Before the trois-couleurs, before the Eiffel Tower, before the Larousse Gastronomique, a 15th-century artist named Jean Fouquet was at work creating images that were utterly and exclusively French – though, at that time, saying “That is so… French!” might not have been very meaningful to many people. In a new book entitled Jean Fouquet and the Invention of France: Art and Nation after the Hundred Years War. Erik Inglis shows us that Fouquet was, in fact, shaping a national identity through his court painting for Charles VII and Louis XI. Inglis explains both how Fouquet contributed to nascent nationalism, and how this nationalism affected the court’s appreciation of him as a great French artist. French national identity was defined in terms as various as the country’s patron saints and its wine, its buildings and its artists.
One of the ways that Fouquet put his imprimatur on French national identity was by illustrating a 1450s edition of a book entitled the Grandes Chroniques de France – the authoritative history of France. Fouquet’s 15th-century scenes were crucial in re-emphasizing the subordination of the English kings, grandly illustrating the victory of France over its longtime rival.
To read more go to Yale’s Blog http://yalepress.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/the-invention-of-france-happy-bastille-day/