Spring 2012

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Penny Jolly


Gabrielle d'Estrées and One of Her Sisters in the Bath(fig. 1) depicts two women, likely Gabrielle d'Estrées, sixteenth-century mistress of Henri IV of France, and her sister Juliette, Duchesse d'Villars in a bathtub. Behind them, a modestly-dressed woman sews at a table, while a fire roars in the hearth below a square mirror. Additionally, the corner of a Mannerist painting peeks out from behind a green curtain, displaying a pair of wantonly splayed legs. The coiffed hair and costly pearl earringsworn by the foreground subjects indicate that they are women of high class and position, and strongly contrast with their waist-up nudity. The sisters sit stiffly upright in a bathtub draped with lush red curtains and gauzy white material, and they make bold eye contact with the viewer. Astonishing to modern audiences, the Duchesse reaches over to pinch Gabrielle's right nipple. The image, however, is not a bizarre standalone but rather one of many erotic images of women bathing from Leonardo, Raphael and the School of Fontainebleau, among others. This paper examines Gabrielle d'Estrées and One of Her Sisters and similar images as a form of erotic propaganda, based on the cultural climate surrounding them and the context in which they were produced--the court of King Henri IV of France at Fontainebleau.


Note: Access to this thesis is restricted to Skidmore community.