The Primer of Claude of France

Master of Antoine de Roche


Mazzoni left for France in 1496 where he served as artist to Charles VIII (1470-1498) and designed the king’s bronze tomb in St Denis. Mazzoni also executed various commissions for Louis XII and Anne of Brittany, and it is conceivable that he made this Primer at the queen’s request. Ironically, for a book that was made to teach her daughter how to read, garbled captions in Old French (e.g. ADEM ET VEE) are inscribed on the gold frames of the miniatures. The captions in red and blue were painted with a fine brush and are almost certainly the work of the illuminator. Whoever supplied the captions had not mastered French, which lends support to the idea that the artist was a foreigner. No works survive from Guido Mazzoni’s time in France, so whether he did, in fact, illuminate Claude’s Primer remains subject to debate.

Lightbox: 77
Despite the low resolution of this capture, the SWIR image shows the radical changes to the composition designed by the artist in this scene.
Lightbox: 78
Thanks to the high reflectance of azurite in the SWIR range, this image most clearly reveals the presence of an angel hovering above Joseph’s head, which was sketched but never painted.

Several pentimenti are hidden beneath the paint layers on this page; in some cases, they can be perceived with the naked eye, through the light blue azurite used in the sky. They are more easily seen in the near-infrared image and become even clearer in the images recorded using infrared reflectography (hotspots 1 and 2).