Portrait of Marguerite d'Angoulême, Queen of Navarre

WAG 1308


Marguerite (1492-1549) was the sister of King Francis I of France. The painting may be by his court artist Jean Clouet, who portrayed the King against a similar background (Louvre, Paris). The cupid brooch on her hat and ring suggest the portrait may celebrate her marriage to the King of Navarre in 1527. The meaning of the bird, a rose-ringed parakeet, is uncertain. It could symbolise marital chastity, eloquence or have a family significance: a similar bird is found in another portrait of her brother by Clouet. The golden knots on her headdress resemble daisies - marguerites in French. In 1816 William Roscoe thought this painting was a portrait of a Florentine lady by Leonardo da Vinci. The enigmatic smile of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa may have influenced the French court artist who painted this portrait. Both Leonardo and his famous painting were at the French court when Marguerite was there as a young woman. The portrait was first identified as Marguerite by the German art historian, Passavant, who visited Roscoe in Lodge Lane, Liverpool, only days before he died in 1831. It was first attributed to Clouet in 1836 by Thomas Winstanley, the dealer from whom Roscoe bought many of his paintings. This is one of the artworks presented by the Liverpool Royal Institution. Liverpool’s economic development grew directly from Britain’s involvement with transatlantic slavery: the kidnapping, enslavement and forced migration of people from West Africa to the Americas and many to the Caribbean. Many members of the Royal Institution made their fortunes directly through the trade or indirectly through the wider economy. This wealth was largely how they were able to bring rare art and treasures, such as this, to the city.