On a visit to Rome around 1445, Jean Fouquet caused a great sensation when he painted a portrait of Pope Eugenius IV on canvas rather than the more common wood support. The momentous result of this sojourn, where he admired the work of the most innovative Italian artists of the 1400s, was that Fouquet introduced concepts and techniques of Italian Renaissance art into French painting. His subsequent work in panel painting, illuminated manuscripts, and portraiture earned him a reputation as the most important French painter of the 1400s.
Born in Tours, then the seat of the French monarchy, Fouquet worked for King Charles VII and his court. At the time of Charles's death, the court commissioned him to make a colored death mask for the king's public funeral, an indication of Fouquet's prominence. Under Charles's successor, King Louis XI, Fouquet was appointed peintre du roy (Court Painter). In this exalted position, he supervised a large workshop that produced paintings and manuscripts. He also worked on additional assignments such as painting banners, building the scaffolding for a mystery play presented to celebrate the entrance of Louis XI into Paris, and painting a canopy for the ceremonial entrance of Alfonso V of Portugal into Tours.