The Mourners

“The Mourners from the tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy are deeply affecting works of art. Beyond their evident visual and narrative qualities, we cannot help but be struck by the emotion they convey as they follow the funeral procession, weeping, praying, singing, lost in thought, giving vent to their grief, or consoling their neighbor. Mourning, they remind us, is a collective experience, common to all people and all moments in history.”

Sophie Jugie, Director, Musée des Beaux-Arts. Dijon

During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Valois dukes of Burgundy ruled over extensive territories in present day France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands from their capital in Dijon, which during their reign became a major center of artistic patronage.

Their court’s sculpture workshop, presided over by Claus Sluter and his followers, produced some of the most profound and original art of the period.

The tombs of the first and second Burgundian dukes, Philip the Bold and John the Fearless, are among the summits of their achievement. The ducal Tombs were conceived for the Charterhouse of Champmol, founded in 1384 by Philippe the Bold as a burial place for the new dynasty of the Valois dukes. The tombs were originally placed in the choir of the church and remained there until the Revolution – see the illustration at left.

Today these tombs are installed in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Dijon, France – see the photograph at right.

Each tomb includes in its lower register an elaborate arcade in the flamboyant gothic style, populated by a solemn processional of alabaster figures of monks and clerics that appear to circulate around the tomb as if it were a cloister.

These sculptures, known as the mourners, are small-scale embodiments of late medieval devotion. Though part of a larger monument, each sculpture is a masterpiece in its own right, and each mourner is carefully individualized. While some of the figures are shown wringing their hands or drying their tears, others appear lost in solemn contemplation, while still others hide their faces in the deeply carved folds of their robes.

This website features the mourners from the tomb of John the Fearless – Jean sans Peur.



The Mourners

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