Henri 1er, Duc de Montmorency, Seigneur de Damville (1534 – 1614), Marshal of France, Constable of France, and Governor of Languedoc (1563 – 1614)

François Clouet
(c.1515 – 1572)

Henri 1er, Duc de Montmorency, Seigneur de Damville (1534 – 1614), Marshal of France, Constable of France, and Governor of Languedoc (1563 – 1614)

Painted circa 1567

Oil on oak panel: 35.7 x 25.3 cm.


Alfred Belvalette (1848 – 1927), famous Paris coachbuilder;

Christie's, New York, 14 January 1993, lot 85 as circle of François Clouet;

Christie’s, New York, 11 January 1995, lot 239 as circle of François Clouet;

Private collection, Belgium, until 2017. 


L. Dimier, Le Portrait du XVIe siècle aux Primitifs français, notes et corrections au Catalogue officiel sur cette partie de l’exposition d’avril-juillet 1904, Paris, 1904, p. 32 - (« Henri de Montmorency, fils d’Anne connétable, en buste de trois quarts adroite. Prêté par M. Belvallette. L’identité de ce portrait confirmée par une réplique en petit de la collection de l’archiduc Ferdinand de Tyrol (tab. B, n° 206), avec la lettre : Dominus de Anvilla. Henri de Montmorency portait ce titre d’Anville." Dimier places this portrait among "Pièces contemporaines de François Clouet »).

The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. V, no. 15 (June 1904), p.327, ‘Notes from Paris. The Exhibitions’  -

(« In the exhibition of French primitives, the room on the second floor of the Pavilion de Marsan (sixteenth-century art) has received two interesting additions, the celebrated bust of Henri II, in the possession of the Count d’Hunolstein, and the portrait of the Constable Henri I de Montmorency, the property of M. Alfred Belvalette. The second edition of the catalogue, revised, corrected, and increased by forty pages, has just been published. The catalogue has been drawn up by MM. Henri Bouchot, Leopold Delisle, J. J. Guiffrey, P. Frantz-Marcou, Henri Martin, and Paul Vitry, and is a document of great interest and importance »).

L’Arte, rivista di storia dell’arte medioevale e moderna, vol. VII, 1904, p. 238.

L. Dimier, Jahbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, vol. XXV, 1905, p. 223, sous cat. 188, ‘Die französischen Bildnisse in der Porträtsammlung des Erzherzogs Ferdinand von Tirol’.

L. Dimier, Histoire de la peinture du portrait en France au XVIe siècle, Paris 1924 – 1926, vol. II, 1925, p. 347, cat. 1421, vol. III, 1926, p. 16.


Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1904, Les Primitifs français, (ex catalogue), 2nd floor of Pavillon de Marsan.

With an old hand-written label attached to the reverse of the panel:

‘Deux gravures identiques du Duc Henri Ier de Montmorency dit Damville se trouvent à la Galerie des Estampes de la Bibliothèque Nationale (livre des Montmorency). Il est représenté dans un portique, une épée au côté et un bâton de commandement à la main. Bien que les gravures le représentent à un âge plus avancé (le portrait ci-contre ayant dû être fait vers la 23ème année) la ressemblance est frappante. Même visage, même nez, mêmes moustaches et surtout même strabisme qui a valu au Duc le surnom de « loucheur ». Ce tableau, bien que ne figurant pas sur le Catalogue de l’Exposition des Primitifs français (Paris, 1904) y a été exposé (à côté du portrait d’Élisabeth d’Autriche par Clouet).’


In around 1575, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, the reigning prince of the Tyrol, began to assemble a collection of armour at his castle in Ambras, near Insbrück, which today forms the most important part of the Kaiserliches Zeughaus of Vienna. The prince addressed himself to all the great families of Europe, in order to obtain the harnesses of the most celebrated of their members, and at the same time solicited portraits of everyone from whom he was sent to arms. The Archduke also assembled a collection of engravings of each of these great captains, dressed in armour. He entrusted the work to his secretary Jakob Schrenck von Notzing and the painter Giovanni Battista Fontana. Two editions of the Armamentarium heroicum, in both Latin and German, were published in 1601 and 1602 respectively.


The Archduke’s fine collection of armor gave rise to a small gallery of portraits, which Ferdinand resolved to encompass all the reigning houses of Europe, with each country’s ‘illustrious’ captains and cardinals, favourites, writers and scholars. For speed and consistency, the prince sent his correspondents sheets of paper of equal dimensions, laid down on panel. In 1595, the portrayal of the castle of Ambras counted 954 portraits, each model carefully identified in letters of gold.


            Thus Ferdinand of Tyrol found himself in possession of two near-identical portraits of de Montmorency, one of the most important lineages of France: the Constable Anne and his sons, François, the elder, and Henri, lord of Damville (Figure 3). All three figured prominently in the Armamentarium heroicum, clothed in their armor which had also been generously sent to the Austrian prince and perfectly recognizable thanks to the talent of the artist Fontana (ill.4).


Though the three Montmorencies had a reputation as great captains, Henri was the only one who fully deserved it, having never been taken prisoner, unlike his father and his brothers. François de Montmorency and Henri de Damville did not resemble each other, but neither the portraits in Ambras, which were clumsy, nor the engravings of the Armamentarium heroicum, allowed for this difference of appearance, let alone character. Although the portrait of Henri was known today, (aside from the clumsy Ambras portraits), thanks to the pencil of François Clouet dating from 1557 (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 46.348) and a large later painting in Versailles, inv. MV 3221), it was not until the reappearance of our portrait that we have discovered the features of Marshal Damville – hitherto only exhibited at the exhibition of French Primitives at the Louvre in 1904, but never reproduced.


Until now, the iconography of Damville appeared rich, but poor in works of quality. This prime portrait, carried out in all likelihood in 1566, when Henri de Montmorency received the marshal's baton, was hitherto only known through four replicas: two in Ambras and two in private collections, whose clumsy quality therefore did not allow for an attribution to a royal portraitist such as François Clouet or Jean Decourt (ill. 1-2). The two portraits preserved at Versailles with their flat modelling confirms their origins as early seventeenth century replicas (ill.5-6) .


The same iconography, with short hair and pointed beard, is found in most of the engravings depicting Henri de Montmorency published under Henri III and Henri IV (ill.7). Finally, a fine anonymous pencil from the Cabinet des Estampes in the National Library of France shows Damville, then Duke of Montmorency and Constable of France, towards the end of his life having received the Order of the Holy Spirit (ill 8). It is this same portrait which appears in the illustrious gallery Chateau Beauregard (ill.9). All these works unambiguously confirm the identification of our painting, devoid of any old inscription, for despite the difference in technique and quality, the sitter is immediately recognizable, notably thanks to his strabismus – which also affected his son (Figure 10).


With great delicacy and sensitivity, our painting is the most accurate depiction of Henri de Montmorency, one of the most complex and interesting characters of the troubled period of the French Wars of Religion. Quite the opposite of his elder brother, who had a round face and a strong nose, and rounded mournful eyes, Damville, in our portrait, has a thin and energetic face, a long nose, a fine forehead, and a pointed moustache worthy of a brilliant officer of cavalry. Affected by the hereditary Montmorency strabismus, his eyes are nonetheless sharp and piercing.


His haughty, conquering, and singularly aristocratic appearance did not deceive Brantôme, who called him the ‘paragon of all chivalry’, and recognized him as ‘a gallant man and a wise captain’. His fiery independent nature can easily be seen here. A man of the sword, a real warrior, a well-trained rider, ‘it was impossible to see a better man on horseback than he, armed or not’. A true knight of the Renaissance, one can see his literary and chivalrous aspirations in the name he chose for his third illegitimate son, ‘Esplandian’ – one of the heroes of Amadis de Gaulle. Damville was clearly a great seducer, his strabismus serving only to goad him further in amorous pursuits.[1]


In our painting, Damville wears a black velvet collar with top-stitched sleeves, trimmed with silver stripes, and a white silk doublet embroidered with black and silver thread, of which only the sleeves are visible. This sumptuous and luxurious garment is brought together by a short collar trimmed with delicate lace and a black velvet cap beaded with pearls. The chain that bears the medallion of the Order of Saint Michel is of rare complexity, with entwined pearls and enamelled gold links.


Damville’s elegance is equalled only by that of his relative, Jacques de Savoie, Duc de Nemours, in his portrait, of which several versions are also known, of variable quality. It is hardly surprising that Brantôme cited them both as examples of perfect knighthood. The similarities in dress between the portraits of Damville and Nemours are the short collars, domed and decorated hats and intricate chains for their Order. Both paintings date to the end of the 1560s. Both men had been invested with provincial government at the same time (Lyonnais for Nemours in 1562, Languedoc for Damville in 1563) and already had the stature of statesmen by around 1566 – 1569, which would be crystalised by their portraits.


In France under the reign of the last Valois, official court portraiture of the nobility was a duty of the king's painter. At that time the office was occupied by François Clouet, famous for his portraits capable of giving more than just a physical likeness, but for imbuing aristocratic virtue, and qualities of soul and character. Nicknamed ‘Janet’, in a nod to his father, Jehannet Clouet (also an artist), François Clouet prepared each portrait with a drawing, of which several were preserved, recovered by Catherine de Medicis who collected them. These drawings, which are perfectly finished and very detailed, enabled portraiture that was finer than ever before, beginning with the studies of the royal family (Figure 13). Moreover, the paintings rarely follow the drawings with regard to the details of clothing, such as buttons, brocade, the design or the carving of jewelry. For each portrait, the garment was recreated in the workshop, which also explains the variations in embroidery or jewels from one panel to another. Clouet's patrons came to expect his work to be minutely detailed, more and more refined, yet avoiding repetition.


            Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the preparatory sketch for our portrait, which in all likelihood would have been in the possession of Catherine de Medicis, is no longer known. However, there is every reason to believe that it must be quite similar to that of Nemours (Figure 12). That drawing, found at Brodick Castle under the name of Charles IX, presents all the characteristics of a work from the Clouet workshop: the contours of the drawing are taken very exactly and the hands, curiously visible, foreshadow those of Élisabeth Of Austria in his famous painting at the Louvre (ill. 11).


One recognizes the same virtuosic and steady hand in our painting, which comparison with the undoubtedly autograph works of Clouet confirms (Figures 14-15). The pale but pink flesh is modeled with subtle highlights and glazes in subtle chiaroscuro; the shadows are warm, the eyelashes are not detailed, and particular attention is paid to the rendering of depth. In the absence of the preparatory sketch, the under-drawing, perfectly visible with infrared rays, reveals some modifications that only the master could authorize. Thus, the upper eyelid of the right eye was initially placed lower. Modifying the contour of the eye contour also allowed the artist to retain the strabismus of his model.


A certain dryness in the rendering of his beard, in comparison to the treatment of the ear and moustache, could be attributed to the intervention of a collaborator. In fact, like all the great Renaissance painters, Clouet was surrounded by several other artists and was in the habit of entrusting them with the completion of his works, both painted and drawn. Among these collaborators, some were perfectly trained and even had official duties, as did Jean Decourt (c. 1530 – 1584), painter of Mary Stuart and Clouet’s successor as painter to the king. There is, however, little doubt that the essential part of the face, as well as the invention, if not the realization of the costume, belong to the master. The attention to minutiae, in fact, was a feature of the artist himself, and in our portrait the repetitiveness of forms, like the loops of braid, is apparent. Indeed, each loop is made up of several brushstrokes to suggest the reflection of light, while curvature and hue are carefully subordinate to volume and lighting. Every brushstroke inspired by the delicate silver embroidery which decorates the sleeves of the doublet is extraordinary, even distracting from the brilliance and the shimmer of a small shard of gold leaf caught in the pictorial layer, no doubt by chance.


Our magnificent portrait is thus much more than simply an unavoidable piece in the iconography of Henri de Montmorency-Damville, head of the ‘Malcontents’ and uncrowned King of Languedoc. It testifies to an evolution of style in the last years of the career of François Clouet, marked by a more pronounced detail and a virtuosic rendering of the costume – all the while without ever diverting the viewer's attention from the face of his model that he refuses to idealize – even when the latter suffers from strabismus. For Clouet understood how to illuminate the likeness with an inner strength, give his model a true presence.


The sitter:

Henri II de Montmorency, Seigneur de Damville, then Duc de Montmorency, Constable of France (Chantilly, 15 June 1534 - Agde, 2 April 1614)

Born in 1534 at the Château de Chantilly, Henri de Montmorency was the second of the five sons of the Constable of France – Anne de Montmorency, and Madeleine of Savoy. Titled at his birth, Lord of Damville – and a name he carried until the death of his elder brother, François de Montmorency, in 1579 – he followed the traditional upbringing of a gentleman of good birth, facilitated by the great favour enjoyed by his father, as Constable to King Henri II.


Like his brothers, Damville received a careful education in artistic and literary culture. He was a gentleman of the king's chamber as early as 1547. An outstanding horseman, he was passionate about the exercise of arms, distinguishing himself very young. At the age of twenty, he commanded a company of two hundred light-horse, distinguishing himself by his valour and military acumen during the German campaign known as the ‘voyage d’Austrasie’, especially at the siege of Metz in 1552. He received the Order of Saint-Michel in 1557.


On 26 January 1559, he married Ecouen Antoinette de la Marck, daughter of Robert IV de la Marck, Marshal of France, Duc de Bouillon, and Françoise de Brézé, daughter of Diane de Poitiers. This marriage brought him closer to the Lorraines, since Louise de Brézé, Diana's second daughter, was the wife of Claude, Duc d’Aumale, brother of the Duc de Guise and Mary, Queen of Scots. As a relative, Damville accompanied Mary Stuart to Scotland after the death of Francis II. In  England, he obtained the good favour of Queen Elizabeth I, sending her his very best horses by way of a gift.  


During the civil wars, his first task was to escort Catherine de 'Medici in the interviews. At the battle of Dreux, on 19 January 1562, when his brother Gabriel died and his wounded father was taken prisoner, Damville fought fiercely to ensure the victory of the Catholics by the capture of the Prince of Condé, and restoring the Constable - his father’s - liberty.


The following year he was awarded the government of Languedoc, and from that time he hardly ever fought except in the south of France, where he acquired an almost royal position. Indeed, unlike his father who held the office before him, he chose to reside in Languedoc, rather than administering the country through a lieutenant general, which allowed him to add to an already strong territorial power. Close to the Dukes of Guise and Nemours, Damville began by taking the side of the uncompromising Catholics, which earned him the mistrust of the Queen Mother and the King, and provoking a rupture with his elder brother, François, who adhered to a policy of tolerance.


The second half of the 1560s was marked by the gradual softening of Damville's views and reconciliation with his brother. In 1566 he obtained the baton of Marshal of France, then the general command of Dauphine, Province, Languedoc and Guyenne in 1569, though his disagreement with royal policy became manifest after the Saint-Barthélemy massacre in 1572. His dismissal as general commander in June 1574, and the disgrace and imprisonment of his brother, led him to revolt and form an alliance with the Huguenots of Languedoc. In his Declaration of 13 November 1574 at Montpellier, Damville condemned the massacre of 1572, explaining his taking up of arms as a defense of his honor and duty ‘as an officer of the Crown and Frenchman.’


Damville took the lead of the ‘malcontents’ during the fifth war of religion (1574 – 1576) and played a major role until the entry of Henri de Condé. Towards the end of the war he agreed to negotiate with the king. Two years later, his brother François having died, he left the name of Damville to his younger brother Charles, Seigneur de Méru, becoming Duc de Montmorency, Comte de Dammartin et d’Alais, Baron de Châteaubriant, and Seigneur de Chantilly et d’Écouen. His second take-over in 1585 was followed by a new reconciliation with Henry III in the winter of 1588 – 1589.


At the news of the assassination of Henry III, the Duc de Montmorency submitted to Henry IV. He continued to fight the Ligueurs in Provence, then in Dauphiné. On 20 November 20, the king confirmed him as Governor and Lieutenant-general in Languedoc.


Widowed in 1591, and having lost his only son Hercules, Count of Offemont, the duke remarried Louise de Budos, daughter of Jacques de Budos and Catherine de Clermont-Montoison, at Pézenas in 1593.

After his abjuration, Henri IV appointed the duke as Constable of France. In a letter the king informed him that he had deferred the ceremonies of his coronation so that the duke might attend. The following year he left Languedoc and his castle of La Grange-des-Pres, next to Pezenas, and returned to the king, who brought him into the Council, and awarded him the Order of the Saint-Esprit in 1597. The Constable continued to watch over his government, where he left his son-in-law, Anne, Duke de Ventadour, as Governor.


In 1595, his son, Henri, was born. Louise de Budos died only three years later at Chantilly in 1598, and so he married thirdly, Laurence de Clermont, maternal great-aunt to his children. In 1606, the Constable went to Languedoc to have his young son Henry recognized as a successor to the government of that province. After the assassination of the king, he remained two years at the court of the Queen Regent. Feeling the weight of his age, he resigned himself from his duchy-peerage in favor of his son, Henry II. The Constable spent the rest of his life in retreat and penance in his castle of the Grange-des-Près in Languedoc. According to his will, he was buried with the habit of a Franciscan, without any pomp, in the church of the Convent of the Capuchins of Notre-Dame de la Crau, which he had built. His heart was brought to the church of Montmorency.


From his first marriage with Antoinette de la Marck, he had four children:

- Hercule, comte d’Offémont (1572 – 1593), died without alliance;
- Henri (1581 – 1583);
- Charlotte (1591 – 1636), married on 6 May 1591 to Charles de Valois, comte d’Auvergne, then duc d’Angoulême, natural son of Charles IX;
- Marguerite (1593 – 1660), married on 26 June 1593 to Anne de Lévis, duc de Ventadour.

From his second wife, Louise de Budos, he had two children:

- Charlotte-Marguerite (1594 – 1650), married 13 March 1609 to Henry II of Bourbon, Prince of Condé;
- Henri II, Duc de Montmorency (1595 – 1632), Admiral of France (1612), Governor of Languedoc (1613), Marshal of France (1630); He took part in the plot of Gaston d'Orléans, raised his province against the king, was made prisoner at the battle of Castelnaudary, condemned to death by the Parliament of Toulouse, and decapitated after Louis XIII had refused him his pardon.


The artist: François Clouet, called Janet (Tours ?, c. 1515 – Paris 1572)

In spite of the artist's assertion in 1546 on selling his house in Touraine, that he was then ‘twenty-five years and over’, everything suggests that he was actually born c.  1515. In 1540 he took over his father’s workshop and as a painter and valet de chambre of the king. In 1541, Francis I proclaimed him sole heir to the property of Jean Clouet due to the king by right of windfall. He remained official portraitist of the kings of France until his death in 1572, responsible for all that concerned official representation: portraits painted, in pencil or miniature, but also profiles and patterns for currencies or effigies in wax for funerals. He was also solicited for decorative schemes, especially at royal or princely funerals – the magnitude and urgency of the task compelled him to associate himself with several Parisian painters – and other works of utilitarian painting – fleurs-de-lis, currencies etc., always paid separately. But his main activity was the realization of numerous portraits commissioned by Catherine de Medicis, his greatest admirer, without preventing him from working simultaneously for a court clientele. In 1547 he received no less than 50 gold crowns from the Vidame de Chartres (the exact reason for this payment is unknown), and at least two of his three signed works are not royal commissions: the portrait of his neighbor and a friend, the apothecary, Pierre Quthe, and that of the judge René Choppin, known by a bad engraving by Jean- Claude Flipart dating from 1715 (‘Jannet pinx.’ ‘Effigies d’années 1570’). The third signed painting is not a portrait and depicts a lady in the bath (‘IANETII OPVS’, Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1961.9.13).


His financial situation was enviable. In addition to his fixed wages, he received exceptional payments, such as the 225 l.t. he received in 1547, or the appointment to the office of commissioner at the Chatelet of Paris on 14 July 1551. He also benefited from numerous annuities at the Hôtel de Ville (1,800 l. annually in 1572), and in particular that of 350 l. around 1567 from Claude de Beaune. The artist was thus able to endow his sister Catherine, who married Abel Foulon, to buy the house his father rented in the Rue Sainte Avoye, and in 1558 to acquire from Jacques Hervé, notary and secretary of the king, a country house in Vanves, a place popular with royal servants, with an acre and a half of vineyard and a garden full of fruit trees, all paid for with 1,100 l. t.


Clouet led an important workshop where Scipio de Brimbal and probably Jean Décourt were working, and it is certainly known that two apprentices, Jean III Patin, who entered in 1553, and Francis de Brimbal, (brother of Scipio), who was taken for seven years in 1556 (though remaining only four years). Clouet never married, but had three illegitimate daughters: Marguerite, who died after 1554, and Jeanne Le Borgne, and twins Diane and Lucrece, baptized on 28 November 1563. According to the painter's will, on 21 September 1572, they each inherited 600 l. t. The artist was buried with his parents in the cemetery of the Saints-Innocents. His portrait is on the famous engraving of the ‘illustrious Men who flourished in France from the year 1500 to now’ (so-called Chronologie collée), engraved around 1600 by Gaultier (No. 141).


Alexandra Zvereva


Art Historian

Dr. in Modern History

Centre Roland Mousnier (CNRS), Université Paris-Sorbonne


March 2017


[1] « Il faisoit ordinairement les plus belles courses du monde quand il couroit la bague, fût ou avec son roy ou avec d’autres ; mais il estoit si malheureux qu’il mettoit peu souvant dedans, à cause de sa veue, qu’il n’avoit trop asseurée ; mais ses courses valoient bien celles du dedans. » (Brantôme, Œuvres complètes, éd. 1867, t. III, p. 371).

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