A unique window into the lavish French courts of the Valois dukes of Burgundy and Berry will be offered at The Metropolitan Museum of Art this spring with the simultaneous opening, on March 2, of two landmark exhibitions: The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry and The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculpture from the Court of Burgundy. The former features the exquisitely illustrated pages of a luxurious prayer book that belonged to Jean de Berry (1340–1416); the latter shows expressive alabaster figures from the tomb of his nephew, John the Fearless (Jean sans Peur, 1371–1419).
Living in a tumultuous age during the Hundred Years' War between France and England, the two men also played key roles in more local conflicts among the various branches of the noble Valois family. John the Fearless instigated the murder of his cousin Louis d'Orléans, and Jean de Berry figured alternately as a mediator between the warring factions and a leader of one of them.
While they were at odds at times politically, both can be credited with beautiful
objects of art that are their legacy. The older duke, Jean de Berry, is one of the great art patrons of all time, celebrated for commissioning wonderful manuscripts, among them the Belles Heures, the focus of The Art of Illumination. John the Fearless gave us art with his death, for the emotional mourning figures that surround his tomb speak to us today across the centuries in The Mourners. The brother of Jean de Berry was Philip the Bold of Burgundy, who was the father of John the Fearless, and Philip's tomb, by Claus Sluter, provided the model for the tombs of both Jean de Berry and Jean sans Peur. Each featured pleurants (mourners), and the exhibitions will provide an opportunity to compare two of Berry's (from the Metropolitan's collection) with all of Burgundy's, on loan from the Musée de Beaux-Arts de Dijon.
Credits: The Art of Illumination: Made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Michel David-Weill Fund. The Mourners: Organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and the Musée des Beaux Arts de Dijon, under the auspices of FRAME (French Regional and American Museum Exchange). Supported by a leadership gift from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation. Additional support provided by The Florence Gould Foundation, the Eugene McDermott Foundation, Connie Goodyear Baron, and Boucheron. Major corporate support provided by Bank of the West – Member BNP Paribas Group. Supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
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February 4, 2010