In the 15th century the art of France, like that of Germany, came increasingly under the influence of the Netherlandish school. The painter Jean Fouquet and the anonymous master responsible for the celebrated Villeneauve Pieta (c.1460; Louvre, Paris) were also aware of contemporary Italian art. By introducing elements of clarity and stability in their work, they achieved a unique combination of formal weight and factual and portraitlike design.
At the beginning of the 16th century Italian styles became extremely popular in France because artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Benvenuto CELLINI, Francesco PRIMATICCIO, Rosso Fiorentino, and Niccolo dell'Abbate (c.1512-71) were employed there by Francis I. Features of Italian Renaissance style were adopted at first by French artists in a rather superficial manner, producing effects of fascinating disquiet alongside native forms of medieval origin, in such hybrid structures as the Chateau de BLOIS (1515-20), which incorporates Italian decorative architectural elements with the medieval-style architecture.
Architecture burgeoned with the construction of the massive and luxurious Chateau de CHAMBORD and Chateau de Fontainebleau. The court workshop established at the Chateau de Fontainebleau became an important center, known as the school of Fontainebleau. In its exaggerated elegance and complex fantasies combining sculpture, painting, and architecture, the school of Fontainebleau represented a high point in the development of Mannerism.
By the mid-16th century a number of highly talented French masters made their appearance, among them the architect Philibert DELORME, who reasserted a classical style based on measure and proportion. The painter Francois Clouet developed a highly polished and sensuous style of court portraiture, and during the last decades of the century Germain Pilon produced sculptures that represent the highest achievements of the French Renaissance.