Jean Fouquet was born in Tours. He is the most representative and national French painter of the 15th century. Of his life little is known, but it is certain that he was in Italy about 1437, where he executed the portrait of Pope Eugenius IV, and that upon his return to France, whilst retaining his purely French sentiment, he grafted the elements of the Tuscan style, which he had acquired during his sojourn in Italy, upon the style of the Van Eycks, which was the basis of early 15th-century French art, and thus became the founder of an important new school. He was court painter to Louis XI.
Though his supreme excellence as an illuminator and miniaturist, of exquisite precision in the rendering of the finest detail, and his power of clear characterization in work on this minute scale, have long since procured him an eminent position in the art of his country, his importance as a painter was only realized when his portraits and altarpieces were for the first time brought together from various parts of Europe, at the exhibition of the French Primitives held at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.
One of Fouquets most important paintings is the diptych, formerly at Notre Dame de Melun , of which one wing, depicting Agnès Sorel as the Virgin, is now at the Antwerp Museum and the other in the Berlin Gallery . The Louvre has his oil portraits of Charles VII, of Count Wilczek , and of Jouvenal des Ursins , besides a portrait drawing in crayon; whilst an authentic portrait from his brush is in the Liechtenstein collection.
Far more numerous are his illuminated books and miniatures that have come down to us. The Brentano-Laroche collection at Frankfurt contains forty miniatures from a Book of Hours, painted in 1461 for Etienne Chevalier who is portrayed by Fouquet on the Berlin wing of the Melun altarpiece . From Fouquet's hand again are eleven out of the fourteen miniatures illustrating a translation of Josephus at the Bibliothque Nationale. The second volume of this MS., unfortunately with only one of the original thirteen miniatures, was discovered and bought in 1903 by Mr Henry Yates Thompson at a London sale, and restored by him to France.