possibly after Simon Vouet and Philippe de Champaigne, Armand de Gontaut, Baron de Biron (1524–1592)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Armand de Gontaut, Baron de Biron (1524–1592)
The Music Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas in a feigned oval
Overall height: 42 cm, Overall width: 34.5 cm
possibly after Simon Vouet (1590-1649) and Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
Catalogue Number


Armand de Gontaut, Baron de Biron (1524–1592) was a renowned French military commander. Wounded in Piedmont in his youth, he was nicknamed ‘Armand le Boiteux’ (the lame). Biron distinguished himself in the French wars of religion, commanding the royal forces at the siege of La Rochelle, and in 1576 was made a marshal of France. Although a strong supporter of Henry III, after the king was killed in 1589 he was one of the first to support Henry of Navarre. He was killed by a cannonball at the siege of Épernay on 26 July 1592.

The canvas medium and the painter’s stylistic technique suggest that this painting is unlikely to have been executed during Biron’s lifetime. It relates closely to the portrait of Biron that hung in Cardinal Richelieu’s ‘Galerie des Hommes Illustres’, a collection of twenty-five illustrious men and women painted by Simon Vouet and Philippe de Champaigne and completed in 1635. Biron was also godfather to Richelieu. The Galerie portrait was widely known through François Bignon’s engraving, published in 1640 in Les Portraits des Hommes Illustres François, and through many subsequent engravings and editions, each slightly different.1 However, the Raynham portrait differs from the Galerie portrait in several ways: Biron appears older, his sash is across the opposite shoulder and the unknown artist has added embroidery to the sash and decorative brass detailing to the armour, suggesting that this portrait may not derive from Bignon’s engraving. There is no known Townshend connection to Biron and it is not clear how this painting came to Raynham.

by Amy Lim


  1. A copy of the 1655 edition of Les Portraits des Hommes Illustres François, containing Bignon’s engraving of Armand de Gontaut, is in the library of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 06/5220.


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