Yesterday chores, plus a long VT bike ride along the many cycling paths in our area took most of the day. No pictures of that, didn’t take any. In the evening I spent some more time going through Elisabeth Danens’ book about Hugo van der Goes. Some paths ended up in a dead end, others opened new doors.

My current focus is a Nativity painting depicting Jean (or Jehan in old French) Rolin (1408-1483), son of Nicolas Rolin, bishop and afterwards cardinal of Autun (see earlier post).

This is the painting under scrutiny, this time on a postcard:

It was just a hunch, but the painting reminded me of the Monforte altarpiece by Hugo van der Goes. It’s different in composition but there are some elements that have a likeness to it, namely, the two angels in the front, Joseph, the posture of the cardinal and the two figures in the back leaning over the wall.

For reference purposes, here are pictures of a statue of Jean Rolin and a fragment of a wall painting featuring Jean Rolin as a donor, both on display at the museum of Autun (pictures from the family archives):

He seems to have inherited his father’s duckface.

The museum of Autun lists the painting as a Nativity with Jean Rolin, dated around 1480, attributed to the Master of Moulins.

The Master of Moulins turns out to be Jean Hey, (source of dates etc.: Wikipedia) probably Flemish, born around 1455, and active in France, mostly Moulins, between 1475 and 1505. By coincidence I took a picture of his Ecce Homo at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts because I found it a compelling painting.

Now for the interesting bit. According to Wikipedia Jean Hey was at influenced or even a pupil of Hugo van der Goes. According to the French Wikipedia: “Il semble être formé à Gand au début des années 1470 par Hugo van der Goes. De ce peintre, il est proche par la technique faite d’un dessin net, d’une mise en page aux perspectives hardies, d’une lumière froide et d’un coloris éclatant.”

This raises a number questions, in a time before photography and the internet: Are the similarities between the paintings a coincidence or had Jean Hey seen the Monforte altarpiece or studies for it, or copies afterwards, and if so, when? How did he end up working for Jean Rolin? Via Charles de Bourbon? What does that mean for the date and the location of the Monforte piece?

Elisbeth Dhanens has a theory regarding the identity of the kneeling man in red on the Monforte altarpiece. She compares his posture and items of clothing to that of Nicolas Rolin and deducts that he must be another chancellor, namely Willem Hugonet. It is just a theory and if it is valid or not, is not of importance to me. What is interesting is, that it puts both my tournament man (supposedly related to Jean Rolin of above) and Hugonet together in the Council of Mechelen:

Note that the painting is not contemporary but dates from the 16th century, so the portraits are probably fantasy. I also have to look into the correctness of the other members.

After the death of Charles the Bold, Willem/Guillaume Hugonet was tortured and decapitated in Gent on 3rd April 1477. He wrote a farewell letter to his wife:

“My Fortune Is Such that I Expect to Die Today and to Depart this World”

Did Hugo witness the execution?

To be continued.