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Christie's to offer two treasures of medieval statuary: Mourners from the tomb of the duc de Berry
A pair of alabaster figures depicting the Mourners, Etienne Bobillet (active 1416-1453) and Paul Mosselmann (active 1441-1467), Bourges, circa 1450. Estimate: €500,000 – 800,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013.
PARIS.- Christie’s announced the sale of two unique treasures of medieval statuary: a pair of alabaster Mourners from the tomb of Jean de France (1340 – 1416), duc de Berry and King Charles V’s brother.

Isabelle Degut, Director of the Sculpture Department: “Having these most remarkable sculptures available on the art market is a significant milestone for all collectors of medieval art. Both mourners have remained within the same French collection for more than two centuries.”

Jean de France was the third son of French King Jean II le Bon (1319 – 1364), and considered one of the most prestigious patrons of his time. He set out to rebuild and renovate the castles on his main estates, and commissioned many important works of arts including the celebrated Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, illuminated by the Limbourg brothers and currently displayed in the Condé Museum in Chantilly. The Holy Thorn Reliquary and Saint Agnes Cup, valued treasures of the British Museum in London, also came from his collection.

According to the French royal family’s tradition, the duc de Berry commissioned his own tomb and appointed the sculptor Jean de Cambrai (died 1438), a former collaborator of André Beauneveu (circa 1335 – 1400), to build it. The grave was to be built in the Sainte-Chapelle in the Ducal Palace, and was designed with a life-size recumbent statue lying on a marble slab and a base decorated with a procession of forty mourners sheltered by architectural canopies. However, with only the carving of the recumbent statue and five marble mourners finished, Jean de France died in 1416, and further construction had to be stopped. His grand-nephew and heir, King Charles VII, entrusted the completion of the mourners’ gallery to Etienne Bobillet and Paul Mosselmann circa 1450-1453. These mourners were carved fully in the round, endowed with expressive faces and luxuriant drapery – quite unlike the first carved mourners, which distinguished themselves by their simpler volumes, their straight drapery and restrained gestures.

The tomb was completed around 1457, and for three centuries lay in the center of the choir of the Sainte-Chapelle in Bourges. In 1756 the building was demolished and the duc de Berry’s tomb was moved into the cathedral’s crypt and likely sustained damage at that time. During the French Revolution, the tomb was vandalized: the architectural canopies were hammered, and the mourning figures ended up either destroyed or scattered. Only the black marble slab and the recumbent figure remained unscathed, and are still preserved within the cathedral of Bourges. To this day, twenty seven mourners have been identified: eighteen are displayed in public collections, one is presently unlocated, and the remaining eight can be found within private collections, including these two mourners

Both alabaster mourners offered for sale on 8 November 2013 in Paris have belonged to the same family since 1807, and are considered a rare artistic display of medieval statuary.

Le Goût Français
Le Goût Français is a sale held twice a year as a showcase for the finest European Decorative Arts from the 13th to 19th centuries. Christie’s specialists will present masterpieces from the field of porcelain, silver, furniture, sculpture and works of art. The next sale on the 8th November will include exceptional Louis XVI silver, medieval statuary, important furniture from the 18th century and sought-after porcelain with a Royal provenance.



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