Germain Pilon

(c. 1525—1590)

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(b Paris, c.1525; d Paris, 3 Feb. 1590).

The most powerful and original French sculptor of the 16th century. He was the son of a sculptor, AndréPilon. His first known work is the group of Three Graces on the monument for the heart of Henry II (1561–2, Louvre, Paris), which shows that his early manner was based on the elegant decorative style of the School of Fontainebleau, in particular Primaticcio's stuccowork. Although his work never lost its tendency towards graceful Mannerist elongation, it developed in the direction of greater naturalism and emotional intensity. These qualities are seen most memorably in his marble gisants on the tomb of Henry II and Catherine de' Medici at Saint-Denis Abbey (1563–70), poignant works in which the semi-nude figures are shown relaxed in death. The kneeling effigies of Henry and Catherine on the upper tier of the tomb are of bronze and Pilon excelled in this medium as well as marble, both as a portrait sculptor (Charles IX, c.1574, Wallace Coll., London) and a medallist—he was appointed controller general of the Paris mint in 1572. Pilon's early work was influential on his successors, but the deeply felt emotion of his later style proved too personal to inspire imitation. Several examples of his sublime late work are in the Louvre, notably the tomb of Valentine Balbiani (c.1580).

Subjects: Renaissance Art.

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