Born in Tours, France Jean Fouquet traveled to Rome sometime before 1447 when he painted a portrait of Pope Eugenius IV on canvas. Credited with bringing Italian Renaissance painting techniques to France Fouquet is also considered the creator of the portrait miniature. By 1461 he had completed his work on an illuminated book of hours for France’s treasurer Etienne Chevalier. A book of hours was a Christian book of devotions containing texts, psalms, and prayers, typically written in Latin, as well as illustrated artwork that ranged from highly decorated first character passages to full page miniature paintings. Chevalier’s illuminated book of hours contained approximately 60 miniature paintings by Fouquet, 40 of which are currently housed at the Musée Condé in Château de Chantilly in France. Fouquet also painted for the court of King Charles VII and painted a death mask for Charles VII before being appointed the official Court Painter, under King Louis XI, at which time he supervised a large workshop of artists who worked on diverse projects such as manuscripts, set design, and court banners.
Some of his notable work includes: the Portrait of Pope Eugenius IV (1447), the Melun Diptych (c. 1450) and the Book of Hours of Étienne Chevalier (1461). The two images of the diptych are pictured below.
The right panel portrays Étienne Chevalier, the treasurer to King Charles VII of France with his patron saint, St. Stephen. Stephen is shown, as is typical, with a tonsure and holds a rock alluding to his death by stoning. Both men gaze to the panel on the right which contains the Mother and Child.
The red and blue cherubim give the right panel a drastically different look and different level of emotionally intensity but, along with the extreme white of Mary and Jesus’s skin tone, represent the colors of the King of France. The panels each measure approximately 36 X 33 inches but, unfortunately, are housed separately. The left panel resides at the Staatliche Museen in Berlin while the left is at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
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