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A fifteenth-century French manuscript and a painting by Robert Campin


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A fifteenth-century French manuscript and a painting by Robert Campin

Amerigo Brogi (1893-1973)
2012, oil on canvas, 23×22 cm

A fifteenth-century French manuscript and a painting by Robert Campin

Amerigo Brogi (1893-1973)

A fifteenth-century French manuscript and a painting by Robert Campin




A fifteenth-century French manuscript and an unknown painting by Robert Campin (Part 1)


Susie Nash
A fifteenth-century French manuscript and an unknown painting by Robert Campin*

(Part 2)

The illumination of the d'Ailly Hours was a project of considerable size and richness: several hands visibly participated in its writing and in the subsidiary decoration, and there is evidence to suggest that several personalised prayers and miniatures were added to the initial campaign of decoration. However, all forty-nine illustrations, including these additions, are homogeneous in style and appear to be the work of a single artist, whom John Plummer has dubbed the Master of Raoul d'Ailly.[9] His style of painting is distinctive, although his technique of paint application, palette, decorative conventions and landscape formulas are mostly derived from contemporary Parisian illumination, as exemplified by the Bedford Hours.[10] The d' Ailly Master's miniatures also display some general affinities with Netherlandish panel painting. This is evident in the bulky figures draped in heavy robes, and in the use of cast shadows which are occasionally, if inaccurately, depicted - for example in the St Catherine (Fig. 10). This miniature illustrates the stylistic duality of the d' Ailly Hours: while the pattern used for the figure of the saint is derived from a Parisian model (Fig. 11), the figure itself is far more solid and its setting within a stone niche would appear to be of Netherlandish inspiration. Such settings are frequently employed for the grisaille figures on the reverses of early Netherlandish panels, but were not in the normal repertoire of French miniaturists at this period.[11] The concept of a real, rather than a stone, figure in such a setting as seen in the d' Ailly miniature is comparable with a Campinesque work usually attributed to the young Rogier Van der Weyden, the Madonna and Child enthroned in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.[12]

Virgin and Child in an interior, from the Hours of Raoul d'Ailly, detail.

Fig. 4. Virgin and Child in an interior, from the Hours of Raoul d'Ailly, detail of fol.88v.

Virgin and Child in an interior, by Robert Campin.

Fig. 5. Virgin and Child in an interior, by Robert Campin. Panel, 28.5 by 18.5 cm. (Hermitage, St Petersburg).

There is one miniature in the d' Ailly Hours which displays a far more direct relationship with Netherlandish panels and specifically with the paintings of Robert Campin: the Virgin and Child in an interior which heads a Latin prayer to the Virgin (Fig. 4). The similarities between this miniature and the panels associated with Campin of the Virgin and Child in an interior in London (Fig.6) and St Petersburg (Fig. 5) are striking. Like the Campin panels, the d'Ailly miniature depicts a semi-narrative image of the Virgin, showing her with a basin and jug for bathing the Christ Child. A similar basin and somewhat more elaborate jug are placed on the three-legged stool in the St Petersburg painting, while the London picture includes only the basin. The d'Ailly composition, however, seems to depict an earlier stage of the narrative than that shown in the Campin panels, as it includes a pot over the fire in which the water is presumably being heated for the baby's bath. As there is no sign of water being heated in the Campin panels we may assume that there the bath has already taken place. The white cloth on the Virgin's lap in the St Petersburg and London images would appear to serve as narrative pointers, suggesting that the Virgin is protecting her fine dress against the wetness of the recently bathed baby.

Virgin and Child in an interior, by Robert Campin.

Fig. 6. Virgin and Child in an interior, by Robert Campin. Panel, 22.5 by 14.5 cm. (National Gallery, London).

Apart from this common narrative theme, the d'Ailly miniature's treatment of the image of the Virgin and Child is also completely in keeping with that in the London and St Petersburg pictures. Although seated on the ground, the Virgin rests on a very large and expensive looking brocade cushion;[13] in the London panel, the cushion is propped against the footrest of the bench, while in the St Petersburg version she in fact has two cushions, presumably for extra comfort. The naked Christ Child and the tender attitude of the Virgin, whose unbound hair cascading around her shoulders identifies her as Virgin and Queen, are significant features common to all three depictions. In addition, the treatment of the domestic interiors are consistent in all three examples. They are richly and luxuriously appointed with the stone fireplaces (figuratively carved in the St Petersburg panel and polychromed with gold and azure in the miniature), tiled floors, and cloth-of-gold coverings for the carved wooden benches in the London panel and the d' Ailly versions.[14] In the d' Ailly miniature this effect of splendour is heightened by the heraldic devices emblazoned on the walls and by the ostentatious convex mirror. Although the latter is a motif more usually associated with Van Eyck than Campin, a convex mirror can be found not only. in the Werl panels associated with Campin's workshop[15] and in the Colin de Coter version of a Campin composition of St Luke painting the Virgin,[16] but also in some early sixteenth-century paintings which are clearly related to Campin's designs for Virgins in interiors. Particularly interesting in this context isJan de Beer's painting of the Birth rf the Virgin in the Thyssen Collection (Fig. 7), where the figures of the midwife and the child before the fire are obviously derived from the St Petersburg image, and specific aspects of the setting - such as the fireplace seen from the side instead of head on, the pot heating on the fire, and most strikingly the convex mirror and its placement on the mullion of the window - echo the d' Ailly version.

Detail from the Birth if the Virgin, by Jan de Beer.

Fig. 7. Detail from the Birth if the Virgin, by Jan de Beer. Panel, 111.5 by 131 cm. (whole) (MuseoThyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid).

Detail from the Virgin and Child by a fountain, by Bernard van Orley.

Fig. 8. Detail from the Virgin and Child by a fountain, by Bernard van Orley. Panel, 85.4 by 69.9 cm.

Specific motifs found in the composition of the d' Ailly miniature recur in the work of the other early sixteenth-century painters. The distinctive pose of the Child clambering up against the Virgin's chest, reversed and slightly adapted to make the Child suckle, is found in an image known in sever al versions, one of which is attributed to Jan Cossart, and three associated with Bernard van Orley (Fig. 9) in which the Virgin and Child have been transposed into a landscape to create a Rest on the flight into Egypt.[17] This was, it seems, a common fate for Campin's Virgins: a painting by Joachim Patenir in Berlin shows the Virgin and Child from the St Petersburg panel similarly but less cleverly adapted.[18] The reappearance of the d' Ailly composition in the work of Van Orley is of particular significance since he evidently had a large stock of Campin compositions to hand: he produced at least two versions of the Campinesque Virgin in the apse,[19] and his Virgin and Child by afountain, in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (Fig. 8) includes a reworking of the figures from the London Virgin in an interior (Fig. 6).

Rest on the flight into Egypt, by Bernard van Orley.

Fig. 9. Rest on the flight into Egypt, by Bernard van Orley. Panel, 88.9 by 69.2 (Art Gallery of Ontario,Toronto).

St Catherine, from the Hours of Raoul d'Ailly.

Fig. 10. St Catherine, from the Hours of Raoul d'Ailly, fol. 208.

It is surely very unlikely that the d' Ailly miniature, painted in Amiens in the 1430s, was known and used in the sixteenth century by painters in Brussels and Antwerp. That these painters knew compositions by Campin is, on the other hand, certain. It may safely be concluded, then, that the d' Ailly miniature reflects a painting created in Campin's workshop, and is indeed likely to be a fairly faithful version of it. The composition forms an iconographically unified and coherent whole, completely consistent with the known images by the artist, and is obviously not a re-invention by the illuminator from drawings after Campin in the manner familiar from the miniatures of the Salisbury Breviary and the Hours of Catherine of Cleves. Moreover, although a recent documentary discovery has shown that Campin was commissioned on at least one occasion to paint a miniature,[20] the' details of the d' Ailly illumination suggest the inspiration of a painted source, most probably in oil. For example, the treatment of the hair of the Virgin (Fig. 4), which falls in rich, thick waves, carefully touched with yellow to suggest a glistening effect, is comparable to the handling of hair in panels by Campin, but is noticeably different from the way in which the d'Ailly artist routinely depicts the hair of his female figures (Fig. 10). The miniaturist's standard mode of painting hair is more stylized: he shows it falling in rather stringy ringlets with none of the yellow highlights which are used in the Campin-inspired version to suggest lustre. Likewise, in the jug and basin in the foreground of the miniature, the metal is depicted with paint rather than actual gold and a suggestion of sheen is effectively given with touches of yellow, whereas in the illumination of the Nativity (Fig. 12), where a pitcher and basin also occur, they are defined in a less painterly manner with burnished gold and black pen, with little suggestion of modelling. With the aid of a magnifying glass it is also possible to make out a fine line of orange down the far side of the pink fireplace simulating the effect of the glow from the fire. Such subtleties are not present in other miniatures in the manuscript, but are characteristic of panels created in Campin's shop. The treatment of the convex mirror may also be indicative of the artist's attempt to imitate a skilfully painted example, but it is one that does not fully achieve the effects of the original. In the d'Ailly miniature's mirror it is impossible to make out exactly what is being reflected, as the forms are suggestive but indistinct. By contrast, another miniature in the d'Ailly Hours, of St Mark in his study (Fig. 13), shows the illuminator adapting this new motif into a composition otherwise fully in character with his own style: here the reflections are clear but they show the lamp and the window which could not be reflected in that way at that angle. It would appear that the illuminator is trying to work out the reflections for himself, and the result is rather different from when, in the Virgin and Child in an interior, he attempts to reproduce a painted source. It is also worth noting that the Virgin and Child is the only miniature in the manuscript with correctly observed cast shadows.

* Susie Nash; A Fifteenth-Century French Manuscript and an Unknown Painting by Robert Campin, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 137, No. 1108, 1995, pp. 431-435.

A fifteenth-century French manuscript and an unknown painting by Robert Campin (Part 3)


[1] PLUMMER, op.cit. at note 4 above, pp. 9-10. The faces of the Angel and Virgin in the Annunciation on fol. 29 are by another hand, probably a later re-painting.

[10] London, British Library, MS Add. 18850, see most recently J. BACKHOUSE: The Bedford Hours, London [1990].

[11] The artists responsible for the miniatures in this manuscript were clearly trained in Paris, but the manuscript itself was probably produced in Amiens. See NASH, dissertation cited at the head of these notes, I, pp.144-55; L. RANDALL: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Willters Art Gallery. II: France 1420-1540, Baltimore and London [1992], I, pp.61-68, and II, figs. 207, 208, pI. XIC; G.T. CLARK: The Master if Morgan 453, an Illuminator in Paris and Amiens, 1415-1440, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Princeton University, 1988, pp. 136-57.

[12] Acc. no. 1930.25. M.J. FRIEDLANDER: Early Netherlandish Painting, Leiden and Brussels [1967-76], II, no. 8, pI. 16; C. EISLER: The Thyssen-Bornemisz;a Collection. Early Netherlandish Painting, London [1989], pp. 62-73.

[13] Such a method of seating was clearly considered prestigious since the ladies of the court of Queen Isabel of France are shown seated in this manner in a miniature depicting Christine de Pisan offering her book to the queen (London, British Library, MS Harley 4431, vol 1., fol. 3); see C. STERLING: La peinture midiivale it Paris, 1300-1500, Paris [1987-90], I, Fig. 196. Catherine Reynoids provided detailed evidence for the prestigious nature of such furnishings in a lecture given at the N ational Gallery as part of a Study Day on Robert Campin in March 1993.

[14] As Lorne Campbell has pointed out for the similar room of the Virgin and Child before a firescreen in the National Gallery, London; see L. CAMPBELL, D. BOMFORD, A. ROY and R. WHITE: 'The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen: History, Examination and Treatment', National Gallery Technical Bulletin, XV [1994], p. 21.

[15] Madrid, Museo del Prado, no. 1353; see FRIEDLANDER, op. cit. at note i2 above, II, no. 67, pl. 96.

[16] Vieure, near Moulins, Parish Church; see ibid., IV; pl. 92; and c. PERIER-D'IETEREN: Colyn de Cater et la technique picturale des peintres flamands du xVe siecle, Brussels [1985], Fig. 127.

[17] The Gossart is in the Galleria Sabauda, Turin, no. 191; in this version the figures are used to form a Holy Family in a classicising architectural setting (see L.C. RAGGHIANTI: Dipinti Fiamminghi in Italia (1420-1470), Bologna [1990], p. 110, no. 196. The Van Orley versions are Hermitage, St Petersburg, no. 453; and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, no. 2456; see FRIEDLÄDER, op.cit. at note 12 above, VIII, no. 128, pI. 112, who also records another version once in the A. Schloss collection, Paris, illustrated in idem.: 'Bernard van Orley',Jahrbuch der Königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, XXX [1909], p.23, pI. 25. According to Farmer, the version in Toronto may be attributed to Van Orley, the other two being weaker copies (J. D. FARMER: Bernard van Orley of Brussels, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Princeton, 1981, pp. 172-73). The pose of the Child, particularly the positioning of His legs and the Virgin's hands are also comparable to a composition associated with Rogier and known from several version, some of which are illustrated in FRIEDLANDER, op.cit. at note 12 above, II, nos. 121 a-g, pI. 125, and in D. DE vos: 'De madonna-en-kindtypologie bij Rogier Van der Weyden en enkele minder gekende Flemalleske voorlopers', Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, XIII [1971], pIs. 79-81.

[18] Berlin-Dahlem, Gemaldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen, no. 608; FRIEDLANDER, op.cit. at note 12 above, XIb, no. 237, pI. 226.

[19] For the versions associated with Campin, all of which seem to be of a later date, see ibid., II, pp. 74-5, pI. 10 I. The Van Orley versions are known from copies in Madrid, Museo del Prado, no. 1920; Oldenburg, Landesmuseum, inv. no. GG041 b; Cadiz, Museo Provincial, no. 95, and one sold at the Marquis de Victoire de Heredia sale, Paris 1912 (see FRIEDLANDER, op.cit. at note 12 above, VIII, no. 125, pI. 109). See also G. BAZIN: 'L'Esprit d'imitation dans I'art Flamande. Le Theme de la Madonna dans une abside', L'Amour de l'Art, XII [1931], pp. 495-500.

[20] On 24th June 1431 Robert Campin was paid 22 sous, 4 deniers by the Church of Sainte-Marguerite in Tournai 'pour avoir foit et point audit messel ung crucefif (J. DUMOULIN and J. PYCKE: 'Comptes de la paroisse Sainte-Marguerite de Tournai au 15e siecle. Documents inedits relatifs a Rogier de Ie Pasture, Robert Campin et d'autres artisans tournaisiens' in eidem, eds.: Les grandes siecles de Tournai (12e-15e siede). Recueil d'etude publie a l'occasion du 20e anniversaire des guides de Tournai, Tournai [1993], p. 301). I would like to thank Lorne Campbell for bringing this publication to my attention.