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French illuminated manuscripts: late fourteenth to early sixteenth century

Introduction Paris
14th c.
Paris
1400-1450
Loire & Paris 1450-1500 Paris
1500-1530
Further reading Index

Selection of artists from different parts of France

(Click on an image for an enlarged view and detailed description.)

The North

The borders of fifteenth-century France do not correspond to those of today. The reign of Charles VI (1380-1422) was weakened by fits of madness, and an open conflict for power began between his cousin, John, duke of Burgundy, and his brother, Louis, duke of Orléans. Louis was interested in reigniting the war with England. Burgundian interests, with their commercial holdings in Southern Netherlands, ran in the opposite direction. The prosperity of the Netherlands depended on trade with England, and war was antithetical to those interests. In 1407, the assassination of Louis of Orléans by John the Fearless resulted in civil war in France between partisans of the duke of Burgundy (Burgundians) and those of the duke of Orléans (Armagnacs). As part of the Hundred Years War, the Battle of Agincourt fought in Northern France in 1415 ended in victory for the English king Henry V (reigned 1413-1422) over the French. The assassination of John the Fearless in 1419 drove the Burgundians into alliance with England, and Northern France became part of the Burgundian Empire with its economic heartland in the Low Countries. The French crown conquered much of the North, and permanently seized Burgundy after the death of Charles the Bold of Burgundy in 1477. Traditionally, fifteenth-century illumination from Northern France has been studied within the history of Netherlandish painting. Recent research has highlighted its contribution to the history of the art of modern France and the Southern Netherlands. The most prominent representative of the fifteenth century was Simon Marmion.


Additional 38126, f. 133v
Huth Hours, 150 x 115 mm, c. 1480, Temptation of Anthony, illuminated partly by SIMON MARMION
Additional 38126, f. 133v

Burgundy

During the Hundred Years War, under the reign of Charles VI (1380-1422) the battle between England and France drove the Burgundian party into alliance with England. Burgundy (and Northern France) became part of the Burgundian state that had its economic heartland in the Low Countries. The French crown permanently seized Burgundy (and conquered much of the North) after the death of Charles the Bold of Burgundy in 1477. The dukes of Burgundy were important patrons for the arts, but instead of encouraging local talent in Burgundy, they preferred to order their art from the Southern Netherlands. After Louis XI (reigned 1461-1483) regained control over Burgundy, local production of illuminated manuscripts started to grow. Most successful was the workshop of the Master of the Burgundian Prelates whose regional style became predominant in Burgundy.



Sloane 2419, f. 8v
Hours of Louise of Savoy, 190 x 130 mm, c. 1490, John on Patmos, illuminated by the workshop of the MASTER OF THE BURGUNDIAN PRELATES
Sloane 2419, f. 8v

Savoy

In modern France, Savoy is part of the Western Rhône-Alpes region. In the fifteenth century, the House of Savoy maintained independence as counts and, in 1416, as dukes, situated between France (Piedmont), Italy, and Switzerland. Its geographical position at the crossroads of Northern Europe and Italy explains the particular style of luxury manuscripts produced for the dukes of Savoy. Their patronage attracted artists from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Franche-Comté. Antoine de Lohny was one of the major artists working for the court of the dukes.



Additional 27697, f. 56v
Saluces Hours, 280 x 190 mm, accomplished c. 1460, Adoration of the Magi, illuminated partly by ANTOINE DE LOHNY
Additional 27697, f. 56v

Lyon

Lyon is a city situated at the centre of Eastern France. Its provincial isolation changed in the late fifteenth century because of economical and political reasons. On the one hand, the fairs in Lyon made it the economic counting house of France. On the other hand, Lyon was an ideal logistic base for launching military expeditions to Italy during the reigns of Charles VIII (1483-1498) and Louis XII (1498-1515). The bustle of aristocrats, bureaucrats, merchants, and the rich local bourgeoisie attracted many artists to Lyon. One of them, Jean Perréal, was not only an artist famous for his portraits, but also a poet and diplomat.



Stowe 955, ff. 16v-17
Pierre Sala, Petit Livre d'Amour, 130 x 95 mm, c. 1500, Portrait of Pierre Sala, illuminated partly by JEAN PERREAL (see also Chronique scandaleuse Master)
Stowe 955, ff. 16v-17

Provence

Provence is now a region of South-Eastern France, located on the Mediterranean Sea adjacent to France’s border with Italy. In the fifteenth century, Provence was a fief of the French Crown under the rule of the Angevin dynasty. When Charles du Maine, duke of Anjou, died in 1481, Provence was inherited by the French king Louis XI (reigned 1461-1483). The patronage of René I (1409-1480), duke of Anjou and king of Naples, attracted a painter of Netherlandish origin, Barthélemy d’Eyck. His contemporary, Enguerrand Quarton, worked for a local clientele and had a considerable influence on Provencal painting of his time. Barthélemy d’Eyck and Enguerrand Quarton are among the greatest painters of fifteenth-century Provence.



Egerton 1070, f. 53
Hours of René d'Anjou, 222 x 165 mm, additions, c. 1442/43, Death, illuminated partly by BARTHELEMY D’EYCK (see also Egerton, Mazarine, and Parement Masters)
Egerton 1070, f. 53



Additional 19897, f. 12
Missal of Jean d’Armagnac, 280 x 195, c. 1470, Mass of Gregory, illuminated in a style influenced by ENGUERRAND QUARTON
Additional 19897, f. 12

Centre West

In the fifteenth century, artistic production in Western France was diminished by the departure of René I (1409-1480), king of Naples and duke of Anjou, who left with his court to settle in Provence in 1471. The decline of illuminated manuscripts in the area coincided however with the early activity of one of the most original artists of the late fifteenth century, Robinet Testard. During this time of uncertainty, Testard was attracted by the little court of Charles of Angoulême in Cognac. Although Testard is the best known artist of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century in the centre of Western France, his manuscript production is not representative of that region, but reflects the taste of the court of Cognac.



Kings 7, f. 26
Book of Hours for the use of Rome, 240 x 160 mm, c. 1500, Christ carrying the cross, illuminated partly by the workshop of ROBINET TESTARD
Kings 7, f. 26



Introduction Paris
14th c.
Paris
1400-1450
Loire & Paris 1450-1500 Paris
1500-1530
Further reading Index

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