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The Burgundian Confusion

Tower of Babel, from the Bedford manuscript – Image source: Wikipedia

The tower of Babel has long gone but we still speak all these different languages around the world and hairy English in some cases. In any case, it can be handy to know a couple languages other than the good old mother tongue. I am tempted to launch a rant against internet scamming and unscrupulous criminals as a completely innocent victim but I am going to get too worked up and my BP is going to go through the roof, I guess. So back to the topic.

I forgot to mention yesterday that I came across a handy book in the family archives:

It’s some kind of language course from 1696 to learn Burgundian, basically just a fancy word for somewhat old French. It’s a Latin to French manual so basically you’d have to study Latin first and then French. It has some info on conjugations and such but I like the complete sentences best as they show how you can use all those loose words in a meaningful context, a bit like those Assimil courses.

Some examples, loosely translated.

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, founded the  Order of the Golden Fleece at Bruges in Flanders. 1430.

Simon the Magician, whom S. Luke mentions, is considered the chief originator of the Heretics.

The Templar Knights, whose Grand Master was burnt alive at Paris, have long been exterminated.

There are a lot of beavers in Canada.

I’m sure these phrases will come in handy next time I’m in France.

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The sword in the stone: The hazzards of a duke

This is going to be the first SITS/Duke post after some time. I have put the bigamous woman on the side burner for now. WIP is also for another post (started a new painting)

Over the holidays I have been reading the chronicles of Jean de Haynin, Olivier de la Marche, Chastellain, Molinet and de Comines. I’ve only read snippets of the bigger ones (Chastellain, Comines, several volumes) so far. I have concentrated on the adult years of the Bold (see earlier posts, not doing a recap). It’s quite interesting to read them side by side because they complement each other. One has to bear in mind that the Comines switched sides so his story will be quite biased.

Arles: Olivier de la Marche doesn’t mention anything about the Arles visions but he does talk about Arles and Saint Trophyme which was interesting. Also, according to the chronicles it looks like the B stayed in our town on his way to sack Liège. I must do some further research about this. I also learned something about very strange burial rituals in our region. Must look into that as well.

Other things that struck me: How gory, brutal and pointless wars are. How high the amount of miles these people were able to cover in a day were (without the cannons, though, those were slow), and the amount of travelling they did despite the absence of trains, planes and automobiles. (Charles the Bold was always on the move during his duke days.) How these high-born women were treated like goods or assets, almost like promotions in a shop (If you buy this you get one free – If you marry her you get this or that land or title) and on the other hand how well some of them managed to run their businesses or govern their lands while the men were always away from home, waging their endless wars or being just plain dead. It’s also interesting to read how terrified Olivier de la Marche was of Charles the Bold during those final days. How the B left a trail of mental breakdowns behind him. There was the anecdote about the books but there were some others in the presence of his father. I haven’t come across the boot incident yet.

A summary is for when I am done reading with all of the books. I also have come across some other clues regarding the remains that are interesting enough to look into. That’s for next week or the week after. Durendal and Gideon also have appeared again.

In the meantime here are some more samples of pictures of the B I have collected for my reference library, most of them fantasy portraits made after his death, or based on Rogier’s painting.

I came across two more examples of why you always need to check the sources. While I was looking for more information about a statue that was supposedly Charles the Bold (spoiler alert: it was not) I came across a twenty year old newspaper article about the theft of a wooden statue of St George in a church near Beernem. It said the statue dated from the 15th century and had the face of the Charles the Bold. There was no picture of the statue included and it took me some time to find it, on a website of Bruges.

Zooming in on the face, it’s clear that this is not the B but Philip the Fair. It says so in the description of the picture too so the reporter just sucked on his thumb, I guess (local expression for making things up). Or maybe I am wrong and this is not the stolen picture after all.

An engraving of the B in armour:

Another – low quality – print of a portrait, (not sure when and by whom it was made):

Charles the Bold when he was 9. Apparently this is a contemporary portrait drawing (museum of Arnhem). He looks about three or four in this, though.

This is not the Bold, but an engraving of a painting by Jan van Eyck which looks nothing like the original painting, so that’s why I included it. But note that this St George probably inspired the reliquary commissioned by the B that is now in Liège.

Also another thing I was looking for: a picture of the tomb of the B, taken from above.

And an engraving of the Bruges tomb from a book of the 19th century, when it was in another location in the church:

And my favourite thrift store find of last month, a book with large, good quality reproductions of Jean-Léon Huens’s totally underrated illustrations for the history of Belgium. There was only one volume of the three but never mind. I think the original pictures date from the 50ies or 60ies and people could collect them on small cards via tokens on coffee, flour and other packages of household stuff. (My pictures are not good, it’s quite dark in my work room atm)

That’s all for now.

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Dead ends

Melencolia I by Albrecht Dürer

The past week I have not been well at all, and did not go out much. I’ve spent several days travelling back and forth between 1473 and 1667 AD, researching the gaps in the lives of two separate persons. There are not many online documents to consult, certainly not before 1600, and what I’ve found is incomplete, eaten by rodents, not accurate or just plain wrong, because people who wrote the information down didn’t double check facts or even thought logically (it seems very unlikely to me that an elderly – illegitimate child and all – priest would have a go at jousting, e.g.). I have ended up in many dead alleys and it’s very frustrating. At the same time definitely getting better at deciphering 17th century manuscripts in Latin.

As for the research on the B, I have finished the chronicles of Jean de Haynin on Christmas day and am now reading Olivier de la Marche’s memoires. It’s a scan of a 19th century edition, in old French that’s not too hard to understand. Halfway through the third volume of four so far.

Art project is also not going according to plan. I have finished the miniatures and am putting the book together. I smeared most of the glue and paint in my hair, made a couple big stains in the book and cut my hand, so far not so good. I just saw some cakes that were better painted on the internet so I am ready to throw the book out of the window. Maybe the Righteous Judges in miniature format was a bit too ambitious.

Some creepy nightmares, my brain warning me to take it easy. It will all fall into place, I’m sure, just not now.

Couple samples of gouache/ink/watercolour paintings:

Nicolas Rolin and a dragon.
More or less copied from a prayer book of the B.
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The sword in the stone: Duck à la blood

This is a sequel to the previous post. I am working my way through thousands of pages of memoirs and biographies, mostly in French (with free headache included), such as those of Olivier de la Marche, Georges Chastellain and Molinet plus some obscure footnotes in catalogues. I haven’t started Comines yet. Some of the research pertains another French man who was involved with the ducks dukes of Burgundy so it’s basically a double whopper. The blood is flowing from the pages and women and soldiers are moved around like chess pieces. At the same time, those women had to take care of the business and the state affairs when the men were away on their endless campaigns or crusades, or got killed in them. And often they did well, or even better.

Cryptophoriques at Arles or the mind of Charles of Burgundy. Your guess is as good as mine.

After watching the news I can only conclude that not much has changed in 500 years, despite the obsolescence of catapults and crossbows. There is still a lot of hunger, disease and random violence around us. We still have a Charles at the head of the government, not Charles of Burgundy, just Michel, funny hats, tights and hair not included, and he’s under fire too, proverbial this time. No blood has been drawn yet but it’s getting very interesting. Anyway.

Charles (the duck, not our prime minister) started behaving strangely in 1472. Well, even more strangely than he already was, that is. There was a vague reference to a couple anecdotes in the catalogue I borrowed from the library so I specifically looked for those. I also looked for a description of the 6 month period in which the D was very depressed and underwent special treatments. And finally I looked for the boot incident. So far I have only found one of those, but also other things.

First of all I found some accounts about the castle of Hesdin. This was more of a fairground attraction than a castle with machinery that scared or surprised visitors. After a quick search I found a description of the castle on this website: Marvels of Hesdin. I wish I had a time machine and could see this.

Secondly I found an account of the death of brave but poor de Lalaing who was killed at 32 in a siege of Gent (Philip had his hands full with the Gent people). Apparently Jacques had a problem with his leg and his doctor told him to rest but he wouldn’t listen and went into battle anyway. The revolters fired a cannon, and some wood hit de Lalaing in the head so his skull was crushed and his brain came out. (if my medieval French was good enough).

Thirdly I found a story in which someone was voodooed with a wax doll. I need to reread that story, it is quite interesting. Lots of poisonings, hangings and chopping off hands, raping and pillaging, and in between all that, – in Philip’s time – dining and jousting and extorting citizens and borrowing money from fishy bankers for war machines and expensive jewellery. 

I found some circumstantial evidence that the D saw/was near the Holy Blood at least once in his life. 

Some claim that the D was so depressed after the lost battles in the end, he wouldn’t take any advice from the others and claimed he’d even fight alone if he had to, so basically committed virtual suicide at Nancy in 1477.

According to a professor who had it from another professor who wrote about it to his student in 1800-something, the duck suffered from strange visions about Arles, Italy and God. It’s supposedly in Chastellain’s memoires, but I haven’t found it yet. I visited Arles once and they have dark Roman cellars and this church full of gruesome relics of saints so it is a place that inspires black thoughts.

Relics in the St. Trophime church

Also encountered a rather gruesome description of the destruction of a city in which nobody was spared, not even the people who sought refuge in a church. The vengeful Terrible rode into the church on his horse, into the bodies and the great pool of blood on the floor and he allegedly said: “My butchers have done a good job.”

Most interesting anecdote regarding his mental state in my opinion, I found in Molinet’s chronicles:

car il estoit fort mélancolieux et faci- lement incité à l’ire depuis la perte de Granson. Et disent aulcuns de ses privés serviteurs, qu’il prendoit par fois un libvre pour faire manière de vouloir, lire , et s’enclouoit seule; et illec, par grand courroux, tiroit cheveux, et se destordoit, en faisant les plus angoisseux regrets et plainctes qui jamais furent ouys; et, à ceste cause, chascun craindoit l’advertir de chose qui tournoit à sa des- plaisance.

Simply translated from my less than perfect old French: ...”[because] he was quite melancholic and was easily incited to rage after the loss of Granson. And some of his private servants said that sometimes he would take a book as if to read and lock himself up alone, where in great wrath he would tear at his hair and twist himself, while uttering the most anguished regrets and complaints ever heard. And because of this, everybody feared to inform him of something that would displease him.”

Ironically I drew this quick sketch as a study for the second, more fantasy painting of the series, long before I read about the above anecdote.


Still quite some research to do, but the coming days will be filled with 21st century tasks.

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The sword in the stone – Gold cups and red kings

It’s a curse.
Mend my troubled soul.

[Stole this quote from (the unintentionally hilarious) Knightfall. Quite befitting in the context of this post, even though it was uttered by a templar about to enter the holy lands of a voluptuous woman.]

1. WIP

Artwork in progress: still the same apart from a new modern martyr and miniature of a suit of armour in art school.

2. Research about the Bold’s crypto and other portraits

On Monday I traded my library books about van der Weyden and the Bold for some other books, more in particularly another one about Rogier, one about Michael Cocxcie and two about Jan van Eyck. Poor Hubert is rarely mentioned. I also checked some clues about Memling in a book I didn’t take home, mostly because it made my pile to heavy. I just took a picture of the relevant page:

The article mentioned that somebody thought the third apostle on the left of Christ was Philip the Good but the author says it looks more like his son. Side by side, he looks like the spitting image but I already mentioned this. Note that when I say Memling it could also mean his workshop

With the Columba altarpiece (see pages and earlier posts), where the red king is supposed to be a crypto of the Bold, the date is problematic. The red king looks a bit too old in relation to the age of C at the time, plus he doesn’t have that rather obvious double chin, folds near the corners of his mouth, big staring eyes and frown of the couple contemporary portraits. 

There are three other candidates for a crypto portrait, basically three versions of the same painting. I also found this partially in the book about Memling but did some additional comparing. There is the Jan Floreins triptych (dated 1479) and an almost the same painting which hangs in the Prado (dated 1470), plus a third similar but not quite the same painting by an unknown painter from a bit later.

In 1893 a certain Wauters said the king on the left in the Floreins/Prado painting is a crypto of the Bold, but this was debunked by somebody else in 1899.

Why whould anyone have thought it was a crypto? Well, here are the paintings, in the presumed order of creation, followed by details, so you can judge for yourselves. For the record: The Bold was born at the end of 1433 and had dark, thick and straggly hair. Not sure about a moustache or dimple in his chin. Nb, look very closely at the one by the unknown painter, not just at the king on the right, but also the black king. Same stance and overcoat as the red king in the Columba altarpiece by Rogier but that’s it, none of the other features.

The Prado Adoration of the Magi by Memling (workshop) (around 1470):

The Adoration of the Magi by an anonymous painter (around 1475):

The Floreint triptych by Memling (workshop) (around 1479):

Here are the heads of the three kings, the middle one is mirrored:

And all three mirrored so they can be compaired with the Berlin portrait:

For completeness sake, here are two other portraits: one of the relic holder which was ordered by Charles, and the face from his tomb effigy which was created a very long time after his death (all images from Wikipedia).

Maybe I shouldn’t spend so much time on this, but it’s quite interesting to see how the Middle Ages had their own versions of stock images and no worries about copyright at all.

I was going to add something about the research about Charles of Burgundy’s mad behaviour after 1472 but this post is already too long, so that’s for a next post.