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Art and the Court of Burgundy
 






Chart Your Course: Use Google Maps to locate Dijon, France, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which now houses the tomb of John the Fearless. Then locate the United States and the museums that are exhibiting the mourners as they travel outside of France: New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Saint Louis, Missouri, Saint Louis Art Museum; Dallas, Texas, Dallas Museum of Art; Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco, California, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor; Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  



Identify Yourself: The dukes of Burgundy used visual symbols to identify themselves and to show their political power. Create your own symbol using the Design a Coat of Arms interactive Web site by the Victoria and Albert Museum.  



Awe-Inspiring Architecture: Explore the architecture of French Gothic cathedrals in CNN's Millennium series video #2-3 France: European Cathedrals in the 12th Century (1100s).  



Monumental Masterpiece: John the Fearless's successor, Philip the Good, commemorated his father by commissioning the completion of John's ornate tomb. How do Americans commemorate important historical figures or leaders? Use the Internet to find examples both similar to and different from the tomb of John the Fearless.  



Art under Siege: During the French Revolution, irreplaceable works of art were destroyed because of their connection to the French monarchy. Art continues to be damaged and lost in times of war. Use the Internet to research art lost during the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and during World War II.  



Memorials and Memory: Explore an ArtsConnectEd Art Collector Set to see memorials created by artists from many different cultures to commemorate leaders, important events, and people who have died. Use this set to make comparisons between memorials and discuss the values they represent. Click here here to access the set. Click here to learn more about the Art Collector feature of ArtsConnectEd.  



Dear Diary: Research the daily life of a person living in the Middle Ages in France. Use the suggested reading list or your school library. Write a diary entry from the point of view of your imaginary character and include detailed descriptions of meals, clothing, occupation, home, etc. Feel free to illustrate your entry with a self-portrait or a picture of the town your character lives in.  



Cross-Cultural Connections: In all cultures, death is depicted in art. Explore this theme in the WNET.ORG online video series Art Through Time: A Global View .  



Get Ready for Your Close-up: Get to know each Dijon mourner sculpture up close and personal through amazing 360-degree three-dimensional photographs at the French Regional & American Museum Exchange Web site The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy .  



Explore More: More resources are available from the French Regional & American Museum Exchange (FRAME) including activity ideas and PDFs. Click here to access additional educational programs for "The Mourners" exhibition funded by the Annenberg Foundation.  



Plan a Visit: "The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy" will be on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts January 23 through April 17, 2011 in Gallery 340. Admission is free!  



Student's Reading List:

Bordessa, Kris. Great Medieval Projects You Can Build Yourself Chicago: Nomad Press, 2008.

Elliott, Lynne. Clothing in the Middle Ages. The Medieval World. New York: Crabtree Publishing, 2004.

Langley, Andrew. Medieval Life. Rev. ed. Eyewitness Books. New York: DK Publishing, 2004.

Macaulay, David. Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1973.

Olmsted, Jennifer. Art of the Middle Ages. Art in History. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2006.  



Educator's Reading List:

Fliegel, Stephen N., Sophie Jugie, and Virginie Barthélémy. Art from the Court of Burgundy: The Patronage of Philip the Bold and John the Fearless, 1364-1419. Dijon: Musée des Beaux-Arts; Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art; Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2004.

Jugie, Sophie. The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy. Dallas: FRAME/The French/Regional/American Museum Exchange; Dijon: Musée des Beaux-Arts; in association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2010.

Moffitt, John F. "Sluter's Pleurants and Timanthes' Tristitia Velata: Evolution of and Sources for a Humanist Topos of Mourning." Artibus et Historiae, no. 51 (2005): 73-84.

Vaughan, Richard. John the Fearless and the Growth of Burgundian Power. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press, 2002. First published 1966 by Longman.  



En française: Click here for a French version of these pages.  

January 2011


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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Ruling with Religion
Aimé Piron<br><i>View in perspective of the Chartreuse de Champmol</i>, 1686<br>Dijon Municipal Library
Aimé Piron
View in perspective of the Chartreuse de Champmol, 1686
Dijon Municipal Library

 


For rulers in the Middle Ages, religion was both personal and political. They claimed their power was a god-given right. By founding churches, employing monks, and hiring artists to fill the new chapels and monasteries with religious art, the dukes of Burgundy demonstrated both their piety and their right to rule. They commissioned works of art to ensure their own salvation after death and to reinforce the power and grandeur of the Valois family on earth.

Since most people could not attend daily worship services or make pilgrimages to far-off shrines, private devotions became common. Formal church services were held on special occasions. Increasingly, the wealthy commissioned works of art for the church instead of giving money. The purchase and contemplation of religious images and sculptures were considered as worthwhile as going on a pilgrimage or attending church. This shift toward commissions promoted art production in Burgundy.

The dukes of Burgundy commissioned art that asserted their power. Philip the Bold and John the Fearless built and supported the Chartreuse de Champmol, a monastery for Carthusian monks, who prayed continually for the dukes of Burgundy and their wives and children. John the Fearless's most important commission may have been his own tomb. Beneath the effigies (tomb images) of the duke and duchess, nearly forty sculptured mourners march in a traditional funeral procession.


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1. The Carthusian monks lived in silent cells and prayed for the dukes of Burgundy.
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier, Mourner number 50, 1443-70, alabaster. © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay
2. The decoration of medieval churches inspired awe at the glory of God, and pointed arches drew the eye toward heaven.
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier, Tomb of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria(detail), 1443-70, alabaster. © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay
3. Angels surround the figures of John the Fearless and his wife.
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier, Tomb of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria(detail), 1443-70, partially polychromed and gilded marble. © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay

 

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Death and Ritual
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier<br><i>Mourners from the tomb of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria</i>, 1443-70<br>Alabaster<br>© Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier
Mourners from the tomb of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria, 1443-70
Alabaster
© Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay

 


Medieval French royalty were given elaborate funerals that lasted for several days. Ceremonies began the night before the burial, with vigils and psalms. The next day, the main funeral services were held, and then the casket was lowered into a vault. The funeral of John the Fearless was followed by a feast. Women usually did not attend princely funerals. However, at the duchess of Burgundy's request, John's funeral was repeated the next day for the ladies of the court.

The statues on the tomb of John the Fearless portray the traditional funeral procession of a high-ranking person. First came the clergy-a priest, two choirboys, a cross bearer, a deacon, a bishop, three cantors, and two monks-and then the casket and the duke's family and successor. Following them were torchbearers and officers of the court and the nobility and, finally, people representing the cities ruled by the deceased duke. Wearing black mourning robes, the mourners would all have looked similar, aside from the occasional gilded prayer book, rosary, or cross.

The painstaking portrayal of the mourners' procession and the amount of space devoted to it on the tomb show the importance of this ritual of grieving. Even in death, the dukes of Burgundy used art and architecture to proclaim their political importance, god-given power, and religious piety.


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1. The duke's coat of arms appears on this chair back. The same motif would have embellished the black and gold cloth that hung over the coffin.
Jean de Liège, Seatback with coat of arms of John the Fearless, 1399-1400, oak, © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay
2. Their robes conceal the wealth and rank of those in the procession.
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier, Mourner number 56, 1443-70, alabaster. © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay
3. The hat, staff, and liturgical robes indicate that this figure is a bishop.
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier, Mourner number 45, 1443-70, alabaster. © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay

 

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The Hand of the Artist
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier<br><i>Mourner number 52</i>, 1443-70<br>Alabaster<br>© Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay
Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier
Mourner number 52, 1443-70
Alabaster
© Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay

 


During Philip the Bold's reign, an art style known as International Gothic was favored in Burgundy and throughout much of Europe. Its flat, linear forms were elegant, delicate, and decorative. Philip's marriage to Margaret, countess of Flanders, extended his power into Flemish territories and also brought important changes to Burgundian art. The solidity and realism that characterized Flemish art were combined in Burgundy with International Gothic.

Art was produced in workshops headed by a master artist. To head the ducal art workshop, Philip chose the Netherlandish artist Claus Sluter. Sluter's realistic style became the hallmark of art made in Dijon, the capital of Burgundy. Careful detail, everyday themes, naturalism, and ornate decoration typify the "Dijon style." Figures are clothed in voluminous drapery that communicates emotion, as in the mourner statues. Sluter drafted plans for Philip the Bold's tomb but died after sculpting only a small part of it. His nephew, Claus de Werve, completed the tomb, using Sluter's design.

Philip's son, John the Fearless, desired a tomb like his father's, in the style of Claus Sluter. The sculptor Jean de la Huerta worked on the tomb for years but then suddenly left town. Antoine Le Moiturier took over and finished the statues. John's tomb was finally installed in 1470, over fifty years after his death! Although many of the sculptures on John the Fearless's tomb are copies of those on Philip the Bold's tomb, there are slight differences, due to the hand of the artist.


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1. This religious painting shows characteristics of the International Gothic style.
Nardo di Cione, Standing Madonna with Child, 1350-60, tempera on wood, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, bequest of Miss Tessie Jones in memory of Herschel V. Jones
2. Though we can't be certain which artist sculpted each statue, Jean de la Huerta's figures tend to be stout, with dramatically modeled faces and a suggestion of movement in the draping cloth.
Jean de la Huerta, Antoine Le Moiturier, Mourner number 55, 1443-70, alabaster. © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay
3. Relaxed stance, static drapery, delicate facial features, and solemn expressions usually characterize Antoine Le Moiturier's mourners.
Jean de la Huerta, Antoine Le Moiturier, Mourner number 48, 1443-70, alabaster. © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay

 

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An Enduring Legacy
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

 


About four hundred years after Philip the Bold founded the Chartreuse de Champmol, much of the monastery and parts of its tombs were destroyed in the French Revolution. By demolishing art connected with royalty, people got rid of reminders of the rulers they had just done away with. Unfortunately, a fine example of Burgundian art at its height was lost forever.

Luckily, the tombs of Philip the Bold and John the Fearless were mostly spared, though their sculpted portraits suffered serious harm. Thanks to a few people who hid what they could, all of the angels and mourners were saved from destruction, but sixteen mourners disappeared. In the 19th century, reproductions of the missing statues were created to stand in for the originals. Eventually some of the mourners were found in museums and private collections (only three still have not been located), and most went back to their niches in the tombs. Now, because the Dijon Museum in France is renovating the gallery where the tombs are kept, the mourners are traveling to several museums in the United States, including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The mourners are marvelous examples of late medieval art. Designed by the great Netherlandish sculptor Claus Sluter, their individualized faces, expressive drapery, and convincing demonstrations of grief show a new realism. These figures have a humanity that lets viewers relate to themes of ritual, religion, power, and mourning through art.


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1. These 19th-century replacement mourners were created as portraits of men overseeing the tombs' restoration.
Joseph Moreau, Neo-Gothic mourners (portraits of Claude Saint-Père, Févret de Saint-Mémin, Joseph Moreau, and Marion de Semur), 19th century, alabaster. © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo François Jay
2. The mourners are sculpted in the round, an important change from the shallow bas-relief figures seen on similar tombs of that time. This Italian marriage casket is an example of bas-relief carving.
Baldassare degli Embriachi, Marriage casket, about 1395-1406, bone, wood, and bronze. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The John R. Van Derlip Fund
3. One of the few parts of the Chartreuse de Champmol to escape destruction was the Well of Moses, another example of the new realism Claus Sluter brought to Burgundian art.
Claus Sluter, Claus de Werve, and their studio, The Well of Moses, 1396-1405, limestone, C.H.S. de la Chartreuse, Dijon

 

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