name on the first floor of the block that joins the Cour de l'Ovale to the Cour du Cheval Blanc. Decorated by Rosso (c. 1533-40), like so much at Fontainebleau it has suffered from frequent readjustments and restorations. Each of the 14 piers between its windows is treated as a decorative unit, the lower part in walnut paneling carved by Francisco Scibec de Carpi and lightly gilded, the upper part containing a large fresco surrounded by an elaborate frame of stucco figures and strapwork ornament. Rosso's stucco figures (1535-37) are often in high relief and show the influence of Michelangelo, while the iconography of the paintings (1537-39) is extremely involved, representing in a cryptic manner the achievements of Francis I.