Madonna Surrounded by Seraphim and Cherubim , Jean Fouquet (Melun Diptych)
Sorel’s beauty made quite an impression on the king, which, unsurprisingly, lead her to become his mistress. In this strange painting, Fouquet has captured that beauty, from the way her fashion-forward dress accentuates her body to her porcelain skin, and her demure gaze, she embodies ideal beauty. According to legend, Sorel’s bosom was quite eye-catching. Not to compare apples to oranges, but they are quite askew in both placement and size in the portrait. That factor might make you wonder what the men in the left panel are really looking at.
Sorel was actually more than a mistress who happened to bear the King several children. She was also one of his trusted counselors. During an ill-fated war, Sorel used her charm to gain the financial backing of the wealthy nobles, which in turn aided France in securing its borders. To thank her, Charles made her three children legitimate and promoted her to be his official mistress. In fact, she was the first mistress to be given this title. Said title came with many benefits, including a salary, private chambers, and a substantial place at court. As you could imagine, church officials as well as the King’s own son weren’t thrilled about this. Alas, the pregnant Agnes dropped dead not long after, likely due to mercury poisoning.
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