Master of Jacques de Besançon

(fl. c. 1480—1498)

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(fl c. 1480–98). French illuminator. He was the last in a succession of three artists who headed the most prolific workshop for book illumination in Paris in the second half of the 15th century. His name has been subjected to considerable change since Durrieu first studied this school (1892) and called the master responsible for its comprehensive development Jacques de Besançon. Durrieu attributed nearly 50 manuscripts, produced over a period of more than 40 years, and illustrations in 28 printed books to the illuminator of a miniature depicting St John and the Poisoned Cup in an Office of St John (Paris, Bib. Mazarine, MS. 461, fol. 9r). A colophon (fol. 33v) in this book records the donation of the work to the confraternity of St John the Evangelist by Jacques de Besançon ‘enlumineur’ and ‘batonnier’ of the said confraternity, which was dedicated to the craft of the book. In 1898 Thuasne cited a letter written by Robert Gaguin in August 1473, which referred to the completion of an illuminated City of God for Charles de Gaucourt by the ‘egregius pictor Franciscus’. Identified through its coats of arms as Paris, Bib. N., MSS fr. 18–19, this had been among the manuscripts attributed to Jacques de Besançon; Durrieu therefore re-named his artist Maître François. Spencer (1963, 1974), however, distinguished three chronologically successive artistic personalities as responsible for the workshop, a theory that has received general acceptance: the master of Jean rolin, c. 1440–65; maître François (‘pictor franciscus’), c. 1460–80; and the Chief Associate of Maître François, c. 1480–98. Sterling (1990) and Reynaud (1993 exh. cat.) restored the name Jacques de Besançon to the last of the trio, although Reynaud modified it to the Master of Jacques de Besançon, arguing that it is not clear whether the donor of the Mazarine Office of St John actually executed its two miniatures or whether his title ‘enlumineur’ referred specifically to the craft of embellishing initials, as Durrieu, Spencer and others have interpreted it; this would mean that Jacques had commissioned the miniatures for his confraternity.


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

Subjects: Renaissance Art.

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