Category: Reconquering Burgundy

Zoete Zestien

[In Dutch this time]

Toevallig botste ik op een vermelding in een biografie dat Karel de Stoute 16 schildknapen in zijn tent had, die hem gezelschap hielden, voorlazen en muziek speelden. Het is niet ongewoon om een hoop extra mensen rondom je heen te hebben die dagen, maar zestien is wel veel. En waarom juist 16. Toeval of symbolisch? De dagen daarna kom ik het getal 16 nog vaak tegen, nameljk als aantal bewakers of medewerkers van mensen. Omdat 16 niet meteen een belletje doet rinkelen als bijzonder symbolisch getal (denk bijvoorbeeld aan 12, dat aan het aantal apostelen van Jezus refereert), lijkt het me vooral toeval.

Een paar dagen later ruim ik wat dozen met boeken uit het ouderlijk huis op. Ik kom een biografie van Gustav Mahler tegen, niet meteen een onderwerp dat me erg boeit, om eerlijk te zijn. Er valt een papier uit, een opgevouwen kopie van een gedicht van Margaretha van Oostenrijk. Margaretha van Oostenrijk interesseert me vooral als kleindochter van Karel de Stoute. Ze bezat ook een aantal objecten die met hem verband houden. In haar inventaris van 1516, bijvoorbeeld, staat het bekende portret van Karel door Rogier van der Weyden beschreven.

Omdat ik niet meteen het verband met Mahler zie, maar omdat ik weet dat die papiertjes nooit zomaar toevallig in een boek steken, besluit ik de biografie te lezen. Al redelijk vroeg in het boek stuit ik op een interessant detail. Mahler had in zijn kamer een prent hangen van Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I, hierna volgend.

Van Karel de Stoute werd al tijdens zijn leven beweerd dat hij leed aan Melancholie, van Margaretha zou je het kunnen vermoeden, als je op de ongelukken in haar leven en haar gedichten afgaat, maar is er nog een ander, aantoonbaar, verband tussen Margaretha en Dürer? Ja, en wel een rechtstreeks.

In 1520 reisde Albrecht Dürer met zijn vrouw naar de Nederlanden. Hij trok onder meer naar Mechelen, waar hij Margaretha van Oostenrijk ontmoette en haar collectie kunst en boeken mocht bekijken. Heeft hij toen het portret van Karel door Rogier van der Weyden gezien? Het dagboek geeft geen details, maar het is best mogelijk gezien Dürer erg geïnteresseerd was in Rogier. Hij was minder onder de indruk van Margaretha, want volgens zijn dagboek werd hij door haar niet beloond voor zijn moeite.

Er komen nog andere verbanden met al eerder onderzochte kunstenaars boven. In Mechelen dineerde Dürer een aantal keren met Conrad Meit. Meit is hofartiest van Margaretha van Oostenrijk en de beeldhouwer van haar grafsculpturen (nu in Brou, Frankrijk). Zo logeerde ook Gossaert, ook Mabuse, bij Meit tijdens zijn verblijf in Mechelen. Dürer vernoemt hem trouwens een aantal keren. (zie eerdere posts)

De prent Melencolia I bestond al op het moment dat Dürer naar de Nederlanden trok. Ik heb nog niet onderzocht of Margaretha er een afdruk van bezat. In de biografie van Mahler staat echter iets vermeld waar ik eigenlijk nooit eerder op gelet heb. Op de prent van Melencolia I staat een magisch vierkant, van 4 x 4 vakken:

De middenste vakken van de onderste rij tonen de datum van creatie: 1514. De rijen (gekruist of recht) tellen op tot 34 en zouden verwijzen naar de leeftijd van Dürer. Er zou ook verwezen worden naar de sterfdatum van zijn moeder. Je kunt ook allerlei patronen tussen de getallen in vinden. Daar ga ik nu niet dieper op in. Wat ik interessanter vind is dat het vierkant 16 vakken telt en alle cijfers van 1-16 bevat. Welke bijzondere mathematische eigenschappen heeft 16? Te onderzoeken.

Volgens Wikipedia is Melencolia een van de drie Meesterdrukken van Dürer. De andere zijn: De Ridder, Dood en de Duivel, en St. Hieronymus in zijn studeerkamer.

De zandloper interesseert me het meest. Ik ben die namelijk al tegengekomen, en waar je de zandloper ziet, vind je vaak de Waarheid. Er is een gezegde dat luidt: ‘De Waarheid is de dochter van de Tijd.” De Waarheid wordt vaak voorgesteld als een vrouw met een stralenkrans of een spiegel. In de eerste prent is die stralenkrans terug te vinden in de zon in de achtergrond. Bij St. Hieronymus kan het het licht dat door de vensters valt zijn, of de stralenkrans van de heilige. Maar in de prent met de Ridder, de Dood en de Duivel heb ik de spiegel of het licht nog niet duidelijk gevonden, tenzij de de wijzer bovenop de zandloper als het licht of de spiegel beschouwt, maar die komt ook bij de andere prenten voor en hoort bij de zandloper.

St. Jerome in His Study

Er zijn een paar elementen die in de drie prenten weerkeren, waarbij vooral de zandloper en de hond opvallen. Als je de vage vorm op het vreemde object links in Melencolia I als een schedel beschouwt hebben ze ook allemaal een schedel.

Deze prenten hebben weinig te maken met Karel de Stoute zelf en ik weet dus niet of ze belang zullen hebben voor de rest van het onderzoek.

Bij het nagaan van de items in een catalogus van een tentoonstelling over Margaretha van Oostenrijk is nummer 16 toevallig een middeleeuwse graalroman. Dat maakt een mooie overgang naar een volgende post.


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.


Turf & Turmoil

Somewhere in the Dordogne, forgot where

There are new corona rules, coming into force next Monday, and instead of ‘all is forbidden except what is allowed’, the situation will be reversed, so it’s like nothing happened but you can’t go to a nightclub or swimming in public pools. As a result everything will be almost back to normal, too soon according to many. I’m curious what will happen. Our region seems to have very few infections at the moment, in any case. The rest of the world is still burning so we’ll see what’s coming in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, a large portion of the evenings was taken up by house hunting, well, resumed, to be more precise because Covid intervened. Taxes, however have not been postponed so I still have to do those as well. There is cake or death and then there are Taxes and Mot and those are the two things I really dread. Even dental appointments are more fun and I mean that.

Entertainmentwise we’re done with Colony, watched two episodes of Shannara season two before giving up, and now we’re watching Good Omens. Can’t say there is much of a plot or logic, just a lot of colourful characters.

The past week I have been working on old paintings mostly, but I’m very frustrated with their progress and state as usual so I’ve put a number of them on the discard pile.

The Bold research was mainly concentrated on our own town in 1468. Just trying to verify, add and correct a draft history of our town that was left unfinished in the family archives and with archives, for the record, I do not mean medieval wax sealed charters handwritten in Latin by dukes and kings with quills on parchment, but a huge repository of books, films, photographs, computer files and random documents. such as diaries, letters, and other random things that have been passed on from attic to attic. Been digging around in dusty old boxes with a chance of dead mice for two years but we’re finally done and everything has been stored on new attics for generations to come. Back to the B. No sources were mentioned so I was stuck at first trying to verify the facts. Luckily a lot of these public domain books have been scanned and put on Google, and I found copies of most of them. For the rest I will probably need to make a trip to the town’s archives or the library. Or contact the local archivist if all else fails. In general not many of my ancestors originated from the town I’m currently living in, but one of the local men who fought in the army of the Bold might, with a lot of stress on might and could and perhaps, be an ancestor so I’m checking all of that too. With all this information I am going to create a document which I will add to the pages. Probably under III. The codex is mainly the bibliography and source materials.

While I was working on some paintings I listened to the Burgundians podcast by Bart Van Loo. The episode about the Bold was even more disappointing than the chapter in the book, though. He spends too much time on silly anecdotes and omits a few important facts. On the plus side there are some interesting bits too and the music is very good. Currently I’m listening to Moving Henry, which is about the restoration of the tomb of Henry I in Leuven. Very good podcast (in Dutch).

So that’s about it and now back to work.

This is not Henry, this is Godevaert, or Godfried III. Source: Jan van Boendale, Brabantsche Yeesten. According to the podcast Moving Henry scientists discovered the dukes had a genetic malformation of their skulls,. I see where they got the idea.


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