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Bilder der Favoritin im Frankreich der Renaissance
The mistresses of the French kings are decisive elements in common notions of living at Early Modern courts – a magnificent life full of glamour, affairs and intrigues, animated by beautiful women, who had lots of power and influence. This art historical study seeks to critically review and specify such popular assumptions. By exploring artifacts in diverse media (visual arts, architecture, poetry), which in the time of the French Renaissance were made either for or on the occasion of the royal favorite, she becomes vivid as a particularly multifarious figure of Early Modern court life.
Two female figures in French history are particularly focused upon here: Anne de Pisseleu (1508-1580?) and Diane de Poitiers (1500-1566). The images, residences und texts devised for both of them evoke the complex roles they were assigned at the courts of the Valois-kings Francis I and Henri II respectively. Their persona – generated by diverse media and developed in competition with the ones of powerful male favorites – cannot be considered role models for those royal mistresses that later, during the reign of Louis XIV and in the age of Absolutism, became regular members of the king’s court. Instead, they should be looked upon as historically highly specific prospects for female power that made use of the arts and their specific potential as agency.
Sigrid Ruby teaches art history at Giessen University and has formerly held a professorship at Saarland University. With this study on images of the French royal favorite she earned her state doctorate in 2007. Ruby’s fields of research are art and architecture in Early Modern France, portraiture, Gender Studies as well as modern art and exhibition history in Europa and the US.