HENRI II. DE VALOIS, second son of King Francois I., born on March 31, 1518, at St. Germain-sur-Laye, married Catherine de’ Medici in 1533, and became king of France himself in 1547; as described in the Introduction, he was the victim of an accident at a tournament in 1559.
The contemporary record of payment for this king’s death mask is given in an article byJ.J. Guiffrey: Jean Perreal et Francois Clouet. Mouvelles archives de I’art francais,
The death mask itself is now in the Louvre in Paris; it came from the Magasins des chantiers of St. Denis, that is, approximately, cathedral building works; it is made of terra-cotta, 21 centimetres in height, and is damaged and disfigured on the nose, the lower lip, and the lower part of the beard. (Catalogue des sculptures du Louvre, Paris, 1922, Part I. p. 41.)
The material itself leaves no doubt but that we are dealing with a retouched cast from the actual death mask, especially since we know that the king’s right eye was pierced when he met with the accident in the tournament; it requires the closest observation to detect anything of this in the terra-cotta mask, for the right eye has been far more deliberately retouched than the left, though otherwise the signs of agonised pain have been pitilessly retained. The terra-cotta copy of the death mask served the famous sculptor Gcrmain Pilon as a model for his monument on Henri II.’s tombstone in St. Denis, of which the Louvre has a valuable terra-cotta bowtto in the above-mentioned section (No. 415).
It is worth while to learn how this mask found its way to the Louvre. On August i, 1793, the French National Convention issued the following decree:
“The tombs and mausoleums of former kings in the
The municipal administration of St. Denis, more papal than the Pope himself, did not even wait for the appointed date, but between August 6 and 8 handed over the church where the French kings were buried to the fanatical mob. The fury of the revolutionary masses wreaked itself blindly on the priceless historical symbols of monarchical France; they shattered and wrecked the monuments and piled up the broken remnants in the open market-place as a trophy of their achievement; they even desecrated the kings’ bodies, dragging them from their tombs and leaving them lying about in the streets. An eye-witness has thus described what was done: “I have seen a most extraordinary spectacle: I have passed in review all the kings of the royal line. Though they were disfigured, it was very piquant”. (L. Courajod (see above), Paris, 1878, vol. i. pp. xix and Ixxxvii ft., with notes.)
It is to the undying honour of Alexandre Lenoir and his collaborator Citoyen Scellier that they saved what could be saved from the debris of St. Denis; he transported his treasures to the storehouse in the monastery of the Petite Augustine in Paris, whither he had already brought countless wrecks of precious works of art in bronze, stone, and wood, paintings and products of craftsmanship, during the stormy period from 1792 to 1794. From the Petits Augustins the death mask was taken to the storehouse at St. Denis, probably at the time of the restoration in 1816, and there it was discovered by Louis Courajod in 1882 and transferred to the Louvre.
For a description of the funeral ceremonies of French kings and queens, see Du Tillet, Receuil des Roys de France, Paris, 1607; Andre du Chesne: Les Antiquitez et recherches de la grandeur et maiete des Roys de France, Paris, 1609; Theodore Godefroy: Ceremonial de France, Paris, 1619; Laborde: La Renaissance des arts a la Cow de France, Paris, 1850; P. Viollet: Jehan Foucquet, Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1867, vol. ii. p. 101; Prost: Documents sur l’histoire des arts en