Hours of Étienne Chevalier

Hours of Étienne Chevalier

Jean Fouqet's early masterpiece: the 49 surviving miniatures from the book of hours for the French king's treasurer

  1. The royal treasurer of France, Étienne Chevalier (ca. 1410–74), was a rich and powerful patron of the arts

  2. This early work by Jean Fouqet (1420–81) is considered to be "one of the greatest masterpieces of occidental illumination"

  3. Fouquet worked for numerous important patrons including the French kings Charles VII (1403–61) and Louis XI (1423–83)

Hours of Étienne Chevalier

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Description
Hours of Étienne Chevalier

An early masterpiece from the hand of one of the most important illuminators in history! Anything less than these superlatives would be inadequate to praise the famous Hours of Étienne Chevalier. A turbulent history indicates the esteem and wonder that the outstanding manuscript enjoyed through the centuries – and not always for its own good. Great names in French history are associated with it, and it is unsurpassed as a work of art.

Hours of Étienne Chevalier

Étienne Chevalier (1410–1474) ran in the highest social circles of the French kingdom. He was the treasurer of France under the rule of King Charles VII and an important patron of the arts. As such, Chevalier commissioned no one less than Jean Fouqet with the realization of a few works of art that would embed the names of both patron and artist in art history for all time.

A Primary Work of French Illumination

The Hours of Étienne Chevalieroriginated in the years between 1448 and 1457 and is considered today to be “one of the greatest masterpieces of occidental illumination.” Luminous colors and focused light, complicated spatiality, and an unbelievable technical mastery of miniature painting are probably the overriding features of the 47 miniatures. Architectural elements from the most varied styles are emulated in detail in splendid Renaissance columns and fine Gothic ornamentation. The elegant figures and wide landscapes on the other hand have a Flemish influence. The refinement of the painting is impressive and compliments the clear comprehensibility of the picture’s message.

The Downside of Admiration

Thus, the Hours of Étienne Chevalier presents itself in exceptional splendor. Nonetheless, the book of hours lost its original form through the turmoil of history. The book of hours was in the possession of Étienne Chevalier’s family until the 17th century. In the 18th century, the masterpiece fell victim to its own admiration, the manuscript was dismantled. First, the texts were painted over, then the miniatures were organized on wooden tablets. In this form, 40 of the miniatures came into the possession of the Duke of Aumale, who placed them in a single room in the Château de Chantilly – the modern Musèe Condè. Seven additional pages are divided among collections across the world, in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Louvre, and the Musèe Marmottan in Paris, in the British Library and Upton House, and in New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

Unsurpassed!

The master of this manuscript was Jean Fouquet (ca. 1420–1480), one of the greatest artists of French art history and the history of illumination overall. Fouquet worked for numerous important patrons and was in the service of the kings Charles VII and Louis XI. He got to know the most important masters of Renaissance painting in Italy early on and was influenced by them – both Italian and Dutch alike. With the book of hours that he made for Étienne Chevalier at the beginning of his career, he created a masterpiece that originated without a workshop behind it and which thoroughly meets the masterful standard of Fouquet’s skill.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Hours of Étienne Chevalier

Available facsimile editions:
Hours of Étienne Chevalier – SEHR VIELE SHELF MARKS! – Musée Condé (Chantilly, France)
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Detail Picture

Hours of Étienne Chevalier

Jesus before Pontius Pilate

Jesus is shown having been brought before Pontius Pilate by soldiers in golden armor, they are surrounded by a crowd dressed as rich medieval bishops and cardinals – the artist’s criticism of greed and corruption in the church. His condemnation is already assured and carpenters are shown working on his cross in the scene below. “Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you say.’” (Matt. 27:11)

Stundenbuch des Étienne Chevalier
Single Page

Hours of Étienne Chevalier

Scenes from the Passion Cycle

Jean Fouquet’s masterpiece was unfortunately dismantled during the 18th century, although 40 of the 47 miniatures were kept together, organized onto wooden tablets in the form seen here. This tablet shows four scenes surrounding the Crucifixion, beginning with the Road to Calvary in the upper-left and finishing with the Entombment of Christ in the lower-right.

It is clear from the quality and the detail in each of these miniatures why the manuscript fell victim to its own magnificence and was subsequently dismantled. Aside from the naturalistic body posturing and beautifully depicted clothing and armor, the backgrounds are truly remarkable for their size, consisting of idyllic landscapes showing both Gothic and Romanesque architectures.

Stundenbuch des Étienne Chevalier
Facsimile Editions

#1 Stundenbuch des Étienne Chevalier

Hours of Étienne Chevalier – SEHR VIELE SHELF MARKS! – Musée Condé (Chantilly, France)
Hours of Étienne Chevalier – SEHR VIELE SHELF MARKS! – Musée Condé (Chantilly, France) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Binding: The folios are presented in groups of four under passepartouts. They come in a decorative case bearing a medallion with a portrait of Jean Fouquet.
Commentary: 1 volume by Eberhard König
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction the preserved individual sheets of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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