An art dealer has discovered a rare miniature portrait of the transvestite king of France. Now he wants to sell it in the Louvre


Last year, a regional auction house in England sold a matchbox-sized painting of a man believed to be Sir Walter Raleigh.
But this identification was not entirely correct, according to the savvy art dealer who seized it. This is actually a rare miniature portrait of Henri III, the controversial transvestite king of France, painted by a renowned artist in the 16th century.

The dealer now hopes to sell it in the Louvre.

Philip Mold, who co-hosts the show “Fake or Fortune?” From the BBC show, bought the yard without being seen at an online auction last year. The true identity of the painting’s subject soon became clear to him, but an even greater surprise came when its medallion-shaped frame was later opened by a conservator.

On the reverse of the painting was the signature of Jean Decourt, famous painter of the French court, and the date 1578. It is believed to be the only example of a work of art bearing the artist’s name still in existence. existence today.

“We can now firmly and definitively print the 16th century royal portrait with the name of Decourt,” said Céline Cachaud, specialist in portrait miniatures who works at the National Institute of Art History in Paris, in a report. communicated. “This revolutionary discovery will have a major impact on the study of portraiture and late Valois miniature painting in the years to come.

Mold now offers the Louvre the right of first refusal over the painting, which is appropriate, he explains, as it was likely executed in the Royal Residence – the building the museum occupies today.

“This work is a French national treasure,” said the concessionaire in a statement, calling it “an extremely significant unpublished image of a misunderstood king and confirmation of the immense talent of Jean Decourt. ”

“It would be wonderful if he could ‘go home’ to Paris, because I believe that’s where he really belongs,” he added.

The back of the miniature portrait of Jean Decourt by Henri III, bearing the artist’s signature. Courtesy of Philip Mold and Company.

Mold did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the price he paid for the work, which was likely a fraction of his true value, potentially several hundred thousand pounds, according to the Telegraph.

Just over two inches long, the painting depicts Henry III in jewelry and bonnet – a familiar representation of the man who was King of France from 1574 until his assassination in 1589, at the hands of a Jacobin brother . Indeed, Henri’s penchant for wearing feminine clothing was well documented in his time, as was his coterie of male companions. Images of his likeness became rare after the French Revolution as it was dangerous to own royal portraits.

Decourt became the official court artist in 1572 during the reign of King Charles IX. His best-known portraits are those of Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I.

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