Dukes of Burgundy thought big for their graves

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The graves - ©Arnaud 25 / CC-BY-SA The graves - ©Arnaud 25 / CC-BY-SA
Dijon ducal palace Museum Philip the Bold John the Fearless

A museum with amazing collections

Founded in 1799, it's one of the biggest museum in France! The current museum was set up in the Burgundian dukes' palace (we still visit the 15th century kitchens). We have the medieval and Renaissance collections, Italian paintings, primitive Germans, Renaissance decorative arts, 17th century French paintings...

The climax is the salle des Gardes dedicated to the gorgeous Champmol Charterhouse, dukes of Burgundy's necropolis (in this room raised by Philip the Good, Charles the Bold made a sumptuous party in 1474). In this room, we can see two beautiful retables, then, two tombs...

Dukes of Burgundy's tombs

Here, we have Philip the Bold and John the Fearless' tombs! Real gems of the Medieval sculpture... They were ordered at the end of the 14th century, in order to go in the Champmol Charterhouse, the dynasty's necropolis. In 1827 they were moved in the museum, in Dijon: yeah, because Dijon is the dukes' city!

The Bold's tombstone

Made by duke's sculptors Jean de Marville, Claus Sluter, Claus de Werve and colourist Jean Malouel, we have here a real masterpiece! Come on, let's see it...

The duke has his eyes wide open, because he's still alive. Little weepers are next to him, going with him to meet his maker. He's wearing a crown, an armour, a long coat.

Did you see? Contrary to most recumbent figures, this coat has natural creases, hanging all around the duke without defying gravity... It's a real lying corpse, not a rigid statue! At his feet, a lion... symbol of force! Angels hold his helmet. And on the lower part, look: here comes the alabaster weepers' cortege...

These little statues broke new ground! Medieval recumbent figures used to have weepers, (as for instance king saint Louis son's tomb in Saint-Denis) but they were in half-relief: those one were entire, with space around them! Anyway, this tomb was made of white and black marble from Dinant, from 1384.

In 1404, when the duke died, the tomb wasn't finished! Missed weepers, the recumbent figure and so on. John the Fearless asked Sluter to complete the tomb within 4 years: 4 years, twice as short! And Sluter died in 1406... He passed on the torch to Claus de Werve, his nephew... who completed the tomb in 1410!

John the Fearless' tomb

John isn't alone, here: his wife Margaret of Burgundy is with him! This tomb was made by Jean de La Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier... but its execution was clearly more laborious! So, here's the Bold's son: John died in 1419, but the tomb wasn't immediately carried out. It was Philip the Good on who ordered it in 1435 but...

Claus de Werve died in 1439! So, in 1443, the duke entered into a contract with La Huerta, who created the main elements. But he suddenly left Dijon in 1456: Le Moiturier replaced him from 1461 in order to complete the two recumbent figures. In 1470, finally! Tombs moved in Champmol necropolis...


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