Pilon spent most of the productive period of his life in working for the French Court, which under Catherine de Medici and her sons, offered employment to a host of artists in widely diversified fields. Among the sculptors of the epoch Pilon was the most successful, his only considerable rival being Jean Goujon, whose genius was constantly thwarted by ill luck and who accomplished far less than his more fortunate contemporary.
The marble head included in the Altman bequest is interesting not only as an evidence of Pilon’s technical attainments, but also for its historical significance. The subject is Charles IX, King of France, and second son of Henri II and Catherine de Medici. He was born in 1550 and bore the title of Duc d’Orleans until on the death of his brother he ascended the throne in 156o. He died in 1574, remembered chiefly, and not enviably, as having been the tool of his mother and the instrument through which she brought about the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew which the King decreed in 1572. The bust was executed toward the end of the young King’s not very creditable life, and can scarcely have flattered the royal sitter. This work of Pilon’s remained from the time of its execution, until recently, in the ancestral chateau of the Duc de Montmorency Laval