Tag: bourgondiërs

Another Epiphany

This is a follow-up on the previous post. After publishing that one, I stumbled upon a documentary about the Busleyden museum at Mechelen, which was put online a couple days ago in the Stay at Home Museum series.

The presentation is a bit on the clumsy side but it has some images of the painting of the Council I referred to last time. It gives a good idea about its size. Be aware that the painting is end of 16th century, not contemporary. As I mentioned earlier, I hope that the names on it correspond with the actual members. For the three I referred to, I’m certain.

After watching the documentary I got back to the book about Hugo and the end of the chapter about the Nativity painting. This part is about the many paintings and painters that were influenced by Hugo. Only one stood out for me, an – admittedly crude – Nativity triptych by the Master of Frankfurt. It was painted early 16th century and is a mirror (!) image of the one by Hugo. When I checked the information about the painter, it turns out the painter is not from Frankfurt but worked in Antwerp between 1480 and 1520. His selfportrait is included, it is the man on the left behind the wall. There is a suggestion on Wikipedia that he may have been tutored by Hugo van der Goes. Got to dig into some books.

The date of the painting puts it long after both Hugo’s and Jean Hey’s paintings. The king with the red cape, kneeling in front, is probably Frederik III. He is wearing the collar of the Golden Fleece. What’s interesting is that E. Dhanens mentions links between the painting and Mechelen. For instance, Frederik added his eagle to the coat of arms of the city and was present at the 1491 chapter of the Golden Fleece at Mechelen. It is not known for whom the triptych was made but it is theoretically possible, that it was for someone in Mechelen or was located there (suggested by the author).

In any case, is it a coincidence that Mechelen keeps popping up? As such, a thing to check are possible links between Hugo and Jean Hay and Mechelen.

To be continued.

Hey Jean

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.

The Just but slightly crazy Judge

The beheading of the Duke of Somerset (already showed this in an earlier post, but it is quite fitting for this one as well)

As promised (or threatened?) in an earlier post about the Judgment of Otto by Dieric Bouts, here is the description of a fairly bizarre trial held by Charles the Bold in Zeeland, preceded by another rather strange punishment of some misbehaving knights, as some kind of prologue. First the Dutch text is shown, slightly modernised, followed by an English summary. Sorry for the awkward translation.

The text is from the rather voluminous Algemene kerkelyke en wereldlyke geschiedenissen des bekenden aard-kloots by Geerlof Suikers. He borrows some of his information from Pontus Heuterus. I have the Pontus lying around and know I should verify if it’s correct but the book is in Latin and I’m not up to that right now. No idea if this is just a wild tale or historically accurate.

The noblemen

De hertog in het volgende jaar eenige tydt zyn verblyf in den Hage houdende, ontstondt daar onder zyne edelknaepen een zo grote twist, dat een der zelven, een Burgundiër van geboorte, dood bleef. Dit wierdt zo hoog door hem genomen, dat hy hen alle in eene oopen-plaats deedt opsluiten, en beval dat zy malkander met roeden, hen ten dien einde gegeven, zouden geesselen, tot dat zy moede waren. Toen het lang genoeg geduurt hadt, deed de hertog eene aanspraak aan hen, en besloot de zelve met eene bedreiging, dat hy alle, die verder eenige wraak wilden nemen, of den twist langer doen duren, zou laten ophangen.

The next year (1469 ed.), when the duke was staying at The Hague for a while, such a huge quarrel broke out amongst his noblemen, that one of them, a Burgundian by birth, was killed. Charles was so vexed that he had them all locked up in an open space and ordered them to bash each other with sticks that were given to them for this purpose, until they were tired. When it had lasted long enough the duke threatened them that if they wanted revenge or if the quarrel lasted on, he would have them all hanged.

2. The commander

Karel wilde de misbruiken aangaande de rechtsvorderingen, in het bijzonder op het gebied van onkuisheid, verbeteren en trok vanuit Den Haag naar alle landschappen die onder zijn heerschappij stonden, om overal recht te spreken, waarmee hij zich drie dagen per week bezighield, wat hem bij zijn onderdanen zeer geliefd maakte. Toen hij in datzelfde jaar (1469 nvdr) in Zeeland aankwam, men meent Vlissingen, heeft hij daar een voorbeeld van strenge rechtsvordering nagelaten, het welk door verschillende schrijvers is verhaald, maar door niemand uitgebreider dan Pontus Heuterus, die wij daarom hier willen navolgen. Een zekere edelman, die in de oorlog grote dienst aan zijn vorst Filips de goede had bewezen, kreeg daarvoor de heerschappij over een stad in Zeeland. Hij was niet gehuwd en woonde daarom bij een voornaam burger in. Deze had een mooie vrouw, op welke de bevelhebber verliefd werd; doch als hij noch door geweld, noch door andere kunstenarijen iets vorderde, en gestadig in vrees was, dat de vrouw hem aan hare man zou ontdekken, nam hij zijn toevlucht tot list en geweld. De partijschappen in Holland en Zeeland smeulen nog in de gemoederen van de inwoners, en de hertog was op niemand zo zeer gebeten dan op degene, die, zowel de Kabbeljauwsen als de Hoeksen, enige blijk gaven van die partijschappen. De bevelhebber deed derhalve de man in de gevangenis werpen, op een voorwendsel dat hij de gemene rust zocht te storen, en hield toen weer bij de vrouw aan, zeggende dat de hertog wel nergens bitterder om verstoord was dan om zulke zaken als haar man had begaan, haar man zou ontslaan, en het wagen zelf daardoor de gramschap van Karel op zich te laden. De huwelijksliefde deed in dit geval een zo wonderlijke werking, dat misschien nooit iets dergelijks gehoord is. De vrouw staat hem zijn begeerte toe. Doch hij, willende zich van haar bezittingen voor het toekomende te verzekeren, hield haar eerst zo lang als het mogelijk was op, alsof hij order van de hertog aangaande haar gevangen man moest afwachten, en toen zij, zo hij dacht, genoeg aan zijn liefkozingen gewend was, gaf hij haar een briefje van zijn hand, om met hetzelfde bij de gevangenisbewaarder te gaan, en hem haar man op te eisen. Deze had enige uren tevoren order van de bevelhebber gekregen om de gevangene het hoofd af te slaan, had zulks verricht, en gaf het lijk over aan de vrouw, die door dat gezicht tot uiterste woede werd gebracht. Zij maakte de ganse zaak aan haar bloedvrienden bekend, die haar raad gaven haar droefheid te ontveinzen, en, alzo de hertog in Zeeland stond te komen, hem zelf de zaak voor te dragen, en recht te verzoeken. Toen Karel in Zeeland aangekomen was, verscheen de vrouw met twee van haar bloedvrienden aan hem, en stelde daar de zaak voor, zo als zij gebeurd was, waarover de hertog zo vergramd was, dat hij dreigde haar te straffen, zo zij een zo wakker (dapper nvdr) man ten onrechte beschuldigde, maar in het tegendeel haar recht te doen, zo men bevond, dat zij de waarheid sprak. Daarop werd de gezaghebber ontboden, en door Karel met een vriendelijk wezen afzonderlijk ondervraagd zijnde, bekende hij alles, en smeekte om genade. Aanstonds daarna deed Karel zijn raad met de vrouw binnentreden, en gebood hem haar terstond te trouwen, en haar erfgenaam van zijn goederen te maken, indien hij zonder kinderen kwam te sterven. Hij was daar zeer wel mee vergenoegd, en beloofde alles, wat de hertog begeerde, maar de vrouw was daar niet toe te brengen als door lang aanhouden van de raad des hertogs, die hij bevolen had haar te bepraten om haar toestemming te bekomen. Nadat zij eindelijk haar stem tot dat huwelijk had gegeven, en hetzelfde ook aanstonds door een priester was voltrokken, vroeg de hertog: “Vrouwe, zijt gij voldaan?” en als zij daar ja op antwoordde, hernam Karel: “Ik nog niet”, en deed aanstonds de gezaghebber in dezelfde gevangenis brengen, waar hij een onschuldig man had laten onthoofden. Daar vond hij een priester, een beul, en een doodskist, nevens een brief van de hertog, behelzende zijn doodvonnis van onthoofd te worden, hetwelk twee uren daarna door de beul werd volvoerd. Aan de vrouw werd ook een afschrift van het doodvonnis van de bevelhebber gegeven, om bij haar vrienden en bloedverwanten tot een getuigenis te strekken van de wraak, die de hertog over haar ongeval en het gedrag van zijn bevelhebber had genomen. Dus was zij voor de tweede maal weduwe, maar verviel in een zo grote droefgeestigheid, dat zij in korte tijd door de dood werd weggesleept; latende de grote goederen van de bevelhebber tot erfenis aan de kinderen, die zij uit het eerste huwelijk had.

Charles wanted to end the abuses in the justice system, especially those concerning immorality, so he travelled to all the places he governed. He did this three days a week, which made him popular with his subjects. When he arrived in Zeeland that same year (1469, ed.) – it is believed it was in Vlissingen – he left an example of the severe justice system he wanted to put in place. This has been described by several authors but the most extensively by Pontus Heuterus, on which this is based.

A noblemen who had fought bravely in the service of Philip the Good, was awarded with the government of a city in Zeeland. He was not married and lived with a distinguished citizen. He fell in love with the wife of his host and was constantly afraid that she would betray him to her husband, so he used deceit and violence to prevent that. The Hook and Cod wars were still causing upstirs and there was nothing that the duke was more vexed about than the ones that supported either side. The commander had his host locked up in prison under the pretense that he wanted to cause an uproar.

The commander went back to his wife and said that Charles would be very angry about the things her husband had done and that he might direct his anger towards her too. The woman gave in but he was trying to stall the affair because he had his eye on the possessions of the couple. He told her was still waiting for the orders of the duke. After a while, when he thought she was sufficiently used to his caresses, he sent her with a note by his own hand to the prison guard to get her husband. But hours before, the commander had ordered the prison guard to chop off the man’s head. So when they handed over his corpse to his wife she became furious. She told everything to four of her ‘bloodfriends’ (close relatives, ed.) who advised her to feign grief and await the arrival of the duke and present the case to him.

So when Charles arrived, she and two of her bloodfriends went to him and told him what happened. The duke became very angry and told her that if she lied, he would punish her, but if she told the truth, justice would be done. The commander was summoned and Charles questioned him in a friendly manner, after which the commander confessed to everything and begged for mercy. The duke had the woman brought in and ordered the commander to marry her and bequeath all his possessions to her in case he died without heirs. He was quite pleased with the outcome but the woman refused to marry him. Charles ordered his counsel to try and convince her to change her mind and it took a lot of effort of them to do so.

When she finally gave her permission, they were immediately wed by a priest. After this Charles asked her: “Are you satisfied, woman?” and when she said yes, Charles answered: “I’m not yet.” He had the commander brought to the same prison where his innocent host had been beheaded. There the commander was met by a priest, an executioner and a coffin, and also to a letter from the duke that ordered his beheading. Two hours later he was beheaded by the executioner. A copy of the death warrant was given to the wife as a testimony of the revenge the duke had taken regarding her misfortune and the behaviour of the commander. In this way she became a widow for the second time and she suffered so much grief that death dragged her away not long after; and left many possessions of the commander to the children she had in her first marriage.

The (not so happy) end.

Tr(iv)ial pursuit

Nothing I attempted to paint the past couple days is worth posting here but there is something slightly trivial I can write about. What does one do during lockdown other than conduct small experiments?

Yesterday evening I was going through some Burgundian illuminations and suddenly realised why Otto’s Trial by Dieric Bouts (see earlier post and above) looked familiar.

The painting is currently located in the Old Masters museum of Brussels, hanging close to Rogier’s painting of Anthony the Big Bastard and some other Burgundian bowl cut whose name I’d have to look up. But that’s a side note.

Size is not everything but this painting is huge. It takes up a whole wall.

On 20 May 1468 Dieric Bouts, who had been living in Leuven since 1448, was commissioned by the town magistrate to paint a Last Judgment and four justice panels for the town hall. The legend of emperor Otto III (around 1000 AD) was chosen as a theme.  According to the legend Otto III ordered the beheading of a count who had been falsely accused by the empress of indecent assault, after she herself had vainly attempted to seduce him. After the execution she delivered the proof of the false accusation by holding a glowing rod of metal in her hand unharmed. Realising that an innocent man had been executed, Otto III condemned his wife to death at the stake (borrowed this description from Google arts).

The Judgment is largely lost except two side panels which are now in Rijsel. Bouts only finished two of the justice panels before he died. Interestingly enough, Hugo van der Goes was asked in 1480 to appraise the paintings so the heirs could be paid. Hugo was also asked to finish other incompleted paintings by Bouts.

The Otto painting is supposed to depict a trial as it would have looked like in the days of Charles the Bold. Emperor Otto is depicted in a way that the Duke of Burgundy held his audiences. He resembles Charles the Bold somewhat in the right panel, though as an older man (Charles would have been 34 in May 1468), but not so much on the left one. Included below are a miniature of Charles and a detail of Otto for reference purposes.

The clothes are Burgundian, and the executions that are depicted (decapitation, torture, etc) were common in the 15th century so you can assume the contemporary setting of the painting serves as an example and a warning to the visitors of the town hall and court house. (I took some of this information from a catalogue published by Uitgeverij Peeters, Leuven in 1998. The catalogue, however, does not offer much information about the real identities of the persons depicted in the Otto panels.)

Charles the Bold in the Montpellier manuscript, depicted as both a knight and a judge. Not sure if it’s his unicorn sword he is holding.

So the painting was commissioned in spring 1468 but it took some time to prepare the wood, and the other usual preparations for large paintings on wood. According to the documentation, Bouts started painting in 1470. I haven’t yet looked into this but some important political events happened after the commission: in the summer of 1468 Charles married Margaret of York in Bruges, during by what is probably one of the most famous parties of all time. In October 1468 the Burgundian army led by Charles the Bold and the somewhat kidnapped French king Louis XI went to war against Liège, and the rebellious city and its inhabitants were cruelly punished. It’s possible, but I’d have to check this, that Charles the Bold went to Liège via Leuven.

Anyway, let’s move on to manuscripts.

A lot of the manuscripts commissioned by the higher classes from this era start with a presentation miniature, ie an illumination depicting an author presenting the finished manuscript to the patron. There is one particular miniature that I want to show here, included in a manuscript of the story of Alexander the Great, illustrated by Loyset Liédet ( Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, MS. f.22547, fol. 1). In this illumination, the finished book (one of a kind as it’s handwritten, nb) is presented to Charles the Bold. As you can see Liédet’s style is somewhat comical, almost like a modern day cartoon.

Now for the experiment: let’s crop the miniature a little, mirror it and put it side by side with Otto.

Now there is another reason why Otto looked familiar.

Otto in close-up:

Detail of the panel: Emperor Otto’s head

The apostle John in Memling’s Last Judgment, a supposed crypto portrait of the duke, probably painted between 1467-1471:

Liédet got paid for the miniatures in 1470, so they would have been made slightly before the Justice panels and Memling’s Judgment. Liédet was originally from Hesdin, but from 1467 onwards he worked in Bruges. Nowhere near Leuven, anyway. Same goes for Memling. Hugo van der Goes was in Gent (but afterwards went to Ouderghem, to the monastery. In 1480 he was apparently still sane enough to appraise paintings in Leuven).

I don’t know if this is an example of medieval stock photography of grumpy Burgundian dudes or me seeing ghosts.

But that’s not all. Charles the Bold, control freak extraordinaire, was very fond of endless meetings and trials. There is a description about a very bizarre trial presided by Charles the Bold, in which the casse resembles the Otto case. I don’t know it by heart and I have to look it up in a very large old encyclopedia so that’s not for today. I am going to try and find it for my next post. It would be interesting to see from when it dates to see what came first: the chicken or the egg.

All this is a work in progress and open for corrections and suggestions.


A great portrait but not such a great banker (Portinari)

A couple nights ago I was going to write another post regarding the quest because I received and found new information and interesting things to explore regarding Charles the Bold and the rest of the quest. Unfortunately, there was a technical problem with WP and yesterday I ran into more technical problems. So here is a summary of paths I am exploring or planning to explore.

It’s important to look at some of these things from the perspective of a 15th century military man with serious mental problems which will be a challenge. Overthinking is not to be done, but also not neglecting things Medieval paintings are full of symbolism we don’t always understand anymore. Tbh, until a couple years ago I had a slight aversion against Charles the Bold so I was not really interested in his story. I have caught up, but there are still holes here and there.

1. Jacques/Jacobus

I have not made much progress with the identification of the different Jacques. Interestingly enough, two of the Jacques were married to ladies named Sibyl (often spelled Sybil, nb), both also difficult to identify with certainty right now. Both Jacques are contemporaries of Charles the Bold. One of the Jacques fought on the side of the Bold’s army. Jacques is a popular name (and saint) and often used as a given name, which doesn’t make it any easier to differentiate among them. The problem is the naming convention in the Middle Ages is sometimes a bit random. The coat of arms is sometime helpful.
Trivia: because part one of the quest revolved around a star, I did some very scientific research (irony quotes off) and did a google search on the combination of star and Jacob, and it turns out there is actually a Star of Jacob prophecy. As usual this is formulated in biblical darkspeak, so it could be anything, including the star of the Magi. Not helpful right now. Also not really something to do with Charles the Bold directly, except that his crypto portrait seems to feature in quite a few Magi paintings of the 15th century.

2. The Sibyls

I have been looking into the Sibyls of the Mystic Lamb (not related to the Sibyl of Jacques quest, nb). One of them definitely reminds me of someone but I can’t think of where I have seen her before. We had homework for our adult painting class, ie watch some documentaries about the Mystic Lamb by the van Eyck brothers and learned something. The two Sibyllas are victims of mistaken identities, so that’s something to look into. I am not sure if they are important right now. There is also something odd about the God figure. Don’t know what yet, but it will come.

3. The Henrys

Henry Holland, duke of Exeter: there is a vague note about him and Charles the Bold in a 1900-something book about melancholy. I have to look into that. These notes in the margins often bring me further than the great battles.

Henry Beaufort, duke of Somerset: have to look into his relation with Charles the Bold in depth.

4. Hugo

Hugo van der Goes’s painting of the Magi may have an indirect link with the tournament man who has a link with Autun. It would lead me too far now to explain why I think this. I’ll do some research and write a separate post. In the meantime I also know why the boys look so familiar, also for a different post.

5. The relics

I added the Blood and the Fleece as interesting research/quest material but forgot about the Shroud. When I started researching the Blood I had a theory that the Shroud would be somehow connected with this part of history and it is, though not with the Bold but his cousin. I must add it to the pages.

6. The colours

There is much symbolism in the colours of the ceremonial garments of Charles the Bold and the knights. In two fields. Another thing to explore.

7. Margaret

Charles the Bold’s relationship with his third wife, from the start until the end was utterly bizarre. More to explore. There are some so-called crypto portraits of her and Mary, her stepdaughter. Something to take into account.

8. The Medici Virgin

Came across this painting by Rogier van der Weyden’s studio this afternoon when I was looking at some references in a book while I was painting. There are two men in this painting that look oddly familiar. Must look into this.

9. Three Moros

I was looking at some pictures of Loches castle I took this summer. Ludovico Sforza was imprisoned here. His nikname was Il Moro, apparently. So looks like I already have three Moros in the quest, another thing to explore in a post. There are some bankers in it too.

To be continued.


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