ANONYMOUS, French School
Maximilien de Béthune, Duc de Sully (1560-1641)
Cast bronze with golden brown patina
Diameter: 3 7/8 inches (10 cm)
Mark Jones, A Catalogue of the French Medals in the British Museum, Volume Two: French Medals 1600-1672, London, 1988, p. 67 no. 20, pp. 70-72 nos. 25, 26
Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully, was a soldier, statesman, and trusted right-hand man to Henri IV of France, whom he served faithfully until the king’s assassination in 1610. He was instrumental in restoring prosperity to France after the Wars of Religion (1562-98), acting as superintendent of finances, grand commissioner of highways and public works, superintendent of fortifications, and grand master of artillery.
In this powerful and dignified portrait by an unknown artist, Sully is shown in profile facing left, wearing ceremonial armor, a ruff, and a sash. In the seventeenth century this likeness was sometimes paired with a portrait of Henri IV facing right, after Guillaume Dupré’s medal of 1606, as in two examples in alabaster and painted plaster that recently appeared on the art market (Christie’s Paris, October 16, 2013, lot 134, and 7 March 2017, lot 76, respectively). Dupré is known to have portrayed Maximilien de Béthune in 1607 in a medallion that survives in several examples (British Museum). That portrait, however, is quite different from ours and shows the sitter facing to the right. Because the style of our portrait corresponds so closely with that of Dupré’s portrait of Henri IV, it is possible that our medallion reflects a second, unrecorded portrait by Dupré. Two porcelain examples of the medallion are in the collection of the British Museum.