The Insigned Order of the Golden Fleece

The Insigned Order of the Golden Fleece

France — 16th century

Artistically painted by Simon Bening: the charters and portraits of famous members of the most prestigious chivalric order of the Late Middle Ages

  1. The Order of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip the Good in 1430, was the most respected knightly order of the Late Middle Ages

  2. The statutes and prominent members of the Order were artfully adorned by Simon Bening (ca. 1483–1561)

  3. The text is adorned by full-page portrait miniatures, coats of arms, and gorgeous initials

The Insigned Order of the Golden Fleece

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
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  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
The Insigned Order of the Golden Fleece

To this day, the power and glory of the Dukes of Burgundy and the House of Hapsburg is bound with the Order of the Golden Fleece. Founded at the beginning of the 15th century, all the great names of the time, many kings and even emperors, were counted among the knights and sovereigns of the order. Housed in the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan in Madrid is a splendid 16th century manuscript with the statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The codex is exceedingly richly and splendidly illustrated with numerous escutcheons of the knights of the Order and a few full-page portraits of the first five Grandmasters. Simon Bening, the most significant miniaturist of 16th century Flanders, is considered to be the artist responsible for the high-quality miniatures. In this way, the manuscripts offer a glimpse in the fascinating world of the Order of the Golden Fleece during the first two centuries of its existence, the high time of the order!

The Insigned Order of the Golden Fleece

To this day, the power and glory of the Dukes of Burgundy and the House of Hapsburg is bound with the Order of the Golden Fleece. Founded at the beginning of the 15th century, all the great names of the time, many kings and even emperors, were counted among the knights and sovereigns of the order. Housed in the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan in Madrid is a splendid 16th century manuscript with the Statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The codex is exceedingly richly and splendidly illustrated with numerous escutcheons of the knights of the Order and a few full-page portraits of the first five Grandmasters. Simon Bening, the most significant miniaturist of 16th century Flanders, is considered to be the artist responsible for the high-quality miniatures. In this way, the manuscripts offer a glimpse in the fascinating world of the Order of the Golden Fleece during the first two centuries of its existence, the high time of the order!

Dukes, Kings, and Kaisers as Grandmasters

Emperor Charles V (1500–1558) is represented as a powerful monarch in sovereign clothing. He stands self-confidently in the middle of a splendid Renaissance architectural backdrop that offers a view of an idealistic landscape. The crown above his head is carried by two angels. Charles V was the Grandmaster of the Order of the Golden Fleece in the years 1506–1558. His outstanding portrait is queued in the series of five portraits of the first five Grandmasters of the Order with their respective coats of arms. At the beginning there is a portrait of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and founder of the Order in the year 1430. The sovereigns of the Order that followed him were Charles the Bold and Emperor Maximilian I, then Philip the Fair, Duke of Burgundy and King of Spain as Philip I (1478–1506), and finally the already-mentioned Charles V. All five are immortalized in the manuscript with wonderful full-page portraits.

An Institution of Significance since 1430

The Order of the Golden Fleece was founded in Bruges on January 10, 1430. The occasion was the marriage of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy with Isabella of Portugal. Serving as the symbol of the order was the mythological ram’s skin, the Golden Fleece. Hanging from a chain, it was the distinctive mark of the Order’s knights and members. The Order consisted of important Burgundian noblemen. The Order went from the Burgundian Dukes over to the Spanish Hapsburgs and was continued there as an important institution.

The Grandiose Furnishings

The Statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece, which is housed today in the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan in Madrid, is richly furnished. On 230 pages, the manuscript brings together 62 pages with a total of 207 coats of arms belonging to the knights of the Order, the already-mentioned full-page portraits of the first five sovereigns of the Order, and 152 pages of text with over 300 splendid initials. The exceptionally artistic furnishing of the text is ascribed to Simon Bening. This miniaturist from Bruges (ca. 1483–1561) was already considered to be one of the greatest masters of 16th century Flemish illumination in his lifetime and still is today. He entered into art history with such famous works as the Book of Hours for Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg and commissions from Emperor Charles V and other high-ranking clients.

Important Testimony to the History of the Order

The manuscript with the statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece is also known by the name El Codice de la Emperatriz. Described as the codex of the empress, who was Eugenia de Montijo, the wife of Napoleon III, who repatriated the book in the Royal Spanish Collection after it was pilfered during the French Invasion of 1808. Charles V, the fifth sovereign of the Order of the Fleece, took the precious codex with him to the palace of Yuste after his return in 1555. This displayed his particular esteem for the manuscript of exceedingly high-quality and his pride in his membership in that important Order of the Golden Fleece!

Codicology

Alternative Titles
The Empress's Codex
La Insigne Orden del Toisón de Oro
Status de l'Ordre de la Thoison d'or
Der Orden vom Goldenen Vlies
Size / Format
230 pages / 31.5 × 20.5 cm
Origin
France
Date
16th century
Illustrations
62 pages contain 207 heraldries, 10 portraits of the 5 sovereigns of the Order and their crests full-page, 5 full-page portraits, 152 pages of text containing over 300 initials, painted miniatures and gold colors
Previous Owners
Eugenie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III

Available facsimile editions:
The Insigned Order of the Golden Fleece – Biblioteca del Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan (Madrid, Spain)
Scriptorium – Valencia, 1998
Limited Edition: 600 copies
Detail Picture

The Insigned Order of the Golden Fleece

Coat of Arms of Duke Philip III of Burgundy

The collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece hangs from a helmet adorned with acanthus leaves and frames the coat of arms of the Order’s founder: Duke Philip III of Burgundy, known as Philip the Good. Burgundy is represented in the upper-left and lower-right corners by fleur-de-lys with a bordure of gabony silver and gules. The golden lion in the upper-right corner symbolizes Brabant, the red lion in the lower-left corner symbolizes Limburg, and the black lion in the center symbolizes Flanders.

La Insigne Orden del Toisón de Oro
Single Page

The Insigned Order of the Golden Fleece

Duke Charles I of Burgundy

Charles the Bold was the son of Philip the Good and the last Duke of Burgundy from the House of Valois-Burgundy. His nickname is rooted in his goal of transforming his duchy into a territorially continuous kingdom. After successfully annexing and conquering several territories, his ambitions earned him enemies on virtually all sides, leading to the Burgundian Wars and his death at the Battle of Nancy in 1477.

Wearing the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, Charles is richly dressed in red ermine-lined robes adorned with cloth of gods. The red chaperon on his head would have been especially fashionable in 15th century Burgundy. Perfectly framed by two columns, Charles stands on a platform and gestures as though he were addressing an audience.

La Insigne Orden del Toisón de Oro
Facsimile Editions

#1 La Insigne Orden del Toisón de Oro

Scriptorium – Valencia, 1998
The Insigned Order of the Golden Fleece – Biblioteca del Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan (Madrid, Spain)
The Insigned Order of the Golden Fleece – Biblioteca del Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan (Madrid, Spain) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Scriptorium – Valencia, 1998
Limited Edition: 600 copies
Binding: Leather
Commentary: 1 volume by Alfonso de Ceballos-Escalera, Faustino Menéndez Pidal de Navascués, Jaime de Salazar y Acha, Ana Domínguez, Javier Docampo, Fernando Fernández-Miranda, Raphael de Smedt, Bonifacio Palacios and Manuel Fuertes de Gilbert Rojo
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
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