Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Mourners at the DMA

Today I got my medieval fix by visiting the Dallas Museum of Art to see the special exhibit of The Mourners, a collection of 40 sculptures carved for the tomb of the Dukes of Burgundy in the 15th century.

Carved by Jean de la Huerta and Antoine le Moiturier between 1443 and 1456/57, the unique devotional figures, known as “mourners,” were commissioned for the elaborate tomb of the second duke of Burgundy. Crafted with astonishing detail, the alabaster sculptures exemplify some of the most important artistic innovations of the late Middle Ages.

The "phenomenal" works "capture the entire spectrum of emotions connected with human loss," he said. "When the sculptures are grouped together, the viewer is transfixed."

During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Valois dukes of Burgundy were among

the most powerful rulers in the Western world, presiding over vast territories in present-day Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands from their capital in Dijon. The significant artistic patronage of the dukes drew artists, musicians and writers to Dijon, which became a major center of creativity and artistic patronage.

In their normal setting in Dijon they are only partially seen as they blend in between miniature Gothic arches lacing the base of the wealthy and powerful couple's black marble tomb. This prolific creativity and innovation extended to the ducal court’s sculpture workshop, which produced some of the most significant art of the period. The tombs of the first two Burgundian dukes, John the Fearless and

his father, Philip the Bold, are among the best examples. Both tombs were originally commissioned for the family’s monastic complex outside of Dijon, the Charterhouse of Champmol, and were moved following the French Revolution to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon.