The Primer of Claude of France


Artists' Techniques

Architectural features as well as the outlines, faces and clothes of the figures were roughly sketched. Sketches were not always followed closely at the painting stage, as is especially apparent in drapery folds.

The naked bodies of Adam and Eve were carefully drawn, particularly the figure of Adam in the bottom left image on fol. 4r. 

A straight line running between or just above the eyes was often drawn to help position them within the face – this is most evident in the figures of the young Virgin Mary and St Anne on fol. 9r.

Select the ‘infrared’ layer when viewing each of the folios on the right to see the underdrawings.

Lightbox: 66
Detail of Anne of Brittany’s face under magnification (7.5x).
Lightbox: 67
Detail of the folds in St Claude’s mantle under magnification (7.5x), with underdrawing showing through the thin layer of shell gold and underneath the semi-transparent pink paint of the inner fold.
Lightbox: 68
Detail of St Anne’s blue-green robe under magnification (60x), painted with vergaut. The Raman spectrum (below) confirms the identification of the coarse yellow particles as orpiment (bands at 141, 159, 206, 296, 314 and 359 cm-1) and of indigo in the blue matrix surrounding them (bands at 550 and 602 cm-1).
Lightbox: 69
Detail of a green leaf in the lower border under magnification (60x), showing particles of green malachite and blue azurite, identified by FORS. These two copper carbonates are often found together in natural deposits. The peaks of lead (Pb) and tin (Sn) in the XRF spectrum (below) identify the yellow particles as lead-tin yellow.

Anne of Brittany, kneeling at a prayer desk beside a youthful Virgin Mary, is presented by St Anne to the enthroned bishop, St Claude. A book bound in red rests on the prayer desk, which is covered in a blue cloth embroidered with fleurs-de-lis and gold initials A for Anne. The carpet bears Anne’s arms (France impaling Brittany), which are also held aloft by the angel on a pillar in the left margin. The arms are depicted a third time in the lower margin encircled by the motto, PENSON EN DIEU, with sprays of blue flowers on either side. Shown in prayer, Anne serves as a pious model for her daughter, Claude, for whom she commissioned the book.

The loose, rapid brush work of the artist is clearly visible in the dark blue-green background and the light grey floor. Preparatory sketches for the drapery folds appear through the thin layers of the gold mantle of St Claude, shaded and outlined in organic pink, and of Anne of Brittany’s gold dress, which has contrasting outlines in dark indigo. The infrared image reveals the full extent of the thick lines of the underdrawing in the draperies and in the faces, particularly of St Anne.