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Les Carolingiens Charlemagne
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Les Valois. Jean II le Bon-Louis XII
Les Valois d'Angoulême. François Ier-Henri III
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Les Bourbons. Régence - Louis XVI
Le Premier Empire. Napoléon Ier
La Restauration. Louis XVIII-Louis Philippe
Le Second Empire. Napoléon III
Les Regalia
Regalia in English
Les Joyaux de la Couronne

Portraits of the kings and emperors of France


In this site, my goal has been to gather a great number of portraits of French kings and emperors, and of their closest relatives.


There are in fact, very few Internet sites containing these portraits: the information on this topic is very sparse for the most part. Besides, the documents are often of low quality, and the legends sometimes very incomplete. I have selected, as much as possible, works of high quality, of large format, and the legends give the name of the artist, the title of the work, the dates that are useful, and the location of the work (certain legends are left incomplete because of lack of information).


I started with portraits of the kings and emperors (official portraits and more intimate), then with those of their spouses, their children, mistresses, and of certain members of their families, and sometimes of some of famous political people, close to the sovereign. This ensemble, is of course not exhaustive (although it includes more than 390 portraits ); it only contains the documents found on Internet (their quality being the most important factor); other works may be added later.


The portraits are presented in chronological order, according to their traditional family sorting: Valois, Bourbon, etc. I started by the Valois branch because I only selected the portraits made from life, or the portraits made by artists contemporaries of their models: the first well known of this bring the one of Jean II Le Bon (14th century).


There will be some exceptions to this principle: in a symbolic manner, the first portrait reproduced is one of the most famous Carolingian: Karolus Magnus, known as "Charlemagne" (in France ). There does not exist a painting made from life of this emperor; all the existing portraits are more or less imaginary, but when the painter Albrecht Durer paints his “Charlemagne”, it has style! The other exception, which illustrates the passage of time between the Carolingian branch and theValois branch concerns the imaginary portraits of two famous Capetians. The last notable exception is the imaginary portrait of Joan of Arc by Ingres, because of her historical importance, and of the painter's notioriety.

The first portrait of a French king, painted from life, is the one of Jean II Le Bon (Louvre Museum).


The sovereign who has most used this medium of communication is probably Napoleon Bonaparte, who, without doubt, took example from Louis XIV, and who remains his great rival in this area. It is important to note that all the kings and emperors have called upon the greatest artists of their time.


You'll find several famous paintings:  Portrait of Charles VII, by Jean Fouquet - Portrait of François the First, by Jean Clouet - Portrait of Henri IV in armour, by Frans II Pourbus - Portrait of Louis XIII in armour, and cardinal de Richelieu, by Philippe de Champaigne - Portrait of Louis XIV, by Hyacinthe Rigaud - Portrait of Louis XV, by Louis-Michel van Loo - Napoleon the First on the imperial throne, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres - Portrait of Charles X wearing his coronation attire, by François Gérard - Official portrait of Emperor Napoléon III, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter .

Goal: this site is not one designed by an historian, which I am not. Instead, it is one designed by an art lover, on a specific theme. What interests me first is not the subject of the painting, but the works of art done by artists who used all their talents at the service of their sovereign, in order to leave magnificent and precious images to posterity.


The attached notes are designed to bring in part some genealogical as well as anecdotal informations.


This site is regularly updated. A new section , entitled: The Regalia of the Crown of France and accompanied by historical notes, completes the portraits gallery.


                                                                                          Jean-Louis Gautreau



Thanks : This textbook has been translated into English by Mrs Maryvonne Mavroukakis (Library of Congress, Washington DC)


* To enlarge the portrait, click on the image (ADSL useful). To further expand the portrait, with your cursor over the image, click on the expansion icon at the bottom right of the picture.

* Three dates are mentioned for each souvereign: the birth date, the date he acceeded to the throne, and the date of death.

* The date the portrait was executed, and its location are indicated at the end of each legend.

© 2009 Jean-Louis Gautreau