The Henry II style was the chief artistic movement of the sixteenth century in France, part of Northern Mannerism. It came immediately after High Renaissance and was largely the product of Italian influences. Francis I and his daughter-in-law, Catherine de’ Medici, had imported to France a number Italian artists of Raphael’s or Michelangelo’s school; the Frenchmen who followed them in working in the Mannerist idiom. Besides the work of Italians in France, many Frenchman picked up Italianisms while studying art in Italy during the middle of the century. The Henry II style, though named after Henry II of France, in fact lasted from about 1530 until 1590 under five French monarchs, their mistresses and their queens.
The most lasting products of the Henry II style were architectural. First Rosso Fiorentino and then Francesco Primaticcio and Sebastiano Serlio served Henry II as court artisans, constructing his gallery and the Aile de la Belle Cheminée (1568). The French architect Pierre Lescot and the sculptor Jean Goujon rebuilt the Palais du Louvre around the now famous square court. The Château d’Anet, commissioned by Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II, was designed by Philibert Delorme, who studied in Rome. The very mannerist château housed a statue of Diana by Benvenuto Cellini, who was working in France. In 1564 Delorme began work on the Tuileries, the most outstanding Parisian palais of the Henry II style. It too exhibited a mannerist treatment of classical themes, for which Delorm had developed his own “French order” of columns.
Jean Bullant, another architect who studied in Rome, also produced designs that combined classical “themes” in a mannerist structure. The Château d’Écouen and the Château de Chantilly, both for Anne de Montmorency, exemplify the Henry II-style château, which was proliferating among the nobility. A very thorough catalogue of engravings of sixteenth-century French architecture was produced by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau the Elder under the title Les plus excellents bastiments de France (between 1576 and 1579, in two volumes). Much of the buildings so engraved have been destroyed (like the Tuileries) or significantly altered (like Écouen), so that Cerceau’s reproductions are the best guide to the Henry II style.
Inspired by the forms of furniture and decor of the second half of the sixteenth century , the Henry II style or neo-Renaissance style developed in France from the reign of Louis-Philippe . The French Renaissance, first honored by the museum of French monuments by Alexandre Lenoir but especially by the architect Félix Duban , found its popularity in the nineteenth century by its national origin, and the alternative it proposes to the sacrosanct neoclassical style imposed as an academic norm since the Old Regime. The diffusion of forms and their success are also encouraged by the romantic currents and popular literary successes of Alexandre Dumas Sr. and Victor Hugo . It reached its peak under the Second Empire , before being declined in the manufacture of industrial furniture. Became an agreed style in the early twentieth century, it gradually became outdated after the First World War .
The furniture and décor reflect the stereotypical forms of the Second French Renaissance : architectural decor, masks , trays supported by ringed columns, grotesque , acanthus leaves , large cornices overflowing, turned balusters and sculptures figured in bas-relief. The pediments are almost always adorned with a cartouche . The taste is in the ” high era ” including Middle Ages, Renaissance and the first half of the 17th century. Henry II of the nineteenth century is also a fairly composite style, according to the eclectic trend of the time, and often mixes the Renaissance with the forms belonging to the style Louis XIII (or more rarely Louis XIV ) such as columns torsos , diamond-tipped patterns and fringes on upholstered furniture. Regionalism is also present at the end of the century, with the integration of regional styles such as those of Basque or Breton furniture.
In the castles and well-off apartments, the amateurs use this evocative style, sometimes to highlight the true Renaissance furniture whose collection is very fashionable. Often, moreover, these period furniture are very retouched or rebuilt by cabinetmakers from elements of disparate origins. It is also a frequent style in the arrangement of apartments of state buildings, then historical monuments: Tuileries Palace , Louvre , various ministries, libraries … A good example is the Chamber of the ” Comte de Chambord ” at Castle of Chambord :
The realization of columns and legs in wood turned more and more industrial allows to make style furniture at low prices and attractive performance. The furniture is therefore adorned with a large amount of ornaments and are often aesthetically very heavy. The quality of the sculptures is sometimes also very small. The privileged woods are dark and massive, with a predilection for oak and walnut , when they are not downright blackened according to the fashion Napoleon III .
Sold by manufacturers in catalog, under the name Henry II , this style is applied to furniture forms unrelated to the Renaissance, but adapted to the modern uses of the late nineteenth century: billiard tables, coat racks , mirror frames, ice cabinets …
Co-ordinated sets are generally available for bedrooms ( beds , bedside tables and wardrobes ) and dining rooms . It is also a particularly popular style for these pieces, the sets including the extending table, four or six chairs (usually upholstered with embossed leather or caning ), a buffet with two glazed body (sometimes with colored stained glass or more rarely a dresser ) and a service .
With a somewhat pretentious pace, associating with more or less skill the noble registers, the great history and the manufacture of mass cheap, and produced in very large quantity, it is sometimes assimilated to a form of kitsch . The term Henry II has thus taken on an often pejorative connotation. Associated with the petty bourgeoisie by artists and writers, such as Guy de Maupassant or Philippe Jullian , this style became the object of quips and jokes:
“As for the millionaires who now buy all the horrors left over from past centuries, they are part of that race that Gantier called bourgeois. I would bet that there are, in Paris alone, ten times more seigneurial beds of the Henry II style than existed in all France under that prince. And let us not forget, moreover, that half of this barbarian bedding was destroyed as the art of the sommier matured. ”
Similarly, being poorly suited to modern interiors, and in contradiction with the taste of the twentieth century for sobriety and functionalism in design , it has become relatively unrewarded in France.
This applies only to the industrial version of Henri II. For despite this, museums and castles also retain some examples of very high quality, made by renowned cabinetmakers. A fine example is the dining room that Eugène Grasset made in 1880 for the publisher and collector Charles Gillot (Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris). In this case, the Henry II forms are close to the lines of Art Nouveau and give an almost symbolist character to the interiors.
In painting, like in architecture, the French were influenced by Italian mannerism and many Italian painters and sculptors were active members of the First School of Fontainebleau, which in turn produced an active and talented crop of native painters and sculptors, such as Germain Pilon and Juste de Juste. By the end of the century the Henry II style, a Gallicised form of Italian mannerism, had been replaced by a more consistent classicism, with hints of the coming Baroque. Its immediately successor in French art historiography is the Henry IV style.
Pablo Picasso has produced a series of paintings on the theme of a Henri II buffet with a dog. The heavy ornaments become broken and dark shapes that dominate the objects and people around them ( Henry II Buffet Dog , h / t, 162 × 130 cm, 1959, private collection).
Paul Signac and Édouard Vuillard often represent figures characters in interiors of this type
Marcel Proust , in In Search of Lost Time , makes the Henry II style the style of Odette ‘s dream house, certainly to evoke his vulgar artistic tastes and have you seen me :
“… she once spoke to Swann about a friend who had invited her and with whom everything was” of the time “. But Swann could not get him to say what that time was. However, after thinking, she replied that it was “medieval”. She meant that there was woodwork. Some time afterwards she told him again of her friend, and added, in the hesitant tone and air of which we quote someone with whom we had dined the day before and whose name we had never heard, but that your hosts seemed to think of someone so famous that we hope that the interlocutor will know who you want to talk about: “She has a dining room … from … eighteenth! She found it frightful, naked, as if the house was not finished, the women looked awful and fashion would never take it. Finally, a third time, she spoke again and showed Swann the address of the man who had made this dining room and that she wanted to come, when she would have money, to see if could not do it, not certainly such a thing, but the one she dreamed of and that, unfortunately, the dimensions of her small hotel did not include, with tall dressers, Renaissance furniture and fireplaces as in the castle of Blois … ” »
“This staircase, moreover, all wood, as was then done in some houses report that style Henry II who had been for so long the ideal of Odette and which she was soon to disengage… ”
Edmond Lepelletier , in Le Pressoir from Les deux contees (1887-1888) makes an unflattering comparison:
“With his crooked face, his small, very sharp gray eyes and the grotesque waddling that resulted from his legs like those carved columns, ornament of bourgeois buffets, Henry II style, Basset looked bad and continually seemed in search of some bad trick to play next.
René Crevel :
“For a little French bourgeois, a mother is a piece of furniture, just like the Henri II sideboard, the Pleyel in the living room, or the false Louis XVI double bed of the parents.” ”
It is found in the inventory of Jacques Prévert :
«A Henri II buffet two Henri III buffets three Henri IV buffets »
Philippe Jullian , in his book Les Styles (1961) devotes an entry to the dining rooms Henri II.
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