Germain Pilon

born c. 1535 in Paris, France

Pilon's Biography

Pilon most likely spent most of his life in his father's workshop located in Paris, but not much is known of his beginnings of his career. Pilon was the pupil of Pierre Bontemps who was also a sculptor. He was greatly influenced by ultramontane and was under Primaticcio's guidance. Germain Pilon had many kids, nine in fact, although it must have difficult, I am unsure if he helped out at home. He was most likely building sculptures for commissions. His art was made up of sculptures with a few sketches but he is best known for his sculptures in the Renaissance age. He is behind the works Monument for the Heart of Henry II, The Virgin of Sorrows, and the Tomb of Catherine of the Medici's. After his work on the Monument his patron was King Charles IX and from then on he was never left without a royal commission. Pilon is most recognized for his naturalism and secularism in his pieces. Naturalism because of the precise detail in the sculpture's physical detail and even on the pieces of clothing and other parts of the work. The faces on the sculptures were so well defined that that's what he became known for. Secularism was also a big part in his art because just by looking at his pieces you can tell which people are of power and importance by color and detail . He was also the sculptor for many royal officials, especially for when they died, so power was always incorporated in his works.

His Work

The name of the featured piece is Cardinal René de Birague, it was created from 1584 to 1585. You can find this piece in the Louvre, and can also be found in select Renaissance art books around the world. This work is one of the crowning achievements of bronze sculpture at the time. Even the subject itself was a very controversial man, he was a successful monarch in Paris and later became chancellor of France. The praying motion (or lack thereof) in this sculpture represented external prayer which is shown to the viewer. The first thing that pops out at you when you look at this piece is the contrast. The striking difference between the black figure and the white column is really powerful and gives this artwork a story already. If you take a look closer you can see the incredible facial detail and the especially immense detail on the drapes of the robe itself. On accounts of others, this piece especially was known for its naturalism due to the detail. As described before, Pilon was renown for his detail that he added to each sculpture. The cheekbones and facial hair are added for a more realistic effect, not only does the face include amazing detail but the clothes and column as well. On the column you can see the faces at the bottom, and although not the main focus of the piece, still carved with specific detail. The robe looks so delicately draped in the back and the way it folds shows how much work was put into the overall importance of this certain artwork. I really enjoyed the colors right from the start, I love when art has big contrasts in color. I think that itself gives a lot of power to it because you can see the conflict between light and the dark and I think that gives it a special meaning.


“Artstor.” Arstor Digital Library. n.d.

"Germain Pilon." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Biography in Context. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

"Germain Pilon." Merriam Webster's Biographical Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster,

1995. Biography in Context. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

Google Images. "Germain Self Portrait"