CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Dukes and angels: art from the court of Burgundy (1364-1419)

Exhibition: 24 October 2004 - 9 January 2005


Stephen Fliegel and Sophie Jugie


Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, Dijon, France

Museum press release, 4 August 2004

This major international exhibition marks the 600th anniversary of the death of the first Valois Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Bold (French, 1364–1404). It brings together an impressive collection of works representing his and his son’s, John the Fearless (French, 1404–1419), patronage to the arts from museums and churches throughout the United States and Europe.

This exhibition draws significantly from the collections of the CMA and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, which are major repositories of Burgundain art, making this a natural partnership. They, along with lenders from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels, The British Library, London, Musée du Louvre, Paris and the Themes et Hotel de Cluny and Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris, are among the 30 museums and 20 French churches that have lent to the exhibition. Seventy percent of the works in this exhibition have never-been-seen in the United States, giving the American public a glimpse of the richness, breadth and texture of life and art at the Burgundian court.

CMA Curator of medieval art Stephen N. Fliegel said, “An exhibition of this undertaking will never happen again at least for a couple of generations. It’s been six years in the making and I am pleased to see it come to fruition.”

The exhibition features approximately 150 objects from the period of the first two of the four Valois dukes of Burgundy, Philip the Bold and his son, John the Fearless, who were major patrons of the arts during one of the most important periods in French medieval art. The exhibition uses recent research to assemble the finest examples of Burgundian court patronage including sculpture, panel paintings, illuminated manuscripts, a tapestry, stained glass, gold- and silversmith works, jewelry, enamels and ivories that illustrate the development of a Burgundian court style. The dukes’ vast financial resources and collective reigns created one of the most sophisticated courts in Europe.

The exhibition will be organized into six sections beginning with an introduction, which includes a replica of a Gothic chapel, the history of Burgundy, maps and coats of arms. The remaining sections will focus on Paris, the Ile-de France and the Valois Courts; Philip the Bold; the Chartreuse de Champmol; John the Fearless; and Art in Burgundy 1360–1420.

Patronage of the Burgundian Court (1364–1419)

The Burgundian Netherlands refers to an area encompassing the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and northern France from the 14th to the end of the 15th century that came into possession of the dukes of Burgundy, descendents of the French royal house of Valois, when the Count of Flanders Louis de Mâle died. His son-in-law Philip the Bold inherited the Low Countries through his wife, Margaret of Flanders. During the rule of Philip the Bold, his son, John the Fearless and his successors, Philip the Good (1369–1467) and Charles the Bold (1433–1477), became patrons of the arts. The Dukes of Burgundy governed until 1477 when the fourth and last Duke of Burgundy of the Valois line, Charles the Bold, died on the battlefield, leaving no male heir, ending the dynasty.

Philip the Bold’s statesmanship and patronage of the arts created a sophisticated court that all others strove to emulate. Great banquets, grand civic tournaments and processions were held. The ducal libraries were among the most significant private collections of illuminated codices and included some 200 volumes. He assembled the largest collection of tapestries (over 100) to decorate this ducal palace and residences, expressing the prevalent court taste for luxury items.

Dijon, France, became the capital of Philip the Bold’s Burgundy, transforming this small town into a cultural location during the 15th century. A direct example of his influence lies on the outskirts of Dijon at the Chartreuse de Champmol, a monastery founded for 24 monks to house the tombs of the dukes of Burgundy and their successors in perpetuity. It featured some of the finest examples of Burgundian court sculpture from the chisels of Flemish sculptor Claus Sluter (ca. 1350–1406) and his nephew Claus de Werve (Netherlands, ca. 1380–1439), as well as Antoine le Moitourier (French) and Jean de la Huerta (1414–1461). Altarpieces and private devotional diptychs were commissioned from Jean de Beaumetz (French, d.1396), Jean Malouel (Netherlands, 1365–1415), Henri Bellechose (Flemish, 1415–1440) and Melchior Broederlam (Netherlands, c. 1355–1411), who served the court as painters at various times. At the center of the cloisters is the Well of Moses, considered the great masterpiece of court sculptor Sluter. The monastery was destroyed during the French Revolution; however the tombs of Philip the Bold and John the Fearless were preserved.

Philip the Bold’s crowning achievement is universally recognized to be his tomb sculpture commissioned from the artists Sluter and de Werve. The tomb consists of a prominent polychromed alabaster effigy of the duke lying in state clad in ceremonial garb and plate armor placed upon a mensa of heavy black marble surrounded by heraldic symbols. Between the black marble base and the upper mensa is a contrasting double arcade in alabaster delicately embellished with trefoil arches, crocket capital and pinnacles. Positioned within the arcade is a procession of 41 alabaster statuettes, each approximately 16 inches tall, known as mourners or pleurants. CMA has four exquisite statuettes that will be reunited with 12 from the tomb, all of which will be on view, including three from the tomb of John the Fearless. These statuettes placed around Philip’s tomb are thought to represent actual individuals who participated in the duke’s funeral procession. They are carved with attention to detail: the costume is heavy and draped; their facial features, expressions and gestures demonstrate their individuality, conveying the essence of grief, anguish and contemplation. Their arrangement around the tomb gives the feeling of a cloister as they weave dramatically in and out of the architecture of the arcade. Philip the Bold died in April 1404 of pneumonia.

His son, John the Fearless, reigned from 1404 to 1419. He was interested in power and politics but continued to support the arts, continuing his father’s collection of tapestries, books and illuminations as well as paintings and sculpture. He was assassinated by the Dauphin (the future Charles VII) after assassinating Charles VI’s brother, Louis the Duke of Orléans, in 1407.

Additional highlights include:

Table Fountain (ca. 1330–40) from the CMA’s collection is the most complete example known to have survived from the Middle Ages. Serving as an extravagant work of art to be admired for the beauty of its craftsmanship, it was clearly a feat of technical ingenuity intended to entertain guests and scent the air through the motion of cascading rosewater accompanied by the sound of ringing bells.

Saint Michael (1415–30) by Claus de Werve (Netherlands, ca. 1380–1439) and Workshop from the collection of the Church of Baume-les-Messieurs, never before been seen in the United States, was commissioned for a Burgundian church.

Funerary Crown of Philip the Bold’s Effigy (ca. 1467) was placed on the head of the effigy on Philip the Bold’s tomb and is in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon.

Claus Sluter’s (Flemish ca. 1350–1406) Bust of the Crucified Christ (ca. 1391) from the Musée Archéologique de la Ville de Dijon was part of the Calvary located on the well head of the Well of Moses. It is a masterpiece of realism, dignity and power and one of his finest works.

Philip the Bold Gives Orders to His Soldiers, 1384 by Jean de Vignay (French, 1384–1404)) is from the Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels. This manuscript on vellum is 275 x 185 mm and depicts the image of Philip the Bold addressing his troops.

Virgin and Child (1415–17) by Claus de Werve (Netherlands, ca. 1380–1439) was given by John the Fearless or by his wife, Margaret of Bavaria, to the Convent of the Poor Clares in Poligny, founded by John the Fearless in 1415. This is a monumental yet intimate image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


The fully illustrated, 368-page catalogue produced in French and English (© Éditions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 2004, ©The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 2004 for English) includes 51 authors from the United States and Europe. Prefaces by Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, minister of Culture and Communications, the Mayor of Dijon Francois Rebsamen and CMA Director Katharine Lee Reid and a forward by Sophie Jugie curator, Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon and CMA Curator of Medieval Art, Stephen N. Fliegel are included. It may be purchased in the Museum Store.

Other venue

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, Dijon (28 May-15 September 2004)


The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities and by an indemnity from the Direction des Musées de France and the Conseil Régional de Bourgogne. Support for this project has been received from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and from the International Partnerships Among Museums (IPAM) program of the American Association of Museums (AAM), through the generosity of The Florence Gould Foundation. Promotional sponsorship provided by The Plain Dealer, City Visitor Publications and WNWV The Wave. The Cleveland Museum of Art receives operating support from the Ohio Arts Council.

International symposium on 30 October 2004

Art from the court of Burgundy: The patronage of Dukes Philip the Bold and John the Fearless, 1364-1419 will be the theme of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s international symposium. This symposium is part of CMA’s special exhibition Dukes and angels: art from the court of Burgundy (1364–1419).


Stephen Fliegel, curator of medieval art


Elisabeth Delahaye, chief curator in the department of fine arts, Musée du Louvre , Patronageand the Valois: Philip the Bold and his Brothers

Till-Holger Borchert, chief curator, Groeningenmuseum, Bruges, Painting at the Burgundian Court: The Sienese and Netherlandish Currents

Ann Kelders, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, Brussels, Manuscripts: The Library of Philip the Bold and Margaret of Flanders and the Tradition of Book Collecting

Sherry Lindquist, visiting assistant professor of Art History, University of Notre Dame,St. Louis University, The Chartreuse de Champmol: The Foundation, Its Plan and Design

Renate Prochno, Insitut für Kunstgeschichte, Salzburg, The Chartreuse de Champmol: The tombs, the Well of Moses and the Genesis of a Burgundian Court Style

Sophie Jugie, curator of Patrimony and director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, The Diffusion of the Burgundian Court Style and the Legacy of Philip the Bold

Location and registration

Saturday 30 October 2004 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Gartner Auditorium. Tickets are available for $35, $25 for CMA members and are free for students and faculty by calling +1 216 421 7350 or online at the museum website