Kings. Queens, and Courtiers: Art from Renaissance France
February 27–May 30, 2011
Regenstein Hall
Member Previews: February 24–25, 10:30–8:00 and February 26, 10:30–5:00


Emerging from decades of civil war and struggles to defend its own territory, France was on the move in the years around 1500, led first by Charles VIII and then by his cousin Louis XII, each king in turn marrying Anne, the spirited young duchess of Brittany. Through an extraordinary range of rare and precious objects, this exhibition tells the story of art in this dynamic period—an exuberant mixture of spiritual and secular work, the union of traditional late Gothic form and a new antique vocabulary, and the combination of the many symbols of the French monarchy with the latest trends imported from Milan, Genoa, and Naples, cities that French forces occupied in this period. A rich and varied panorama of this transitional moment is illustrated through tapestries, stained glass, goldsmithwork, monumental sculpture, painted portraits and altarpieces, and intimate illuminated manuscripts. The diverse offerings include a witty stained-glass roundel designed by court painter Jean Fouquet depicting two maidens holding the initials of Laurens Girard for the home of this courtier, one of the king's treasurers. The luminous Nativity by Jean Hey, known as the Master of Moulins, is also on display, a commission from Cardinal Jean Rolin, bishop of Autun in Burgundy, as an epitaph near his grave. The cardinal's favorite lapdog accompanies him as he kneels in perpetual prayer before the vulnerable, newborn Christ Child. And the poetic The Madonna of the Yarnwinder by Leonardo da Vinci and his assistants exemplifies how the French kings and leading courtiers sought from Italy marble, sculptors, and paintings in the latest fashion to decorate their castles and monuments.


The sumptuous catalogue accompanying the exhibition will be the first full treatment of this subject in English. In addition to entries on each object, the publication will include essays by Philippe Contamine, professor at the Sorbonne (retired); Pierre-Yves le Pogam, curator in the sculpture department of the Louvre; Philippe Lorentz, professor at the University of Strasbourg; and Martha Wolff on the historical situation of France, the range of Renaissance styles, and the patronage and the genesis of these works of art. This catalogue is available for purchase online and at the Museum Shop.

Audio Guide

Kings, Queens, and Courtiers is featured (with 22 stops) on our Audio Guide, a comprehensive overview that lets you explore the museum and select special exhibitions at your own pace. It is available for rental everyday at the Michigan Avenue entrance and also on weekends at the Millennium Park lobby. Please pick up a guide before heading over to the exhibition. It can be purchased at the audio guide counter or with a ticket at an admissions counter. The guide is available for $7 ($5 for members) and is free to visitors with visual and hearing impairments.


This exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, and realized with the collaboration of the Musée du Louvre, Paris; the Musée de Cluny-Musée National du Moyen Age, Paris; and the Musée National de la Renaissance, Château d'Ecouen.


Martha Wolff, Eleanor Wood Prince Curator of European Painting and Sculpture before 1750
Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye, director, Musée national du Moyen Age, Paris
Thierry Crépin-Leblond, director, Musée national de la Renaissance, Ecouen
Geneviève Bresc, head, Département des sculptures, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Other Venues

Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris: October 4, 2010–January 10, 2011


Major funding is generously provided by Paul and Melinda Sullivan and the Eloise W. Martin Legacy Fund.

Lead individual sponsorship is provided by Scott, Lynda, Jonathan, and Lindsey Canel.

Additional support is provided by the Chauncey and Marion Deering McCormick Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts.

This exhibition is also supported by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes a great nation deserves great art.

Generous support is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: Goldman Sachs, Kenneth and Anne Griffin, Thomas and Margot Pritzker, the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation, Donna and Howard Stone, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Sullivan, and an anonymous donor.

Jean Hey, known as the Master of Moulins. The Annunciation, Moulins, 1490/95. The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection.