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: A French Miniature


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Inconspicuous in size and rather overshadowed by nearby paintings and furniture, one of the most important objects in the Renaissance gallery, B15, may well have escaped the attention of hurried visitors to the Institute. This is a miniature, or illuminated page, of exquisite design and sentiment, which has been ascribed to the famous Jean Bourdichon. There may be some question whether it is wholly from the hand of the master himself, but in any case, it is clearly a product of his studio. Bourdichon is best known by the beautiful Book of Hours, a volume of prayers or lessons in honor of the Virgin, which he illuminated for Anne of Brittany. This celebrated volume was probably made after her marriage with Louis XII, as the monogram AL occurs frequently. The book is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.The miniature owned by the Institute is on parchment, 5 inches by 7 inches, and comes from some dismembered book of hours. It was purchased last summer from the income of the Dunwoody Fund, and was formerly in the well-known Jean Dolfus collection. The Virgin is represented supporting the Christ Child who stands upon her knee. In the background are four angels making music. The Virgin’s mantle is painted a brilliant blue of great purity and strength. She is seated on a dark green cushion. Two of the angels wear light rose colored gowns and the other two are garbed in silver grey. They have pale lemon-yellow hair. Behind the figures hangs a baldacchino rich with gold. Gold is also introduced in other places as further enrichment of the costumes.Jean Bourdichon, 1457-1521, flourished as court painter with equal favor under Louis XI and Louis XII and Francis I, making the city of Tours an important art center at the close of the XV and beginning of the XVI centuries. During this period, schools for illuminators and miniaturists were at the height of technical perfection, although the invention of printing had begun to threaten the use of manuscripts. Of Bourdichon, himself, we know almost nothing except that through visiting Italy, he brought the French school into contact with the Italian, but maintained an independence of style peculiarly French.Referenced Work of Art
  1. Miniature, ascribed to Jean Bourdichon
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Source: "A French Miniature," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 4, no. 3 (March, 1915): 26-28.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009