Antoine Caron: Drawing for Catherine de’ Medici, The Courtauld Gallery, London

18 January – 15 April 2018

This is the first exhibition dedicated to the drawings of Antoine Caron whose work reflected the turbulent years of the Valois monarchy.

It has been argued that the Queen Mother Regent Catherine de’Medici was the most powerful woman in 16th century Europe, but the reign of her three sons covered a period of almost constant civil and religious unrest in France and continual danger to the monarchy. Determined to keep her family on the throne, she made full use of the arts in an effort to glorify her dynasty and uphold its declining reputation.

To this end, she became the patron of Antoine Caron, appointing him court painter in 1561. Caron’s Valois series, which captures the lavish pageantry of the court, is reunited here for the first time and forms the centrepiece of the exhibition. The drawings were preparatory works for tapestries and depict actual court events designed to promote the power of the Valois. Jousts, tournaments, festivals, and a mock naval battle are portrayed which all took place between 1573 and 1581 at the castles of Anet, Fontainebleau, Bayonne and the Tuileries Gardens during the reigns of Charles IX and Henry III.