School of Fontainebleau 1528 – 1610

Term that encompasses work in a wide variety of media, including painting, sculpture, stuccowork and printmaking, produced from the 1530s to the first decade of the 17th century in France (eg The Nymph of Fontainebleau) It evokes an unreal and poetic world of elegant, elongated figures, often in mythological settings, as well as incorporating rich, intricate ornamentation with a characteristic type of strapwork The phrase was first used by Adam von Bartsch in Le Peintre-graveur (21 vols, Vienna, 1803–21), referring to a group of etchings and engravings, some of which were undoubtedly made at Fontainebleau in France More generally, it designates the art made to decorate the château of Fontainebleau, built from 1528 by Francis I and his successors, and by extension it covers all works that reflect the art of Fontainebleau With the re-evaluation of MANNERISM in the 20th century, the popularity of the Fontainebleau school has increased hugely

The Ecole de Fontainebleau (c1530–c1610) refers to two periods of artistic production in France during the late Renaissance centered on the royal Château de Fontainebleau, that were crucial in forming the French version of Northern Mannerism

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In 1531, the Florentine artist Rosso Fiorentino, having lost most of his possessions at the Sack of Rome in 1527, was invited by François I to come to France, where he began an extensive decorative program for the Château de Fontainebleau In 1532 he was joined by another Italian artist, Francesco Primaticcio (from Bologna) Rosso died in France in 1540 On the advice of Primaticcio, Niccolò dell’Abbate (from Modena) was invited to France in 1552 by François’s son Henri II Although known for their work at Fontainebleau, these artists were also invited to create works of art for other noble families of the period and were much esteemed and well-paid

The works of this “first school of Fontainebleau” are characterized by the extensive use of stucco (moldings and picture frames) and frescos, and an elaborate (and often mysterious) system of allegories and mythological iconography Renaissance decorative motifs such as grotesques, strapwork and putti are common, as well as a certain degree of eroticism The figures are elegant and show the influence of the techniques of the Italian Mannerism of Michelangelo, Raphael and especially Parmigianino Primaticcio was also directed to make copies of antique Roman statues for the king, thus spreading the influence of classical statuary

Many of the works of Rosso, Primaticcio and dell’Abate have not survived; parts of the Chateau were remodelled at various dates The paintings of the group were reproduced in prints, mostly etchings, which were apparently produced initially at Fontainebleau itself, and later in Paris These disseminated the style through France and beyond, and also record several paintings that have not survived

The mannerist style of the Fontainebleau school influenced French artists (with whom the Italians worked) such as the painter Jean Cousin the Elder, the sculptors Jean Goujon and Germain Pilon, and, to a lesser degree, the painter and portraitist François Clouet the son of Jean Clouet