This book is designed to cover French art during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The main emphasis has been laid on the major arts, and certain subjects, particularly the applied arts, have of necessity been dealt with in a rather summary manner, or only where they are directly relevant to developments in other fields. But even within the major arts themselves the space allotted to different parts has varied according to the particular problems presented. So, for instance, the sixteenth century has been discussed in greater detail than, say, the art of Versailles, because, whereas in the case of the latter the main outlines are already well known, the earlier period still presents so many difficulties and obscurities that a summary would be impossible, and the evidence has to be set out in detail. In particular, the origins of French art in Italy and elsewhere have usually been studied in such general terms that it seemed essential to establish more precise points of contact and to define the exact sources on which French painters, sculptors, and architects drew when they visited Italy and other countries. Only in this way can the development of French art be seen as part of the general European tradition, and its peculiar qualities isolated.
I am keenly aware of the many problems left unsolved in this book, but many of them, particularly those connected with art in the provinces, cannot be solved till much more work has been done on archives and on the smaller museums of France. It is therefore inevitable that many points should at present be put forward as tentative suggestions and should be subject to correction.
In the preparation of this new volume I have received help of varied kinds from many different people both in this country and in France. It would be impossible to acknowledge every instance individually, but certain special debts must be mentioned. First I must thank those private owners and directors of museums who have generously allowed me to reproduce works in their possession. To my colleague, Professor Johannes Wilde, I owe the deepest gratitude for his constant help and inspiration during the whole period when I was working on the book, and for his kindly and constructive comments on it when it was in manuscript. Professor E. K. Waterhouse has over a long period of years continually supplied me with information about French painting from his unrivalled store of erudition, and, in addition, he and Dr Margaret Whinney read the proofs and made many useful suggestions and corrections. Mrs Peter Cope helped me in the troublesome pursuit of photographs in various parts of France. The assistance which I have received from many members of the staff of the Courtauld Institute, particularly from members of the Photographic Department, has been too constant to admit of acknowledgement in detail. The heaviest load, however, has fallen on Miss Elsa Scheerer, who has, with unfailing patience and kindness, prepared the final manuscript, read proofs, prepared the index, and carried out all those most difficult and unrewarding tasks which are involved in seeing a book such as this through the press.