Cameo with a Portrait Bust of Francis I


This small cameo is engraved with a portrait bust of Francis I, from his right side, presented like a Roman emperor, wearing a crown of laurels, body armor, and a paludamentum (emperor’s cloak). Francis I was king of France from 1515 to his death in 1547. The cameo is part of a collection of 63 portraits of the kings of France, all identifiable by their captions, from legendary King Pharamond to Louis XIII. The collection is held in the Museum of Coins, Medals, and Antiques at the National Library of France. The portraits are engraved in relief (embossed design) on soft shell, which appears white in the thicker areas and translucent where it is thinner. They are covered with a black tar-like paste which, by transparency, imparts blue hues or tones to the background of the cameo, making it look like onyx. While the portraits of the later kings (such as this one) copy contemporary medals, the portraits of their ancestors, both mythical and real, are mostly inspired by engravings.

Last updated: April 23, 2015