Tag: bourgondiërs

The man with the arrow – Part 4: A primitive mystery

In this series of posts I want to investigate the claim that the portrait of the Man with the Arrow attributed to Rogier van der Weyden, is not Antoine de Bourgogne/Anthony of Burgundy but João de Coimbra. As always, the information on this website is under permanent construction. Corrections and additions will be made when necessary.

The first mystery of the day is: where is part 3? Well, I was going to add something about the Saint Vincent panels but the matter is more complicated than I thought so I needed to check things with someone who knows more about it than I do. Instead of writing a post that is only half-complete or entirely wrong, I will just get straight on with the man with the arrow and leave Vincent for later.

The first thing I did when I read about the identity of the sitter, was to try and find out where this information came from.

The source turned out to be the Portuguese Wikipedia page about João, where the following can be read:

“Um dos seus retratos foi pintado por Rogier Van Der Weyden, que está num museu real da Bélgica e está representado com o colar do Tosão de Ouro ao pescoço.”

Translation: One of his portraits was painted by Rogier van der Weyden, which is in the royal museum of Belgium, where he is represented with the collar of the Golden Fleece around this neck.

This information is not on any of the Wikipedia pages that I can more or less understand. The footnote led to scans of an article by Jose Cortez: Dom João de Coimbra – Retrato por Rogier van der Weyden. The text appears fairly vintage. There are many mistakes on Wikipedia but this was a solid article, so I wanted to try and find out more. My knowledge of Portuguese is non-existent, but the gist is, I assume, proof that the portrait represents João.

A small online search later I came across a scan of an article in Openbaar Kunstbezit of 1972, written by Dirk De Vos, adjunct conservator van de Stedelijke Musea Brugge. In this article Dirk De Vos states that the identifications of the man with the arrow as Anthony of Burgundy or the more likely João de Coimbra are not very convincing. Now I was even more surprised because in his book about Rogier van der Weyden published in 1999, the portrait of the man with the arrow is described as a portrait Anthony of Burgundy without further ado. The same goes for other more recent books about Rogier van der Weyden.

On the left: The portrait of Anthony of Burgundy by Rogier van der Weyden, as a size reference.

The portrait in the Royal Museums of Belgium, the prime piece of evidence, is labelled as a portrait of Anthony of Burgundy. The extra information on their website describes it as: oak; dimensions: 38,4 x 28 x 0,4; provenance: John Nieuwenhuys, art dealer, Brussels, 1861.

The portrait was sold as a portrait of Charles the Bold but was later renamed to Man with the arrow. In older art books it is still labelled that way.

The portrait was displayed in an exhibition about the Golden Fleece at Bruges, in 1907. In the catalogue it is described as Knight with the arrow. More interestingly, the catalogue states that the portrait bears a great resemblance to Anthony, the bastard of Burgundy. The descripton also states that it was once attributed to Hugo van der Goes.  Side note: in the same catalogue the portrait of Philippe de Croy by Rogier van der Weyden, is still attributed to Hugo van der Goes.

There is a saying that everybody has a doppelganger, so it’s no big surprise that people resemble one another. Inbreeding and family relations are not really an explanation here, because as far as I know, Anthony had no close Portuguese ancestors.

But there are other portraits of Anthony so it’s logical to make a comparison. One thing has to be kept in mind, though. Rogier and his atelier have a tendency to what I call stockfacing their portraits, especially the individual ones. The portraits are idealised, with somewhat enlarged, rounded eyes. The men all seem to have the same hairdo as well, the wretched Burgundian bowlcut which was still popular when the painter was active.

There are two versions of a portrait of Anthony attributed to, or copy of Hans Memling. .

The version that appears most often on the internet is this one, currently in the Gemäldergalerie in Dresden:

Anthony of Burgundy, attributed to Memling, Gemäldegalerie Dresden

Another version of the portrait is located in the Musee Condé at Chantilly:

Anthony of Burgundy, attributed to Memling, Musée Condé, Chantilly (I hope they don’t mind me posting this, it’s for the greater good)

There is a good resemblance with the Man with the arrow, if you think away all the ‘filtering’ Rogier has done. His eyes are smaller and his jaw less prominent. The basic features are still there though: his brown eyes, his cleft chin, and his nose.

Anthony is older in this portrait, which is apparent from the face, which shows more lines but also by the fashion of his clothes and hair. He is wearing a different type of hat and clothes. His hair is also much longer, going towards a renaissance haircut. Some people suggested he is wearing a wig (when his father Philip was gravely ill, doctors told him to shave his head and Philip ordered all the nobleman to do the same), but he was more likely just being fashionable.

The other remarkable thing is the collar of the Golden Fleece. Theoretically knights had to wear the large collar during all official occasions and only could wear the smaller chains on certain occasions, such as when they were travelling. Note the portrait of Charles by Rogier van der Weyden on which Charles is also wearing the small chain.

The information on the website of the Musee Condé states:   

“Le revers du panneau est peint : on trouve les lettres I.N.E. (jusqu’ici inexpliquées) reliées par une cordelière de saint François, car le Grand Bâtard appartenait au Tiers Ordre, sa devise : ” nul ne si frote “, qui apparaît sur sa médaille italienne et sur sa cotte d’armes à Tourneham, près d’Ardres, où il est enterré, et un emblème, une hotte de guerre, sorte d’auvent mobile en bois et en fer servant à jeter sur les assiégeants des matières enflammées. Cet emblème et la devise Nul ne s’y frote se retrouve au revers d’une plaque conservée au musée de Cluny et représentant Le Calvaire.”

The provenance is listed as follows: 1886 Donation sous réserve d’usufruit : Henri d’Orléans duc d’Aumale.

With regard to the quality I like the Chantilly portrait a lot better.

The Cantilly portrait belonged to the Duchess of Sutherland. At one point in the 19th century, she contacted a certain Mr. Planche, who proved that the portrait was not, as the Duchess thought, Charles of Burgundy, but his illegitimate half-brother Anthony of Burgundy. This could be deducted from Anthony’s blason and motto that was painted on the portrait. The portrait and its provenance is described extensively in Les Primitifs flamands (see bibliography in part 5)

There are a number of other respresentations of Anthony in art but most are based on the above prototypes.

We know for sure that this is Antony, due to his motto on the back of the Chantilly painting. But is the Man with the arrow Anthony? Or does he just look like him? Because there is no information on the portrait by Rogier van der Weyden.

That is for the last post of the series together with a list of sources.


The man with the arrow – Part 2: Antoine

In this series of posts I want to investigate the claim that the portrait of the Man with the Arrow attributed to Rogier van der Weyden, is not Antoine de Bourgogne but João de Coimbra. As always, the information on this website is under permanent construction. Corrections and additions will be made when necessary.

In this chapter I want to focus a little on Antoine of Burgundy (1420?-1504), also known as the Grand Bâtard or the Big Bastard. He did not receive that name because he was a bully but because he was the official main bastard son of Philip the Good. In my small unimportant opinion his role is direly neglected in history books. This becomes clear when reading the various contemporary chronicles where his name pops up constantly. However, a study of his career would lead us too far here. I do not want to reinvent the wheel so I’ll just borrow the main facts from the internet for a quick summary.

Antoine is the son of Philip the Good (1396-1467), Duke of Burgundy and his mistress Jeanne de Presle.

Portrait of Philip the Good, father of Antoine

The birth date of Antoine is uncertain, probably somewhere around 1420-1421. The original Grand Bâtard was his half-brother Corneille, with Antoine Philip’s most favourite natural sons. Corneille died in 1452 in a battle during the revolt of Ghent, after which Antoine inherited his title of Grand Bâtard. In 1459, he married Marie de la Viesville by whom he had five children.

Antoine was a military man and took part in a number of campaigns of his father. He became a knight of the Golden Fleece in 1456. After the death of Philip in 1467 he fought in the service of his half-brother Charles who was now Duke of Burgundy. He took part in most of his hot-headed brother’s campaigns and saved his life during the battle of Monthléry (and probably a few times more). After the battle of Nancy Antoine was captured and delivered to Louis XI by Rene of Lorraine and came into his service. He played an important role in the arrangement of the marriage of Charles’ daughter Mary and Maximilian..

He was legitimised by Charles the VIII in 1485 or 1486 (I found two dates). [As a side note, this was around the time Jean VI Rolin was legitimised (see earlier posts). I don’t know if the events are connected, but it is worth looking into.]

He was good at archery and a skilled tournament fighter. Unlike Charles, he was a bit of a player, like his father, and had at least two natural children. He was also an avid collector of illuminated manuscripts.

He is supposed to have died at Tournehem, near Calais, in 1504, at the age of about 83/84. He must have led a very fulfilling life.

Some smaller things of interest:

Antoine’s signature (source: Lauer)

His arms painted by Coustin (the bar signifies a bastard):

His motto/blason in Les croniques de Pise:

It is a barbican on fire with the words NUL NE SI FROTE (Nul ne s’y frotte), Nobody rubs on this, which is an odd motto, but it was used by others too.  Wonder if it can be paraphrased as Can’t touch this? There is a proverb saying: “A femme sotte nul ne s’y frotte”. If someone better at French than me, please correct this if I’m totally wrong.

Medal with the image of Antoine by Candida Giovanni, 1475:

Main sources of the documentation:

  • Déchiffrement de l’ex-libris du Grand Bâtard de Bourgogne. Philippe Lauer, 1923.
  • Wikipedia, for the info and some images
  • The contemporary chroniclers
  • Les croniques de Pise (Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

The next post will probably be a small piece about the Vincent panels.


The Man with the Arrow – Part 1: João de Coimbra

Portrait of Antoine de Bourgogne, le grand batard de Bourgogne by Rogier van der Weyden in the Royal Arts Museum, Brussels.
But is it really Antoine? (Picture: personal archives)

The first time I saw this portrait, I was just a child, thirteen. I don’t remember where I saw it. I think it was in one of the art books of our family library and in that book, the painting’s title was ‘Man with the arrow”, by Rogier van der Weyden. I have a vague recollection of seeing the original for the first time in the Old Masters Museum in Brussels somewhat hidden away in a dark spot in the back but that’s perhaps just a fantasy. Now it’s hanging near the stairs, close to the Otto by Bouts. But it does not matter where I saw it first. I have seen it several times more and it is still one of my favourite medieval paintings, even though it is quite dark and small.

In more recent books and on the museum’s website, the portrait is no longer described as an anonymous man with an arrow but as a portrait of Antoine de Bourgogne, the illegitimate son of Philip the Good, half-brother of Charles the Bold, and who is also known as the Big Bastard of Burgundy (le grand Bâtard).

Yesterday I came across a post on Instagram showing the above portrait, with the information that it is a portrait of João de Coimbra, or John, Prince of Antioch (1431-1457). I was very surprised by this and also intrigued, with the original title of the painting in mind. Why would anyone think that this is not Antoine but a Portuguese prince? There is no information on the portrait itself so even the identity of the painter is not 100% certain and likewise the identity of the sitter cannot be deducted from the panel, only that he must be a knight of the Golden Fleece: the distinctive collar proves this. So who was this João and why would anyone think that the man with the arrow is him and not Anthony?

I thought at first that this would be simple to solve, just a mere oversight on my or the poster’s side but the research proved quite useful and I learned some new things.  WordPress posts are probably not the best medium for long explanations so I’m going to distribute all the information over a few posts. The first will be about João.

João de Coimbra, Prince of Antioch (1431-1457)

I do not have a lot of documentation on Portugal and the Middle Ages so I am just going to take this from Wikipedia and hope there is not too much nonsense in it. The rest of my information is thoroughly checked in all sorts of books and articles.

João was the second son of Infante Peter, Duke of Coimbra, and Isabella of Urgell, Duchess of Coimbra.

He took part in the battle of Alfarrobeira, where his father’s army was defeated by the Portuguese royal army.

He was imprisoned and was to be executed. However, due to the intervention of his aunt Isabella, he was sent into exile in Burgundy together with his brother James and sister Beatrice. His aunt Isabella, Duchess of Burgundy, was able to offer protection to her nephews and niece as wife of Duke Philip the Good. In 1456, John was elected a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

In 1456, John married Charlotte of Cyprus in Nicosia and was accorded the title Prince of Antioch. He was poisoned on the orders of his mother-in-law, Helena Palaiologina.

He was buried in Nicosia in a tomb which bears his coat of arms.

There are a number of things that match with the portrait. His age his right, he was a relative of the dukes, he was a knight of the Golden Fleece and he was in Burgundy around the time the portrait was painted. Also, the man on the portrait somewhat looks like a younger version of João’s father, Peter.

Peter could be one of the men on the St Vicente panels, painted by Nuno Gonçalez. This painting is interesting on its own so I’ll keep that for a separate post. But here is the presumed portrait:

But what do we know about Antoine? That is for next time.

To be continued.


Op zoek naar de tijdrover

Sinds kort kun je in het rijksarchief een extra aantal ingescande documenten raadplegen, naast de al beschikbare rijks- en parochieregisters en kadasterplannen. Niet alleen archieven van de oude universiteit van Leuven, bijvoorbeeld maar ook documenten van de Grote Raad van Mechelen.

Gezien ‘mijn’ Jean daarin geacht werd zijn hosen te hebben versleten, ben ik wat losweg gaan bladeren. Hierboven een screenshot van de documenten van 1475, ter illustratie.

Eigenlijk was ik op zoek naar een klachtenbrief die Karel de Stoute in onze stad heeft geschreven. Maar dat is voor volgende post.


Safe dating in times of corona

One of those weird details in Bosch paintings, this one from an Adoration of the Magi.

This post is not going where you think it is going…

This is something I mentioned before, but I keep running into dating issues. Not just that most books and paintings of the 15th century are not dated but when dates are used, they do not correspond 1 on 1 with the dates we use now.

First of all there is the Julian-Gregorian conversion, which differs from region to region, and started from 1582. Due to timing issues caused by the method of the Julian calendar, it was decided to skip a number of days at a given time. The difference was 10 days at first, but it increments so now we’re apparently 13 days ahead. The result is that not only is it not clear if authors writing after 1582 are using the new date format or the old one when mentioning dates from a time before that, but you also have to factor in the incrementation between the author’s time and the current time.

The second issue is that the year in the middle ages didn’t start on 1 January but on another selected day, usually the day of an important catholic event such as the Annunciation or Easter. This means there is also some discrepancy in year numbers between now and eg. dates in the contemporary chronicles. To give a relevant example, it can happen that you find 1476 as the year when Charles the Bold died, instead of 1477.

I am not even going to mention the weird French Republican calender that was used during a few years around 1800.

It’s convenient we’re in lockdown and I have no idea of what day, month and year it is anyway.


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