Tag: charles the bold

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.


Red and/or dead

My mind is currently a fuzzy cobweb of dark thoughts, irritation and frustration. I’ll try to create some order in my chaos, though. (Bound to fail).

Still going through the books I borrowed from the library, two of them for the second time as I had used them before. There is always something new to discover. The book about Hugo, which I borrowed for the first time, has a number of versions of the Lamentation, including a good and large picture of the Oxford fragment. The theory about the identity of the people depicted is not mentioned, though (see earlier post about the identity of John).

One of the miniatures I came across during research about the links between painters and miniaturists was the miniature below, one by the Maitre de la chronique scandaleuse. The chronique is a medieval chronicle about Louis XI, king of France and it was copied for a member of Dammartin family, according to the BnF’s info. This version includes a number of illustrations by an anonymous miniaturist. The miniatures date from somewhere end of 15th, beginning 16th century. Miniaturists were mostly not known by name and often worked in a team in ateliers so it’s often hard to identify them and attribute works to them with 100% certainty.

The miniature depicts Rene of Lorraine holding the hand of the corpse of Charles the Bold when he was lying in state after the Battle of Nancy. The miniature is not very realistic because there wasn’t much left of the Bold’s face when he was found in the ice. Also the wake was a gloomy affair with a lot of black velvet, instead of all the bright colours shown here. I am not even mentioning perspective. But the historical correctness is not of an issue here. The artist of the above miniature may be connected to the tournament guy I’m researching. Unfortunately, I can’t find a lot of clear pictures of his work online, but it’s virtually impossible to see these miniatures in real in normal times, let alone in covid times. Something on hold right now.

I want to try and figure out if there is a connection between the tournament guy and the Duchy of Brabant, and/or County of Flanders. The tournament guy is also connected to Charles the Bold, but I don’t know much about it yet, there is not a lot to go on. With Covid this is also a bit on hold.

There are a couple intriguing details about Hugo van der Goes I want to look into the coming days. He lived in Gent and worked for the duke and the duchess but after Charles the Bold was killed in Nancy in 1477 he suddenly left Gent to become a lay brother at the Rood Klooster near Brussels, in 1477 or 1478 depending on the source. One of the explanations I came across was that he was afraid of the political repercussions after the death of the duke. In any case, Hugo suffered from melancholy (as was said of Charles the Bold) and had the feeling he was doomed. There is also the rumour of a broken heart. Karel van Mander writes about it in his famous “Schilderboeck”.

Daer is oock van Hughe een bysonder goet stuck, dat noch van alle Constenaers en Const-verstandighe niet vergheefs seer ghepresen is. Dit is te Ghent in een huys dat omwatert is, by het Muyde brughsken, te weten, het huys van Iacob Weytens, en is gedaen voor een schouwe oft schoorsteen op den muer van Oly-verwe, wesende d’historie van David en Abigail, daer sy hem te ghemoet comt. Hier is bysonder te verwonderen, wat een groote zedicheyt als in dese Vroukens te sien is, en wat een eerbaer soet wesen, welcker zedicheyt soo manierlijc is aen te sien, dat de Schilders van desen tijdt wel haer Vroukens daer mochten te schole seynden, op dat syse hen mochten af leeren: voort den David sit oock seer statelijck te Peerde: summa, t’werck is van teyckeninghe, inventie, actien, en affecten, alles uytnemende: want hier oock het affect der Liefden (so men seght) mede in gewrocht, en Cupido de Pinceelen heeft helpen stieren, in geselschap van zijn Moeder en de Gratien: want Huge noch vry geselle wesende, daer ten huyse vrijdde de dochter, daer hy seer op verlieft was, de welcke hy in’t stuck oock heeft nae t’leven ghedaen.”

When Hugo died he was probably about the same age as Charles the Bold. I am not sure of the cause of his death. I checked what Karel van Mander has to say about his death in his Schilderboeck but he just writes he doesn’t know where or when Hugo was buried (he was buried in the grounds of the monastery, nb).

To be continued.


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.


#8 (ctd.) – Where is Carlo?

This is not yet about the Virgin painting, this is some sort of interlude.

Here is a painting I posted before: a copy of Hugo van der Goes’ lost Lamentation painting. This copy is in the MSK of Gent. We went there on a field trip in January of 2019, about six months after I started researching Charles the Bold specifically, so I was not yet where I am now and just thought it was an odd painting, compostitionwise.

While I was looking for more information about the Medici Virgin, I stumbled upon an article by an art historian named A. Soudavar. He writes about yet another copy of the Lamentation that was sold by a known auction house. I have not been able to go through the whole text but to cut a long story short, the second man from the left is/can be Charles the Bold.

The lamentation has been copied very often, most of the time quite badly, imho. Here are a couple of the better versions:

One in the Rijksmuseum:

A fragment kept at Oxford:

This is a detail of one of the copies that was sold:

He was identified based on the creases between his eyebrows (this is something that indeed appears on all portraits of Charles the Bold and his protruding bottom lip (also something that was one of his well-known characteristics). He is supposed to depict the apostle John here. I hope I can find additional information in the book I’m picking up on Tuesday.

While I’m still waiting to go pick up the books about Memling, Hugo van der Goes and Rogier van der Weyden, I have been going over Bouts again. I need to look at all the paintings again.

Like Otto. I managed to misframe it, but whatever…

I also have a number of books with Burgundian miniatures to look at. One of them is due in three week, depending on future Covid regulations.

But first I want to wrap up the Virgin.

Covid is driving me insane.

To be continued.


Item #8 (ctd): Identity theft

Today I was going to do a post about the above painting because there is something odd with it but during research one thing led to another. I seem to have opened another dark corridor in the labyrinth of the quest and there is so much information to go through that I won’t finish it today. Just as in my personal life right now I came across some cases of identity theft and multiple personalities.

In any case, a couple familiar names and places popped up again: Charles the Bold, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes, and the chapter of the Golden Fleece at Valenciennes. To cut a long story short, I have reserved a number of books about Hugo, Hans and Rogier at the local library. They only have a couple weekly pickup moments due to Covid regulations so I’ll be able to get them on Tuesday. In the meantime this post is put on hold.


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