During his pacification of France after the Wars of Religion, Henri IV savvily made use of print in order to legitimize his rule. Portraiture was a particularly important genre. Working with printmakers, Henri commissioned many engravings of himself in a popular three-quarter bust-length oval composition against a dark background. Rather than portraying Henri in a classicizing or mythological guise, these prints depict the king as himself; moreover, these works are notable for their highly refined burin technique and their meticulous rendering of the monarch’s physical features and costume. This article investigates how these portrait prints of Henri, in their attentive treatment of royal corporeality, employed newly introduced Netherlandish engraving techniques and modes of representation to engage with traditional legal discourse surrounding the princely body. As a central part of Henri’s artistic program, these portraits sought to address pressing political issues concerning the royal body, such as legitimacy and succession.
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