French Renaissance

French Renaissance is a recent term used to describe a cultural and artistic movement in France from the late 15th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that originated in northern Italy in the fourteenth century. The French Renaissance traditionally extends from the French invasion of Italy in 1494 during the reign of Charles VIII until the death of Henry IV in 1610. This chronology not withstanding, certain artistic, technological or literary developments associated with the Italian Renaissance arrived in France earlier however, the Black Death of the 14th century and the Hundred Years’ War kept France economically and politically weak until the late 15th century and this prevented the full use of these influences.


They include pilasters, columns, bands, pediments, figures in low relief, pinnacles, brackets, scrolls, linenfold, tracery, strapwork, grotesques, caryatids, fruit, flowers, heraldry, fleur de lis, stars, and diamonds.

Crowns and initials, such as F, H, C, and L, which are symbols of royalty, appear at entrancesand on ceiling, furnishings, and decorative arts. 



Strapwork- ornament of interlacing bands


Fleur de lis


Public and private Buildings

The types are the chateau, which is the main building type, but churches and hotels and public buildings are constructed.



Site Orientation- Henri IV  insitutes urban planning concepts in Paris. French squaresare framworks for private houses. Other urban enviornments locate churches near the city center, and town houses are positioned on streets in close proximity to the main square.  Chateaux as country homes, are sited within natural landscapes featuring long vistas, many are located along hills and rivers.

Floor plans- Churches continue the traditional Latin cross plan. The plan at Chambord develops as a fortified rectangular compound with a central courtyard and corner turrets; within it, the main building has a Greek cross and introduces the appartment, chambre, and cabinet. Most homes have no interior hallways.

Materials- Stone is the most preferred building material followed by brick. Roofs are usually of slate. Vernacular buildings commonly adopt briquete entre poteaux construction; half -timber construction with brick infill covered with plaster, or pierrotage;half- timber construction with stones and clay.

Facades- Exteriors of chateaux exhibit symmertry, an Italian bay system, windows placed directly over one another, and horizontalemphasis from cornices and string courses. Wall typically are not rusticated. Churches exhibit  Gothic proportions, buttresses, vaults, and pinnacles.


Windows, which vary in size, remain large as previously to allow in the maximum light. Most have mullions forming a Latin cross with four or six lights. Dormers often have elaborately shaped surrounds.

Roofs- Chateau roofs exhibit irregular outlines with lanterns, turrets, dormers, and chimneys decorated with classical, Mannerist, and Gothic motifs.


Color- Colors are rich and highly saturated. Gold, deep blue, olive green, brown, cream, and rustare important hues.

Lighting- Shutters, instead of curtains, control natural light and privacy. Candles and fireplaces give minimal artificial lighting.

Floors – Most floors are wood in boards or parquet patterns. Lower floors are of masonry or tiled. Rugs are rare.

Walls- Interior walls are often white plaster or wood paneling. Gilding is common in important rooms in greater houses. Wall treatments include paneling, painting, and hangings. Tall narrow panels retaining Gothic proportions sometimes feature carving or painted Gothic or classical decoration.

Chimmneypiece is the largest and most important decorative feature of the interior. The projecting hood may be decorated with classic and Gothic details, coat of arms, and royal and period motifs. Rooms without fireplaces have large porcelain stoves or braziers.

Windows and doors- Curtains, which are limited to weathly homes, are only used as function not decoration. Doorways are not always symmetrical and are placed where needed. Door panels usually match wainscoting.

Ceilings – Beamed ceilings are embellished with carving and/or brightly colored stripes, arabesques, or other repeating motifs. Coffers in geometric patterns typically are carved, painted, or gilded. Plaster ceilings are usually left plain.

Furnishings and Decorative Arts

Distintive Features- Legs may be columns, baluster, or sprials and are usually connected with stretchers. Sprial carvings turns left to right or in opposite driections for symmetry. Feet may be ball or bun. Low- and high- relief carvings highlight most pieces.


Seating- Chairs include the Gothic choirstall, the x-form, the caquetorie, the chaise, and the chaise a bras.

Gothic choirstall

The x- form

The Caquetoire

The Chaise

The Chaise a bras







Tapestries-  Francois I begins a tapestry factory at Fontainebleau using Flemish and French weavers. Reniassance tapestries have wider borders than Gothic tapestries and exhibit classical motifs or depict classical scenes.

Ceramics and Enamel

Faience- Tin glazed earthenware

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