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Art and the Court of Burgundy



Medieval Power and Politics
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier<br><i>Tomb of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria</i>, 1443-70<br>Black marble, stone painted black, partially polychromed and gilded marble<br>© Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay
  Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier
Tomb of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria, 1443-70
Black marble, stone painted black, partially polychromed and gilded marble
© Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay

 

In medieval times, a territory known as the Duchy of Burgundy nestled between the regions ruled by France and the lands of the Holy Roman Empire. It was called a "duchy" because it was ruled by a duke. From 1363 to 1477, the dukes of Burgundy came from a branch of the French royal family called the Valois (vahl-wah). To stay powerful and independent, they made use of marriages, battles, alliances, and assassinations. During the chaos of the Hundred Years' War, while the French and English fought each other, the dukes of Burgundy expanded their territory.

Awe-inspiring works of art and architecture made the Burgundian court a more impressive cultural center than the court of France. Hiring artists to create wonderful works of art was one important way the dukes of Burgundy proclaimed their right to power.

Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy from 1363 to 1404, displayed his religious piety and wealth by having a church and monastery built and filling them with works of art. Philip's son John the Fearless, who ruled from 1404 to 1419, continued the tradition of commissioning art. Besides exhibiting his wealth, this strengthened his political power and leadership. John wanted a tomb (pictured here) similar to his father's in style and craftsmanship, so that his family would appear to be a strong, established line of rulers.


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1. Lavish materials and skilled craftsmanship show John the Fearless's wealth and status, as do the armor and luxurious garments of his sculptured tomb image, or effigy.
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier, Tomb of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria(detail), 1443-70, black marble, stone painted black, partially polychromed and gilded marble. © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay
2. This drawing illustrates the Chartreuse de Champmol, the church and monastery built by Philip the Bold.
Aimé Piron, View of the Chartreause de Champmol, 1686, Bibliothèque Municipale, Dijon
3. John the Fearless had his cousin Louis of Orléans killed in an attempt to seize control of France.
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier, Tomb of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria(detail), 1443-70, polychromed and gilded marble. © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay

 

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January 2011