Charles of France, Master of

(fl. c. 1455—1475)

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(fl c. 1455–75). French illuminator. His chief work is in a Book of Hours (Paris, Bib. Mazarine, MS. 473) produced for Charles, Duc de Berry, younger brother of King Louis XI. The artist was a follower of Jean Fouquet, whose stage settings he adapted with inventive trompe l'oeil effects. In all probability the master is to be identified with Jean de laval, recorded in Charles's accounts. Overpainted heraldry suggests that the Mazarine Hours were begun in 1465 for Louis, Bâtard de Bourbon, and Joanna of Valois, a natural daughter of Louis XI. The manuscript was then continued for Charles of France, with special impetus in the campaign to mark his induction as Duke of Normandy that year. The book was planned with an ambitious programme, but many of its illustrations were not carried out beyond the drawing stage. The most elaborate composition is on an excised double folio (1465; New York, Cloisters, 58.71 a–b). Here, the facing sides form a diptych of the Annunciation set before the portal of a church with profuse sculptural decoration outlined in white and gleaming in various shades of gold, as if a huge shrine. Behind is a landscape in which figure prominently the castle of Mehun-sur-Yèvre and an unusual procession of angels descending from Heaven. On the verso of the second folio, the text and its historiated initial are framed to give the illusion of a panel suspended from a chain in the interior of a portal before the Visitation set in a landscape. The artist's tableaux are generally banal, but he is distinguished by some surprising effects, which were largely carried out on the frames: in one miniature of the Mazarine manuscript, the Journey to Bethlehem (fol. 72 bis), the wide panoramic landscape is framed by borders depicting sentries in full armour; in another, the Nativity (fol. 85v), the framing device comprises an aviary on which perch magnificent peacocks. Also characteristic of this artist are the round faces of his figures, rather puffed out, with high foreheads and eyes that seem half open.


From The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Renaissance Art.

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