Pierre Quesnel

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Pierre Quesnel, 1574

Pierre Quesnel (c.1502 – c. 1580) was a 16th-century French artist who worked in Scotland.

Pierre worked in Scotland for Mary of Guise and James V. He is listed as an Usher in Guise's household and is identified as the queen's painter in the Scottish Treasurer's Accounts.[1] (Artists at the French court were also given positions as ushers or valets.)[2] Pierre, 'Perys the uscher', was given £10 at the time of Mary of Guise's coronation.[3] According to an inscription on the back of a portrait of his son Nicholas, he married Madeleine Digby in Scotland,[4] and his eldest son the painter François Quesnel was born in Edinburgh.[5] Quesnel must have returned to France with his family around 1544. His sons Nicolas and Jacques were also artists, and a number of chalk portraits by François and Nicolas survive. Jacques's work is known only through a single drawing, Time slaying Youth.[6]

Pierre's work is also mostly lost, excepting an Architectural Study after Jacques Androuet du Cerceau, preserved at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and another drawing, a view called Château of Sées.[7] The Abbé de Marolles, a seventeenth-century French writer, recorded Pierre in verse as the designer of a stained-glass window for the Eglise des Augustins in Paris in 1557, with subject, Ascension of Christ with Portraits of Henri II and Catherine de Medici, now destroyed. Marolles also stated that Pierre and his son François designed tapestries.[8]

Although these works are destroyed, there is a portrait of Pierre himself made by Nicolas or François in 1574.[9] The historian Andrea Thomas argued from Pierre's small salary as an usher in Scotland that he was a decorative painter rather a portrait artist.[10] Pierre and François are recorded painting panelling and chimneypieces in Paris in 1570.[11] However, in November 1541, Mary of Guise's mother, Antoinette de Bourbon, wrote to thank her daughter for the portrait miniature James V had sent, which she called a 'diamond', and was presumably painted from life;

"pour bien faire mes tres humbles mersimens au Roy du dyament quy luy a pleu m'envoyer. Je vous repons se m'a este present bien agreable et que j'ayme aultant qu'yl est possible; il sera garde toute ma vye pour l'onneur de luy. Je l'ay trouve sy beau sa painture que sy savyes combien je l'ayme j'e peur vous en series jallouse.
And to make my very humble thanks to the King for the 'diamond' he sent me. I tell you it is most agreeable and I hold it in highest esteem, it will be kept carefully all my life for his honour. I find his picture so beautiful that if it was known how much, you would be jealous."[12]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Apted & Hannabuss, Dictionary of Scottish Painters, SRS (1978), 77: Thomas, Andrea, Princelie Majestie, John Donald (2005), 85: Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 8, 59, 77, 84, 92.
  2. ^ Table of French court artists' salaries and appointments (in French)
  3. ^ Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 7 (1907), 296, March 1540.
  4. ^ Reiset, Frederic, Notice des dessins, cartons, pastels ... du Louvre (1869) 411-413: Was "Digby", Edbe, the surname of James V's tapestry man?
  5. ^ Benezit, Emmanuel, Dictionnaire Des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs Et Graveurs, 14 vols. (1911-1920/1999), quotes Marolles on biography of Pierre.
  6. ^ Brugerolles & Guillet, The Renaissance in France, ENSBA/Harvard (1995), 210.
  7. ^ Brugerolles & Guillet (1995), 210-11 & note1, (?Château d'O, 9km from Sées).
  8. ^ Jannet, P., ed., Marolles' Livre des Peintres et Graveurs, Paris (1855) 49-51.
  9. ^ Preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Cabinet des Estampes, call no. Na 22: cf. drawing ENSBA website.
  10. ^ Thomas, Andrea, Princelie Majestie, the court of James V, John Donald (2005), 85.
  11. ^ Grodecki,Cathérine, Histoire de l'art au XVIe siècle, 1540-1600, vol. 2, Archives Nationales, (1986), 24, 203-204 no. 830
  12. ^ Wood, Marguerite, Foreign Correspondence with Mary of Lorraine, Balcarres Papers, Scottish History Society, Edinburgh, vol. 1, (1923), 69-70.
Preceded by
Mynours, Inglis payntour
Painter at the Scottish royal court
Succeeded by
Arnold Bronckhorst