Girolamo della Robbia (Italian, 14881566)
Glazed terracotta; H. 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm)
Gift of George Blumenthal, 1941 (41.100.245)
Originally set in a rectangular stone framework bearing the date 1529, this bust surmounted the entrance to the château of one of Francis I's warring companions, Louis Prévost de Sansac, at Beaulieu-lès-Loches in the Touraine. The sculpture is a strikingly lifelike portrait of the thirty-four-year-old king. The dimpled chin, divided beard, straight hair curling along the temples, and especially the continuous line between the eyebrows and the long narrow nose are familiar from other portraits. The classical drapery covering the king's right shoulder contrasts with the contemporary feathered cap, pleated shirt, and embroidered doublet. The inclined head, slight smile, and accentuated, knowing eyes convey an impression of pride tinged with melancholy. The bust is ascribed to Girolamo della Robbia, a member of the famed Florentine family of ceramists, who worked for the French court intermittently from 1517.