Art: Founts of Style

Early in the 16th century, French barons (being saddled with the "barbarous" Gothic tradition) seemed as ignorant and vulgar to the Italians as, 400 years later, Texas barons were to the French. The Renaissance had to be imported to France. It came late, in the form of an international style known as Mannerism, and its arrival was largely due to a single patron, Francis I.

From 1528 onwards, the King—whose sharp little eyes, scrolled mouth and drooping wedge of a nose survive in many effigies—set up court in a manor at Fontainebleau. To it...

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