A Very Brief Introduction to the Master of François de Rohan

by Heather R. Darsie

Illuminated Books of Hours were items commonly kept by the nobility. The Master of François de Rohan completed at least one Book of Hours for Francis I (François, Françoys) of France. Other items identified as executed by the Master of François de Rohan include translations of Italian works, a treatise on hunting, books or poetry, and a copy of the English Bible that was sent to Thomas Cromwell. The Master of François de Rohan may have also completed a prayer book which wound up in the possession of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Master of François de Rohan is an anonymous person. It was not common in the 16th century for illuminators or artists to sign their works. It is thought that the Master might be from Germany or Switzerland, and then settled in France. The use of architectural devices to frame central illuminations, and squat figures, are more Germanic in style and would support the idea that the Master came from Germany or thereabouts.

The Parisian illuminator was active from around 1525 to 1546.  The strong composition and brightly-hued colours are indicative of works by the Master of François de Rohan.Another common theme throughout the Master’s works shows men with hooked noses and round faces. The Master was likely head of his own workshop, and had a variety of customers instead of being confined to creating items solely for Francis I.

File:La Coche ou débat d'amour - Musée Condé Ms522 f43v (Marguerite de Navarre et Anne de Pisseleu).jpg

Master of François de Rohan, showing Marguerite of Angouleme (right) giving a copy of her book to Anne Pisseleu (left).

Aside from Books of Hours, the Master completed a miniature called “La Coche,” or “The Debate of Love.” ‘La Coche” is a collection of poetry written by Marguerite of Angouleme, Queen Consort of Navarre, Francis’ sister. A miniature at the back of the book features a portrait of Marguerite, shown giving her book to Francis’ mistress, Anne Pisseleu.

The artist’s exceptional talent is attested to by the many illustrious individuals connected to the French court who possessed items touched by the Master of François de Rohan.

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Sources & Suggested Reading

  1. “Hours of Francis I.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/238581 Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  2. Chantilly MS 522.
  3. Orth, Myra D. “The Master of François de Rohan: A Familiar French Renaissance Miniaturist with a New Name.” [From Brown, Michelle P. and McKendrick, Scott. Illuminating the Book: Makers and Interpreters, Essays in Honor of Janet Backhouse.] Toronto: University of Toronto Press (1998).
  4. Doggett, Laine E. and O’Sullivan, Daniel E., eds. Founding Feminisms in Medieval Studies: Essays in Honor of E. Jane Burns. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer (2016).
  5. Orth, Myra D. “The English Great Bible of 1539 and the French Connection.” [From L’Engle, Susan and Guest, Gerald B., eds. Tributes to Jonathan JG Alexander: The Making and Meaning of Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts, Art, and Architecture. London: Harvey Miller (2006)
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