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Work Diptych of Jean Carondelet

Department of Paintings: Dutch painting

Diptych of Jean Carondelet

© 2008 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Dutch painting

Kazerouni Guillaume

In 1517, this cleric, who was an important official in the Dutch government, accompanied the future Charles V to Spain. The diptych was possibly painted on this occasion as a sort of ex-voto, with the moral of trusting in God and the Virgin Mary and being lucid in the face of death.

Gossaert and the Northern Renaissance

Trained in Malines, Jean Gossaert was given the nickname of Mabuse. In 1508 and 1509 he went to stay in Rome with his protector Philip of Burgundy, the illegitimate son of Philip the Good. There, he studied and copied ancient Greek and Roman art and was able to see at first hand the creations of Michelangelo and Raphael, then at the height of his powers. This stay was to have a great influence on his painting, which also borrows on occasion from Van Eyck and Dürer. Gossaert subsequently played a pivotal role in Dutch art, inspiring it with the spirit, forms, and themes of the Italian Renaissance. With him began the vogue for Italianism and the Neo-Attic in Flanders. He was one of the first to paint large nudes (Adam and Eve) and mythological subjects (Danaë). However, he did not abandon the Northern tradition and, for this reason, his work with its wealth of influences makes him an artist of transition. His output is characterized by spirited drawings and sculptural, expressive forms.

The Virgin, the Child. and the donor

The Louvre diptych is a work of private devotion but the painter's talents, both for portraiture and still life, are manifest. The donor is shown half-length, kneeling in prayer with a thoughtful look on his face. We see him in a three-quarter view; he turns towards the right-hand panel where, following the same schema, the Virgin is holding the Child. The Child is turning to face the donor whereas his mother looks outwards towards the onlooker with a faraway gaze. The three figures are set firmly in a neutral space against a black background. The light plays a crucial role in the portrayal of volume and expressions, echoing Van Eyck and Dürer as much as painters such as Ghirlandaio. Gossaert combines Flemish realism and precision of execution with an Italian conception of the interplay between volume (in the form of monumental figures) and space.

Jean Carondelet

The donor, Jean Carondelet, can be identified by his coat of arms and the initials "I C" painted on the reverse of the panel depicting him. An inscription on the frame also refers to him and gives his age: "REPRESENTACION DE MESSIRE IEHAN CARONDELET HAULT DOYEN DE BESANCON EN AGE DE 48 A." The date 1517 is on the base of the frame. This high-ranking dignitary, the dean of the church at Besançon and adviser to Charles V, was given the task of accompanying the emperor and Princess Eleanor to Spain in the year when this small portable diptych was made. Gossaert's masterpiece appears to be a meditation on the human condition and the inevitability of death, however rich and powerful the individual may be. The striking vanitas depicted on the reverse of the right-hand panel, showing a skull with a dislocated jaw, serves as a reminder of mortality. Carondelet was then at the pinnacle of his glory.

Technical description

  • Jan GOSSAERT (sometimes known as MABUSE) (Maubeuge?, c. 1478 - Middelburg or Antwerp, 1532)

    Diptych of Jean Carondelet


  • H. 0.42 m; W. 0.27 m

  • Acquired from the architect Bernard, Valenciennes, 1847 , 1847

    Left panel: Jean Carondelet (1469-1544); on the reverse, coat of arms, number (IC), and model's motto.
    Right panel: Virgin and Child; on the reverse, Trompe-l'œil death's head.

    INV. 1442, INV. 1443

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Germanic countries, 16th century
    Room 815-816

Practical information

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Additional information about the work

Dated at the bottom on the frame of the left panel, "Fait l'an 1517," and signed at the bottom of the right panel, "Iohannes Melbodie pingebat."