Henry II Style (1530-1590)

The Henry II style spread under the reigns of the last Valois kings, from Henry II to Francis I until the beginning of the 17th century.

'Henri II, roi de France', école italienne, 16ème siècle.
Henri II- Musée Condé, Chantilly.

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/24dde232-2d33-4872-8659-a46252c785ed by Lejeune Grégory

History and curiosities

During this period, important French architects and sculptors inspired their ideas to the principles learned in Italy. They brought to France several Italian artists from Raphael‘s or Michelangelo‘s school Saint-Porchaire. This is an example of low-fire white pottery made in France in the middle years of the sixteenth century. It took the name of Henri II ware because some pieces bring the king’s name.

It is white faience ware designed for a restricted French public. Only about sixty pieces survived, but they all clearly show the influence of the Mannerist movement. The production of Saint-Porchaire used to create unique pieces different from each other. Basic clay shapes were put on the wheel and refined. The surface was then protected with a lead glaze to give golden transparency. It is possible to see upon these pieces distinctive designs derived from Mannerist works of art.

Mirror, Johann Valentin Gevers (German, ca. 1662–1732), Oak and pine veneered with tortoiseshell, silver, silver gilt, and green-stained ivory; mirror glass, German, Augsburg
Mirror ca. 1710 – Johann Valentin Gevers -German

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/207785

'Henri II Ware' Salt LACMA AC1999.181.1 (2 of 2)
Henri II Ware’ Salt -England, 1876

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/835a1ae9-0232-4e7c-9cbc-1be27171e064 by

File:Funerary statues of Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici-Basilique de Saint-Denis.jpg
Funerary statues of Henry II of France and Catherine de’ Medici-Basilique de Saint-Denis

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/c15a6db1-502d-4b50-a2c8-6108d5d58d97 by Yair Haklai

Furniture style

During this period there was an important artistic activity that led to the birth of albums of engravings inspired by classical antiquity. The authors  were Jacques Androuet du Cerceau, a Parisian, and Hugues Sambin, a Burgundian. They sold albums in their cities, Paris and Dijon.

On and on and Henri on, Decorative antique french Henri II bed in walnut #frenchbed #frenchfurniture
Decorative antique french Henri II bed in walnut

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/0f314b32-cfd4-4386-931e-4cf9c6a9f9a3 by frenchfinds.co.uk

The schools of the Henry II style can be distinguished by their way of carving: the one of the Île de France, and the one of the Burgundy. The Burgundian style used a lavish carving  suggesting richness. The Île de France school preferred the elegantly sculpted goddesses of Jean Goujon.

Armoire, Style of Hugues Sambin (French, Gray ca. 1520–1601 Dijon), Walnut, French
Armoire, by Hugues Sambin- (French, Gray ca. 1520–1601 Dijon), Walnut, French

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/192768?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Hugues+Sambin+%2c1580&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=6

The Henry II style featured an architectural character, as did Gothic. For example, the armoires had four doors, two above and two below, separated by pilasters. The architectural effect was improved by the presence of niches with statuettes. Mythological figures were favorite motifs.

File:Amboise Chateau - King Henri II's Chamber-5.jpg
Amboise Chateau – King Henri II’s Chamber

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/8a749dce-cbc7-4eba-a241-394afc406346 by Geoff Livingston

Rectangular tables were engraved, with chimeras and caryatides, and even colonnades and longitudinal arcades, which brought to them the same incredible architectural feeling.

Antique French henri II bed pediment
Antique French Henri II bed pediment

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/c8c3f21e-13a7-40d3-b2d8-dfc7f86b983f by frenchfinds.co.uk


Hans Holbein’s “The Ambassadors” is one of the best-known paintings in the world. It was made in the Tudor period. It is a double portrait, the painting tells about still life and features several very well rendered objects, the meaning of which caused important debates. It is preserved in the collection of the National Gallery in London.

The Ambassadors
The Ambassadors, Hans Holbein, 1533, oil on oak.

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/75cd11d0-865d-4d40-9d4e-69405b34b28e by DJANDYW.COM


Many products of the Henry II style were architectural and they lasted until today. First Rosso Fiorentino and then Francesco Primaticcio and Sebastiano Serlio became Henry II’s court artisans, building up his gallery and the Aile de la Belle Cheminée.

Rosso fiorentino, creazione di eva e peccato originale, 1524 ca.
Stories of the Genesis by Rosso Fiorentino – 1524 ca

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/35f06f92-736f-476b-a6bb-caef66984b25 by Sailko

The French architect Pierre Lescot and the sculptor Jean Goujon restored the Palais du Louvre that laid around the famous square court. The Château d’Anet,  was commissioned by Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II and was designed by Philibert Delorme, that studied in Rome. The very mannerist estate hosted a statue of Diana by Benvenuto Cellini, that was in France at the time.

Château d'Anet de style Renaissance, Anet, Eure-et-Loir,
Château d’Anet de style Renaissance, Anet, Eure-et-Loir,

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/0eb5d046-1159-4783-8520-1dbc2de62dfb by olive.titus

Château d'Anet de style Renaissance, Anet, Eure-et-Loir
Château d’Anet de style Renaissance, Anet, Eure-et-Loir

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/872b0e45-fa02-41e5-b87c-b0ff1a5500da by olive.titus

In 1564 Delorme began the project for the Tuileries, the most surprising Parisian palace of the Henry II style. It also featured several mannerist classical themes, for which Delorm developed his own “French order” of columns.

France - Tuileries Garden
Tuileries Palace, Paris.

Image souce: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/7526b389-22ab-47e0-9d20-bc8fa2d994d2 by archer10 (Dennis)

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/art/Henry-II-style

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