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Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Catherine de Medici


Creator: Germain Pilon (c.1540-1590) (sculptor)
Creation Date: 
circa 1583
Materials and techniques: 
87.0 x 58.5 x 30.5 cm
Purchased by Lord Yarmouth in Paris for the Prince Regent (as a bust of Marie de Medicis); delivered to Carlton House on 9 January 1818.

Bust of Catherine de Medici, wife of Henri II of France, wearing a crown, with jewels in hair, a wide ruff and heavily jewelled sleeves and bodice, attached to a waisted square socle inscribed in paint: MARIE DE MEDICIS.

This unique bronze resembles very closely the marble recumbent effigy carved by Pilon in around 1583 for the Queen's monument in the Rotonde des Valois at Saint Denis, but its original owner or setting are not known. Widowed in 1559 by the untimely death of Henri II in a jousting accident, Catherine devoted herself to the maintenance of the Valois succession, a cause in which she eventually failed. The bust conveys Catherine's formidable personality as well as her passion for jewellery. Several pearls which she gave to her daughter-in-law Mary, Queen of Scots, subsequently belonged to Elizabeth I and are thought to survive today, set in the Imperial State Crown.

Exhibition catalogue 'Cast in Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution' (Paris, New York and Los Angeles, 2008-9), no. 11

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