Allegory of Painting and Sculpture

Allegory of Painting and Sculpture - château de Fontainebleau - © RMN Grand Palais

Ambroise Dubois (1543 (ca.)-1614)
H. 164 cm; L. 133.5 cm
Oil on canvas
Château de Fontainebleau, F 3361 C

The painter Ambroise Dubois, who trained among the Mannerist painters of Antwerp in the second half of the 16th century, is one of the main figures of the Second School Fontainebleau. The great majority of his known work is related to the Château de Fontainebleau, where he worked in the service of Henry IV and Marie de Medici. This painting depicts Painting, in the form of a young woman busy sketching a painted composition on a canvas placed on an easel. Beside her, a statuette of Venus and Cupid, cherubs holding a sketch and a model to prepare for casting evoke the art of Sculpture. The tradition of the ‘paragon’, the competition between Painting and Sculpture in the ability to portray reality, has been present in Fontainebleau since the early 16th century, and Ambroise Dubois seems to designate Painting as the winner here. The young woman’s elegant attitude and the graceful gesture of her hand are reminiscent of the slender silhouettes of Primaticcio and Niccolo dell’Abate, who were active at Fontainebleau until the 1570s.

This painting originally adorned the mantelpiece of a study fireplace, placed at the end of the present-day Diana’s gallery, known as the Aviary. Sculpted panelling and landscape paintings completed its décor. Its position in front of the garden also allowed visitors to hear and see the many birds in the marvellous Italian-style aviary that King Henry IV had had built in Fontainebleau around 1600.

Exhibitions
2010-2011, Château de Fontainebleau, Henry IV in Fontainebleau. A time of splendour.
2003-2004, Château de Blois, Marie de Medici. Government through the arts.
1998, Château de Fontainebleau, Paintings for a castle. Fifty paintings (16th – 19th century) from the collections at the Château de Fontainebleau.
1987, Château de Fontainebleau, Ambroise Dubois in Fontainebleau.

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