When I started teaching the history of decorative arts twenty-something years ago, I tended to focus on the roots of design in the 16th century, a period which at the time enjoyed a particular interest in scholarship. Now, that I hear about an upcoming show at the Domaine de Chantilly ‘The Age of Francis I,’ I hope that interest in this remarkable chapter in the history of French design will pick. The first King of France from the Angouleme branch of the House of Valois, Francis I was a Renaissance prince who ruled at the heart of the 16th century and who is known for acquiring the Mona Lisa from Leonardo da Vinci. As a lover and patron of the arts, and perhaps the first French monarch to really recognize the significant role of taste and the arts to evoke political power, he became known for surrounding himself with scholars and scientists, and for founding perennial institutions. In fact, he is the one who initiated the French Renaissance by attracting such Italian artists as Leonardo da Vinci to work in France. The exhibition comes to unveil the taste and cultural ambition of Francis I.
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