CLOUET, JEAN (d. c. 1541). French miniature painter, generally known as JANET. The authentic presence of this artist at the French court is first to be noted in 1516, the second year of the reign of Francis I. By a deed of gift made by the king to the artist's son of his father's estate, which had escheated to the crown, we learn that he was not actually a Frenchman, and never even naturalized. He is supposed to have been a native of the Low Countries, and probably his real name was Clowet. His position was that of groom of the chamber to the king, and he received a stipend at first of 180 livres and later of 240. He lived several years in Tours, and there it was he met his wife, who was the daughter of a jeweller. He is recorded as living in Tours in 1522, and there is a reference to his wife's residence in the same town in 1523, but in 1529 they were both settled in Paris, probably in the neighbourhood of the parish of Ste Innocent, in the cemetery of which they were buried. He stood godfather at a christening on the 8th of July 1540, but was no longer living in December 1541, and therefore died between those two dates.
His brother, known as Clouet de Navarre, was in the service of Marguérite d'Angoulême, sister of Francis I., and is referred to in a letter written by Marguérite about 1529. Jean Clouet had two children, François and Catherine, who married Abel Foulon, and left one son, who continued the profession of François Clouet after his decease. Jean Clouet was undoubtedly a very skilful portrait painter, but it must be acknowledged without hesitation that there is no work in existence which has been proved to be his. There is no doubt that he painted a portrait of the mathematician, Oronce Finé, in 1530, when Finé was thirty-six years old, but the portrait is now known only by a print. Janet is generally believed, however, to have been responsible for a very large number of the wonderful portrait drawings now preserved at Chantilly, and at the Bibliothèque Nationale, and to him is attributed the portrait of an unknown man at Hampton Court, that of the dauphin Francis, son of Francis I. at Antwerp, and one other portrait, that of Francis I. in the Louvre.
Seven miniature portraits in the Manuscript of the Gallic War in the Bibliothèque Nationale (13,429) are attributed to Janet with very strong probability, and to these may be added an eighth in the collection of Mr J. Pierpont Morgan, and representing Charles de Cossé, Maréchal de Brissac, identical in its characteristics with the seven already known. There are other miniatures in the collection of Mr Morgan, which may be attributed to Jean Clouet with some strong degree of probability, inasmuch as they closely resemble the portrait drawings at Chantilly and in Paris which are taken to be his work. In his oil paintings the execution is delicate and smooth, the outlines hard, the texture pure, and the whole work elaborately and very highly finished in rich, limpid colour. The chalk drawings are of remarkable excellence, the medium being used by the artist with perfect ease and absolute sureness, and the mingling of colour being in exquisite taste, the modelling exceedingly subtle, and the drawing careful, tender and emphatic. The collection of drawings preserved in France, and attributed to this artist and his school, comprises portraits of all the important persons of the time of Francis I. In one album of drawings the portraits are annotated by the king himself, and his merry reflections, stinging taunts or biting satires, add very largely to a proper understanding of the life of his time and court. Definite evidence, however, is still lacking to establish the attribution of the best of these drawings and of certain oil paintings to the Jean Clouet who was groom of the chambers to the king.
The chief authority in France on the work of this artist is Monsieur Louis Dimier, and to his works, and to information derived direct from him, the present writer is indebted for almost all the information given in this article.
(G. C. W.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)