Oil on canvas. French school of the late 16th century, entourage of François Bunel le Jeune (1522 - 1599).
Our painting, a true historical testimony, represents an episode of Parisian life at the end of the 16th century.
The composition depicts one of the processions organized in Paris between 1590 and 1593 by the League, a union of the most intransigent Catholics. In the heart of the Ile de la Cité, in front of the stalls at the foot of Notre-Dame (in the background), a procession made up of armed soldiers and monks is cheered by the crowd that witnesses the noisy parade. The Holy League was formed at the height of the Wars of Religion and in 1589, it did not accept the accession to the throne of France of a Protestant, Henry IV. It fought him as it had fought his predecessor, Henry III, who was accused of too much religious tolerance and who had had one of his leaders, the Duke of Guise, assassinated. In Paris, a capital city that refused to accept its new king, these spectacular processions of armed clerics were a way to bring terror to the population and to show the determination of the ultra-Catholics. Only the conversion of Henri IV to Catholicism in 1593 will allow to appease the spirits.
Numerous works, attributed to François Bunel le Jeune or to painters of his entourage, depicting these processions of the League are preserved in French museums: in the Carnavalet Museum in Paris (fig. 1 and 2), in the collections of the museums of Rouen, Bourges, Valenciennes and Pau (fig. 3), and in the Château de Versailles.
The theme of the League procession was skilfully exploited by propaganda hostile to the Parisian League. Popularized by the poets of the Satyre Ménippée (1593), this theme also nourished a whole family of paintings whose paternity is initially attributed to François Bunel, an artist loyal to Henry of Navarre.
François Bunel II, known as le Jeune (Blois 1522 - Paris 1599): Born in Blois around 1522 and active in this city, the portraitist François Bunel was the son of the painter also named François and known as Bunel le Vieux. In 1583, he was attached to the service of the King of Navarre, the future Henry IV, as a painter and valet de chambre.
If he painted the sovereign before 1583, as a child Henri IV in the Versailles museum and a Procession of the League in a private collection might suggest, none of his paintings of the mature Béarnais have survived, except for two prints (fig. 4), both of which are in one copy.