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Work Large Round Pietà
Department of Paintings: French painting
© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Erich Lessing
Painted for Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1363-1404), whose coat of arms appears on the back of the painting, this is certainly the work of Jean Malouel, the duke's court painter. This "Pitié de Notre Seigneur" combines the subject of the Suffering Christ with that of the Holy Trinity, to which the Dukes of Burgundy accorded special devotion.
Painted for the Duke of Burgundy
The coat of arms painted on the back indicates that this Pietà was executed for Philip the Bold (1363-1404), Duke of Burgundy, by Jean Malouel, painter at the Burgundy court in 1397-1415. Doubtless born in the Nijmegen area of Holland and uncle of the de Limbourg brothers, Malouel was in the service of Isabeau of Bavaria (1371-1435) before becoming court painter for the Dukes of Burgundy. He then worked on the decoration of the Carthusian monastery of Champmol, near Dijon, where many members of the ducal Valois de Bourgogne family were buried. Others to work there were painters Henri Bellechose, Melchior Broederlam, Jean de Beaumetz and sculptor Claus Sluter. Purchased by the Louvre in 1864, this is one of the rare works known to be by Jean Malouel.
The round shape of the Large Pietà meant the artist had to pack the figures together and focus tightly on the main group, made up of God the Father, Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St. John.
Highly expressive - each figure evokes a different emotion - this is a subtly colored work, with the red of St John's mantle recurring in the garments of the angels and the blues of the mantles worn by the Virgin and God the Father complementing each other despite a deliberate chromatic discrepancy. The dead Christ is held upright by his father and two angels, while the other angels bring life and variety to the background with faces suggesting suffering and despair. The Virgin clings to the lifeless body of her son, while John looks sadly on. This Pietà is also a representation of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit and God the Father holding his Son in his arms.
Attributed to Jean MALOUEL (Nijmegen, c. 1365 - Dijon, 1415)
Paint on wood; the frame has been carved out of the panel
Philippe le Hardi; Philippe le Bon, duc de Bourgogne (?Inv. of 1420): J. Pujol collection, Toulouse; acquired at the Pujol sale in 1864
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Additional information about the work
On the back: arms of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy