Charles the Bold: The Splendour of Burgundy

Charles the Bold (1433 –1477) The Splendour of Burgundy, Edited by Susan Marti, Till-Holger Borchert and Gabriele Keck, Mercatorfonds, hardback, 384 pages, 440 colour illustrations, English text edition available, € 39.

This is a sumptuously illustrated and well translated catalogue of an outstanding exhibition currently showing in Bruges until 21 July 2009 before transferring to Vienna in the autumn. It provides excellent value for money, offering a glittering introduction to the luxurious artistic and cultural riches of one of the most powerful courts in medieval Europe – the Duchy of Burgundy and its last dynastic ruler, Charles the Bold or ‘Daring’, (1433 –1477), the husband of Margaret of York, the sister of England’s Edward IV. Although the Duchy had existed since the 10th century, its fortunes were transformed after Jean le Bon (John the Good), King of France (born 1319; ruled 1350 –1364) granted the title and estates to his fourth son, Philip the Bold in 1363.
In the century which followed, a series of marriages, inheritances and conquests saw the dukedom become one of the most important states in Europe straddling not just its historic core in central France based around Dijon, but also parts of northern France, Flanders (modern day Belgium), Holland and Luxemburg. At its peak under Charles the Bold the Duchy was a by-word for artistic splendour and display as exemplified by the dazzling collection of tapestries and textiles, manuscripts, panel paintings and precious objects assembled by the curators responsible for this excellent exhibition.

The catalogue consists of two parts. The first charts the life of Charles the Bold and the role of art and culture in his court. It also includes two specific essays: one looking at a set of late 15th-century embroidered vestments and antepedia (frontal and rear altar hangings) made for The Order of the Golden Fleece – a chivalric order created by Charles’ father, Philip the Good, in 1430, and the other examining how ‘portraits’ of the Duke were used to project imagery of dynastic ambition, power and refined taste. The second part of the book is a detailed catalogue of the exhibits themselves. Highlights include relics from the ‘Burgundian booty’, a vast collection of treasures captured by the Swiss after the Battle of Grandson in 1476, part of the same war which resulted in the death of Charles at the battle of Nancy in 1477.

Fig. 1. The Sacrament of Baptism, design for stained glass.

Fig. 1. The Sacrament of Baptism, design for stained glass.

The emphasis on the court life of the Duchy rather than its patronage of religious art, inevitably means that stained glass is only modestly represented in the exhibition, essentially via several drawings or cartoons for designs – see for example, page 201, cat. 25., a design for a stained glass panel attributed to the artist known as the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book and based upon an original work by Roger van der Weyden, (Fig 1). Again, the influence of artists like Hugo van der Goes and Hans Memling, whose work is shown in the exhibition, can be identified in the work of glass painters across Europe.

The appeal of the Burgundian court to Charles’ brother-in-law, Edward IV, is particularly well known. The English king not only bought Flemish tapestries and manuscripts, but the kneeling figures of Edward and his queen in the north-west transept of Canterbury Cathedral were almost certainly made by a glass painter familiar with the artistic styles celebrated in this magnificent exhibition and its superb catalogue.

Roger Rosewell

For details about the exhibition see the Groeninge Museum website.

Summer Web Surfing

This month we are adding twenty-five new web sites to our Links pages. Take a look at them here:

Websites of the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi
CVMA USA Committee: A short guide to the members and activities of the CVMA [USA].

CVMA France (Andre Chastell Centre, Paris): The Andre Chastell Centre specialises in French art history, including stained glass. The Glass team produces CVMA volumes and is led by Dr Claudine Lautier. The site contains images of stained glass.

UK Museums
Norwich: Hungate Medieval Art: The Hungate Medieval Art Centre in Norwich focuses on stained glass on East Anglia.

Museums Elsewhere
Cologne: The Schnütgen Museum: Housed in a disused medieval church this Museum specialises in the art of the Middle Ages. Its web site includes good images of stained glass. The site has pages in English.

New York: The Cloisters Museum: This New York museum specialises in art from the Middle Ages. The website includes images of stained glass. It is a branch museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Paris: Musée National du Moyen Age: The Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris is housed in the former Parisian Mansion of the Abbots of Cluny. Exhibits include a important collection of stained glass, some of which can be viewed on the museum website. The site has pages in English.

St Petersburg: The Hermitage Museum: This museum has an important collection of medieval stained glass. Selected examples from its collection can now be viewed online.

Glass Organizations
American Stained Glass Guild: The ASGG is the leading organisation for stained glass artists and conservators in the USA.

Institute for Stained Glass in Canada: This website contains more than 2,000 images of stained glass in Canada.

The Society of Glass Technology: The Society of Glass Technology encourages the study of the history, art, science, design, manufacture, after treatment, distribution and end use of glass of any and every kind.

Church Care: Official Church of England site with advice concerning the care of stained glass windows.

Churches Conservation Trust The Churches Conservation Trust cares for over 340 historic churches, including some with excellent medieval glass. Good examples include St Mary’s church, Shrewsbury and St George’s, Edworth, Bedfordshire. Visit this site to learn more and to support the Trust.

Image Galleries
Buckinghamshire Stained Glass (UK): Monica & Cliff Robinson have created an invaluable site containing details of over 1,000 stained glass windows in Buckinghamshire. The site includes about 2,000 photographs.

Corpus Narratologica (France): A web site with excellent images of stained glass windows from Bourges, Les Mans, Poitiers and Chartres.

The Gertrude and Robert Metcalf Collection of Images of Stained Glass at The Index of Christian Art, Princeton USA: The Metcalf Collection of pre-World War II photographs of European stained glass windows (mainly French) was described in Vidimus 24.

The Medieval Stained Glass Photographic Archive: Painton Cowen’s new website with 10,000 images of French and English stained glass.

Michigan Stained Glass (USA): The Michigan Stained Glass Census census is run by the Michigan State University Museum. It includes an impressive photo archive as well as lots of information about American stained glass artists.

Norfolk Stained Glass (UK) An expanding web site with high quality images of medieval – and later – stained glass from Norfolk.

Stained Glass from its Origins to the Present: CVMA author, Professor Virginia Raguin has created a helful teaching aide resource with selected images from her book, Stained Glass from its Origins to the Present, New York: Abrams, 2003.

St John’s church, Gouda, Holland :; The 16th-century windows in St John’s church ( Sint Janskerk) in Gouda are the finest examples of surviving early glass in Holland. Two websites provide excellent guides to the church and its famous glass.

Other Useful Sites
Art History: Mary Ann Sullivan, Professor Emerita of English and Art History at Bluffton University Ohio, has created a website with 16,000 images which include architecture, sculpture and much else of interest to Vidimus readers.

Church Stained Glass Records (UK) : Church Stained Glass windows is a remarkable site compiled by Robert Eberhard. It includes a database of nearly 20,000 19th century and later windows in over 3,000 churches in southern England. Although the site does not include images, it is of particular value to anyone studying 19th century designers and makers of stained glass. Glass before 1800 is not included.

The Golden Legend: Many articles in Vidimus refer to stories told in this anthology of sants’ lives compiled by Jacobus de Voragine artound 1260. A translated version of this important source book can be read at:

International Centre for Medieval Art (USA): World-wide organization dedicated to the study of medieval art and culture, including stained glass

Medieval Art and Architecture – Chartres Cathedral: A comprehensive website maintained by Dr Alison Stones of the University of Pittsburg with information about the architecture and stained glass of Chartres cathedral.

Name that Roundel! – Solution

Dr Paul Taylor of the Warburg Institute writes:

Fig. 1. Name that roundel!

Fig. 1. Name that roundel!

This panel shows the myth of Alcyone discovering the body of her husband Ceyx after he had drowned during a terrible storm. He was the son of the Morningstar king of Trachis and a friend of Heracles (Hercules). The story can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses XI: 710 ff.

This work contained stories of miraculous transformations, often involving people being changed into animals, plants or inanimate objects.

In this story the Gods transformed Ceyx and the inconsolable Alcyone into sea birds, halcyons (traditionally identified with kingfishers).

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