Jean Fouquet: The Melun Diptych
A Study Visit on The Melun Diptych and its Connections with Netherlandish Art
On Monday 8 January 2018 CODART traveled to Berlin for a one-day CODARTfocus study visit on the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition Jean Fouquet: The Melun Diptych. The studio exhibition reunites the two panels of Fouquet’s diptych from Melun for the first time since 1937, and almost certainly for the last time for many decades to come. This exhibition is a collaborative venture between the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, which has made this unique reunification possible. The Berlin panel is too fragile to be transported. It was only the temporary closure of the museum in Antwerp that made it possible to transport the iconic panel to Berlin to be reunited with its other half. The diptych, painted around 1455, can arguably be called one of the most important – possibly the single most important – French work of art to have been preserved from the 15th century.
French painting of that era is obviously related to Netherlandish art, and many of the painters who worked in France originated from the Low Countries. The unique coming together of the two panels provides an ideal moment for a CODARTfocus meeting to discuss the artistic exchanges of that period and place.
The relationship between French and early Netherlandish painting is especially interesting in Fouquet’s case: his oeuvre reveals a clear knowledge of paintings from both the Italian and the Northern Renaissance. There is a long-standing debate about Fouquet’s possible Netherlandish models – Jan van Eyck is most often cited – and the ways in which he became familiar with the new modes of rendering aspects of the visible world. Fouquet’s possible relationship to the art of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden is one of the topics of the present exhibition and its catalogue.
The show also includes other works that are closely connected to Netherlandish art. One is the famous self-portrait of Fouquet from the Louvre – probably once attached to the frame of the Melun Diptych – which raises interesting questions about early self-portraiture in the Netherlands and Italy. Another much-debated work is the image of a jester known as Gonella, from Vienna, which is here placed alongside undisputed portraits by Fouquet for the first time. Its attribution to the French painter dates only from 1974 (Otto Pächt), and has since been accepted by the majority of scholars. However, this attribution is obviously still open to question, and the direct juxtaposition with Fouquet in this exhibition decidedly adds further doubts. Moreover, the painting was executed on Baltic oak, which suggests that it was made in the Low Countries, whether by Fouquet as a travelling journeyman or by a painter of that region. Finally, there is a leaf from the famous Cockerell Chronicle, painted around 1440 in Naples by a Northern artist who was in the past often identified with Fouquet but is now generally believed to have been Barthélemy d’Eyck, an elusive figure from the Netherlands.
In the course of the CODARTfocus meeting on Fouquet we will address these issues and discuss them in front of the works of art. The Gemäldegalerie will be closed to the public on Monday and we are grateful to the museum for offering CODART members the opportunity to visit this remarkable exhibition privately, together with colleagues from the Gemäldegalerie.
This CODARTfocus is open for members of CODART and members of the ANKK.
If you have any questions about this event, you are welcome to contact the CODART office:
+31 70 333 9744 (also during the CODARTfocus)
This event is a collaboration between CODART and the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and is supported by the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, and the General Representation of the Government of Flanders in Germany.
CODART is supported by the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague