House of Burgundy

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French ducal dynasty that included several leading art patrons in the 14th and 15th centuries. Burgundy is a historic region in east central France, but it has given its name to several larger political formations; at its peak in the 15th century the duchy of Burgundy was one of the most powerful states in Europe. Its great period began in 1363, when John II of France presented the duchy to his youngest son, Philipthe Bold (1342–1404). At this time it was fairly small, but Philip greatly enlarged it, mainly through his marriage in 1369 to Margaret of Flanders, which eventually brought him Flanders and other territories. Although he lived in various residences, his capital was at Dijon, to which he attracted many leading artists, most notably Claus Sluter. He had one of the best libraries of his time—the illuminators who worked for him including Jean and Pol de Limbourg. The Limbourgs also worked for his brother, Jean, Duc de Berry, who was an even greater bibliophile. Philip was succeeded as Duke of Burgundy by his son Johnthe Fearless (1371–1419). He likewise employed Sluter, and his painters included Jean Malouel and Henri Bellechose. He was assassinated in 1419 on the orders of the regent of France (later King Charles VII), who saw John's power as a threat to his authority; at this time Burgundy was allied with England, which was at war with France. (It was Burgundians who captured Joan of Arc in 1430 and sold her to the English to face trial and execution.)

John was succeeded by his son Philipthe Good (1396–1467), who extended the boundaries of Burgundy by conquest, marriage, and purchase. In 1435 he established peace with France, reversing his previous policy by supporting the country in its continuing war against England. There was military action in Burgundian territory for about a decade after this, but the later years of Philip's reign were marked by peace and prosperity for the duchy. His favourite artist was Jan van Eyck and he also employed the other supreme Netherlandish painter of his time, Rogier van der Weyden. (Rogier painted at least two portraits of Philip; both are lost, but they are known through copies.) By making Brussels (where Rogier worked) one of his courts, Philip helped bring the city into the forefront of cultural affairs. Philip was succeeded by his son Charlesthe Bold (1433–77). Charles employed many artists, including Hugo van der Goes, but he was more interested in conquest than culture. He was killed whilst besieging Nancy, the capital of the neighbouring duchy of Lorraine, in furtherance of his expansionist aims. He died without a male heir and this brought an end to Burgundy's golden age. The southern territories were annexed by France, and the northern ones became part of the Holy Roman Empire, through the marriage in 1477 of Charles's daughter Mary of Burgundy to the future Maximilian I (see Habsburg).

Subjects: Renaissance Art.

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