Corneille de Lyon (Netherlandish, The Hague, active by 1533–died 1575 Lyons)
Oil on wood
8 3/8 x 6 1/2 in. (21.3 x 16.5 cm)
Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 644
Because this portrait is closely related to Corneille’s only documented painting (Louvre, Paris), it is a touchstone for attributions to the artist. Corneille pays particular attention to details of personal adornment: the fur collar, the ring on his index finger, and the ruffled cuffs of his shirt. Here Corneille includes the sitter’s hands, emphasized by the expensive gloves he holds. This work seems to reflect the artist’s northern roots and early style, whereas the surrounding portraits exhibit a more refined, courtly style that the artist developed in France.
Born in The Hague, Corneille de Lyon was a portrait painter at the French court, particularly that of Henri II ( reigned 1547–59), and subsequently became a naturalized French citizen. During his lifetime he was known as Corneille de La Haye, referring to the city of his birth. He is now known as Corneille de Lyon, in reference to the French city where he spent most of his life. Although contemporary accounts describe him as a renowned portrait painter, only one work can be attributed to him with certainty—the Portrait of Pierre Aymeric acquired by the Louvre, Paris, in 1976. An inscription on the back of the painting identifies the sitter, the date 1534, and the painter ("Corneilhe de La Haye em Flandres"). The Portrait of a Man with Gloves was formerly believed to be the work of the Master of the Benson Portraits, based on its similarity to two paintings that were in the Benson collection, London. However, De Groër (1978) recognized it as the work of Corneille due to its close stylistic relation to the Aymeric portrait. The Metropolitan portrait similarly dates from Corneille’s early period, around 1535.
The sitter here is most likely a member of the provincial bourgeoisie, typically shown dressed in a dark garment and cap. Corneille pays particular attention to details of personal adornment: the fur collar, the gloves the subject clutches in one hand, the ring on his left index finger, and the ruffled cuffs of his shirt. This portrait is in keeping with others by Corneille, which are usually characterized by their small size, bust-length view of the sitter, and a green or blue background.
Theodore M. Davis, Newport, R.I. (until d. 1915; his estate, on loan to the MMA, 1915–30)
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 42–43, ill., attributes it to the Master of the Benson Portraits, noting that Louis Dimier [see Notes] ascribes a group of works to this artist on the basis of two paintings formerly in the Benson collection, London; believes the Master was a Fleming working in France under the influence of Corneille de Lyon, and observes that the costume of our sitter suggests a date of about 1545.
Anne de Groër. "Nouvelles recherches sur Corneille, à la lumière du Portrait de Pierre Aymeric." Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 28, no. 1 (1978), p. 38, assembles a group of portraits, including our panel, that are stylistically comparable to the "Pierre Aymeric" in the Louvre, Paris [see Notes,] and attributes them to Corneille de Lyon.
Anne Dubois de Groër. Corneille de La Haye dit Corneille de Lyon. Paris, 1996, pp. 170, 172, no. 65, ill., includes it in a group of half-length portraits made by Corneille between about 1540–45.
Charles Sterling and Maryan W. Ainsworth inThe Robert Lehman Collection. Vol. 2, Fifteenth- to Eighteenth-Century European Paintings. New York, 1998, p. 28 n. 6.
This portrait has been attributed to Corneille de Lyon on the basis of its stylistic similarity to the recently re-discovered portrait of Pierre Aymeric, now in the Louvre, Paris, and Corneille's only documented work. The Louvre portrait bears the following inscription on its reverse: "Pierre Aymeric natif de Sainct Fleur demeurant à Lyon de l'aige de vingt et six ans ou envyron a esté pourtraict audict Lyon par Corneilhe de La Haye em Flandres, painctre de la Royne Helienor, Royne de France, et a esté parachevé le XIe jour d'avril mil Vc XXXIIII apres Pasques. Escript et signé de la main dudict Aymeric l'an et jour susdicts. P. Aymeric."
When the portrait of Pierre Aymeric was first published in 1961 (see P. Roudié, "Sur un portrait de Corneille de Lyon," Gaz. des B.-A. 60, pér. 6, 1962, pp. 48ff., ill.), it became clear that the Master of the Benson Portraits, the artistic personality created by Louis Dimier (Histoire de la peinture de portrait en France au XVI siècle, vol. 1, 1924, pp. 41–42, pl. 14; vol. 2, 1925, pp. 81–82) to explain one sub-group of portraits in the style of Corneille de Lyon, was none other than Corneille himself. A. de Groër (1978) assembles a group of portraits that are stylistically comparable to the Louvre portrait, including the MMA panel, two in the Brooklyn Museum, one formerly in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and others in the Accademia, Venice, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, and the Koninklijk Museum, Antwerp. She comments on their affinity with works ascribed by Dimier to the Master of the Benson Portraits (three of which are now lost, and the remaining two probably replicas) and attributes them to Corneille de Lyon.