Communication with Italy—Renaissance not sudden—Origin of the schools of France and Burgundy—Touraine and its art—Fouquet—Brentano MSS.—“Versailles” Livy—Munich “Boccaccio,” etc.—Perréal and Bourdichon—“Hours of Anne of Brittany”—Poyet—The school of Fontainebleau—Stained glass—Jean Cousin—Gouffier “Heures”—British Museum Offices of Francis I.—Dinteville Offices—Paris “Heures de Montmorency,” “Heures de Dinteville,” etc.

When the new ideas derived from the Italian revival first reached France, it would be difficult to say. There must have been communication with Italy going on the whole time that Cimabue and Giotto, Memmi and the rest were astonishing their fellow-citizens with their divine performances. The roads from Lyons, Poictiers, Dijon, and Paris were well known, and frequently trodden by both artists and merchants as well as by soldiers. The Renaissance, therefore, was no sudden convulsion. Perhaps a very careful examination of some of our Burgundian MSS. might reveal the presence of notions derived from Italian travel, for it is in the details of ornament that we find the traces of a new movement, and when the great change of style is clearly noticeable it is when the habits of society themselves have been remodelled, and when the once strange and foreign element has become a familiar guest.

In the fixing of schools and centres much is owing, of course, to the residential choice of princes, on whose patronage depends the very existence of art. This explains the schools of Bruges and Dijon, of Paris and Tours, for while the earlier dukes of Burgundy and the earlier kings of France had lived at Bruges and Paris, the later dukes had preferred Dijon, and Louis XI., Charles VIII., and Louis XII. lived mostly at Tours. So that while Dijon became the new centre of Burgundian illumination, Tours became to the new movement from Italy what Paris had been at the commencement of the Gothic period. Tours, in fact, became the centre of the Renaissance. The influence of Dijon was on the wane, Burgundy itself was going down. Michel Coulombe, the great Breton sculptor, who had been trained at Dijon, left it for Tours, and probably illuminators and other artists followed his example. As we know from examples, the Burgundian art of Dijon had the Flemish stamp strongly marked—the Flemish artists had a way of making strong impressions.

Tours, on the other hand, had had an entirely different training. The artists of Touraine had no shadow of Flemish influence in their practice. Their sculptures, enamels, colour-scheme were of another bias. Their stamp came from Italy, and if not so deep as that of Flanders or Dijon, it was equally inevitable and more permanent.

The first name that we meet with among the illuminators of Touraine who are expressly connected with the Renaissance is that of Jean Fouquet. Of his origin or training nothing seems to be known, but he was born probably about 1415. He must have acquired distinction even as a youth, for some twenty-five years afterwards (1440-3) he was invited to Rome to paint the portrait of Pope Eugenius IV., and he stayed in Italy until 1447. On his return to France he was made valet de chambre and painter to Charles VII. at Tours, and continued in the same office under Louis XI. It was part of the business of thepaintre du roy to design and provide decorations and costumes, banners and devices for all state ceremonies, and this became Fouquet's duty at the funeral of Charles VII., and when Louis instituted the Order of St. Michel in 1470, and the last trace of him as an artist occurs about 1477. His sons, Louis and Francis, were both painters, and, like himself, worked much at the illumination of books. It is curious that this great master—one of the greatest miniaturists of any school, and one of the founders of the French school of painting—became entirely forgotten until the discovery of some fragments of a Book of Hours painted for Estienne Chevalier, the King's treasurer.

Forty miniatures of the most masterly description came into the hands of M. Louis Brentano-Laroche, of Frankfort-on-the-Maine. Their uncommon excellence led to a most diligent search for information respecting the artist, which resulted in the unearthing of many other examples of his unequalled pencil. We now know of a dozen most precious examples. Besides the Brentano miniatures, two other fragments of the same Book of Hours have been found, and several large and important MSS. Among these we may name the “Antiquities of the Jews,” by Josephus, in the National Library at Paris (MSS. Des. 6891), and a Book of Hours, executed for Marie de Clève, widow of Charles Duke of Orleans, in 1472. Attributed to him are the “Versailles” Livy (Nat. Lib., Paris, 6907); the “Sorbonne” Livy (fds. de Sorb. 297). A Livy in the public library at Tours also passes under his name, and the famous “Boccaccio” of Estienne Chevalier at Munich, containing ninety miniatures, is also confidently assigned to him. Other MSS. that are imputed to him are probably the work of his sons or scholars.

The Paris Josephus is generally considered his masterpiece. The volume (which contains only the first fourteen books) is in folio, written most beautifully in two columns, and is adorned with miniatures, vignettes, and initials, but much of its interest lies in the note at the end, placed there by Robortet, secretary to the Due de Bourbon: “En ce liure a douze ystoires les troys premieres de l'enlumineur du due Jehan de Berry, et les neuf de la main du bon paintre et enlumineur du roy Loys XIe Jehan Foucquet, natif de Tours.” And we gather from another note that the book had been entrusted to Fouquet for completion by Jacques d'Armagnac duc de Nemours. A further note informs us that the book belonged to the Duc de Bourbon. It seems to have been one of the rich presents made by the Due de Berry to Jacques de Nemours. The first three miniatures are by the illuminator of the Duc de Berry, and this artist was probably Andrieu Beauneveu, though other illuminators did work for him, as Jacques de Hesdin and Pol de Limbourg. The fourth miniature is by Fouquet, and represents a battle; the rest to the seventh are either not his best work or else the work of his pupils, but the seventh on folio 135 gives us a good idea of Fouquet at his best. It represents David receiving with his crown the news of the death of Saul. The eighth, ninth, and tenth are very fine, but the eleventh M. Paulin Paris (MSS. du Roy) thinks the most beautiful of all. Its subject is the clemency of Cyrus towards the captive Jews in Babylon.[55] Of the other MSS. space forbids us reluctantly to forego description.

[55] See Mrs. Mark Pattison's (Lady Dilke) The Renaissance in France, i. 273, etc.; Bradley, Dict. of Miniaturists art. “Fouquet,” i. 346.

The characteristics of the school of Tours as seen in the work of the greatest of its expositors is (1) The clearly marked influence of Italy and the antique. (2) A masterly understanding of French landscape (see fine instances of this understanding also in “Trésor des Histoires,” now in the British Museum, Cott., Aug. 5). (3) A complete freedom from Gothic influence and from the domination of the school of Bruges. The colours for which Fouquet seems to have a preference are, first, a clear orange-vermilion, supported by golden brown and gold, clear blue and green, lemon-yellow; and then, as a contrast, grey of various tones in walls and buildings, soft landscape greens, and aërial tints of distance and sky. Perhaps the technical skill of Fouquet has never been surpassed. It is so perfect that some have tried to explain it by supposing that he was trained in a Flemish studio. His sons and pupils continued his methods, and thus while Paris remains under the influence of Flemish masters, Tours was carrying forward a quite different type of traditions.

The Valerius Maximus (Harl. 4374) of the British Museum will give an idea of the later Paris school. Its date is about the end of the fifteenth century.

We ought not in this place to forget the influence brought into French art through the marriage of the murdered Duke of Orleans with Valentina of Milan, not only directly through books and artists, but by the hereditary transmission of that love of art and beautiful things for which Valentina and her family were well known. It was in art, letters, and books that the widowed princess sought such consolation as was possible.[56] In her best days she had united in herself a seductive grace of carriage, beauty of person, and dignity of rank, which made her the ornament of the French Court. She was almost the only one about the unfortunate Charles VI. who could influence him in his moments of mental aberration. Coming from the luxury of the most splendid court in Italy, she brought into France the most refined taste in matters connected with the arts. The inventory of her jewels at the time of her marriage includes three Books of Hours, three German MSS., and a volume called Mandavilla. Like her husband she was an employer both of copyists and illuminators, and before her death had collected at her Castle of Blois a very fine collection of beautiful books.

[56] She assumed as her impresa the chantepleure, with the sorrowful motto: “Plus ne m'est rien: rien ne m'est plus.”

Her son Charles, the poet, inherited her tastes, and added to her collections. We are not surprised, therefore, to find her grandson Louis, afterwards Louis XII., supporting the great artistic movement which he and his Queen Anne of Brittany helped so effectually to identify with the Court of France.

About the time that we hear the last of Fouquet we have the earliest notices of another illuminator who plays an important part in the illuminations executed for Anne of Brittany, the noble and gifted Queen of France, and wife, first of Charles VIII. and then of his successor, Louis XII.

In 1472 Jean Perréal is entrusted with the glass paintings of the Carmelite church at Tours. Lemaire, in his Légende des Vénitiens, calls him a second Zeuxis or Apelles. During the reigns of Charles VIII. and Louis XII. he is the chief artist of the time: In 1491, and perhaps earlier, he is engaged in the usual duties of a valet de chambre, i.e. designing and preparing the requisite devises, arms, and banners for public functions. In 1502 he went to Italy. In 1509 his name occurs in connection with that of Jean Bourdichon, of whom we shall hear more when we come to the work done for the Queen. In 1523 in the household of Francis I. he is still valet de chambre. Twenty-four years previously it was as valet de chambre that he prepared the decorations for Louis XII.'s entry into Lyons. On the death of Anne of Brittany also he performed similar duties, and again on that of Louis XII. He even came to England in 1514, sent by Louis XII., to superintend the trousseau of Mary Tudor, “pour aider à dresser le dict appareil à la mode de France,” previous to her wedding journey to Paris.[57] Four months afterwards he was summoned to direct the funeral obsequies of Louis himself. No illuminated work can be really identified as the work of Perréal, but Mrs. Patteson (Lady Dilke) strongly urges the probability that he painted the Bible Historiée of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, bequeathed by General Oglethorpe.[58] She considers it quite the sort of work that would grow out of that of Fouquet, and dwells upon the fact of his official duties as valet de chambre giving him just that minute facility in the decoration of armour and furniture in the miniatures which the MS. displays. Whether this be so or not, it is certain that the Bible Historiée is a fine example of the school of Tours.

[57] See Vespas, b. 2 (Brit. Mus.).

[58] See her Renaissance of Art in France, i. 303.

Another court painter and valet de chambre to Louis XI. and his successors was Jean Bourdichon, an artist born at Tours in 1457, and therefore as a youth probably one of the scholars in the atelier of Jean Fouquet. He is first noticed in the accounts in or about 1478: “A Jehan Bourdichon, paintre, la somme de vingt liures dix sept solz ung denier tournois pour avoir paint le tabernacle fait pour la chapelle du Plessis du Pare, de fin or et d'azur.”[59] Later on, after naming the painting of a statute of St. Martin, for which he received twenty golden crowns, is a note of his painting a MS., which we translate: “To the said Bourdichon for having had written a book in parchment named the Papalist—the same illuminated in gold and azure and made in the same 19 rich histories (miniatures) and for getting it bound and covered, thirty crowns of gold. For this by virtue of the said order of the King and by quittance of the abovenamed written the 5th April One thousand four hundred and eighty (milcccciiiixx) after Easter, here rendered the sum of £19 1. 8.”

[59] Comptes de l'Hôtel de Louis XI., 1478-81.

Another quittance shows him to have been employed on the decorations of the château of Plessis les Tours. We may easily see how it is that these artists, when they came to illuminate the books entrusted to them, had such special knowledge of embroideries and decoration of armour when we read in the accounts how they were constantly employed in designing dresses for weddings, tournaments, and funeral obsequies, and making “patterns for the dress and equipment of war.”

A notice in 1508 tells us that Anne of Brittany made an order of payment to Bourdichon of 1,050 livres tournois for having “richly and sumptuously historiated and illuminated a great Book of Hours for our use and service to which he has given and employed much time, and also on behalf of other services which he has rendered hitherto.” This refers to the celebrated “Hours of Anne of Brittany,” now in the National Library at Paris.

This volume, peerless of its kind, has been reproduced in colour lithography by Curmer of Paris—the result, however, is disappointing from the flat and faded look of the prints as compared with the brilliancy of the original pages. The MS. is an invaluable monument of French Renaissance illumination. It is French of Touraine rather than of Paris, yet bearing traces in its flowers and fruit borders of Flemish modes of ornament. It has also reminiscences of Italian painting. But the French neatness and restraint from over-decoration have kept it in a manner unique. It has not quite the softness of Italian, and is far from the intensity of Flemish. Indeed, its fault, if it be faulty, is in its want of force. With the exception of Anne's own portrait given with her patrons, St. Anne, St. Helena, and St. Ursula. The Queen's gown is of brown gold brocade trimmed with dark brown fur. Her hair is brown, like the fur. She wears a necklace of gems set in gold. On her head is a black hood edged with gold and jewels, beneath which and next her face is a border of crimped white muslin, She has brown eyes and finely pencilled eyebrows. As to nose and mouth, she and the two younger saints are pretty much alike. With the allowance of blue for black, St. Anne wears the dress of a Benedictine abbess. A dark crimson cloth covers a table before which the Queen is kneeling, and on which lies open a finely illuminated Service-book. The Calendar which follows this portrait is for each month enclosed in a margin of ornament. To the outer margin of every other page of the book is placed a broad tablet or pilaster containing flowers, fruits, insects, etc., from five to six inches high, each having the Latin name of the plant, etc., at top in red, and the French one in red or blue at the bottom. These names may have been put in later. It must be admitted that the fruits, flowers, and insects are painted with the greatest care and neatness, though sometimes a little assisted by the imagination of the painter. The text and initials are rather heavy and commonplace. Now and then a border surrounds the text completely, where flowers or fruits are scattered—somewhat recklessly at times, but usually with good design—over a ground of plain gold, on which the branches, etc., cast heavy shadows. This part of the design is certainly Flemish. Where “histories” occur the border is a plain brown gilt frame within a black border. Undoubtedly the “Hours of Anne of Brittany” is a very precious volume. The figure subjects are of various degrees of excellence. The four evangelists are vivid, and recall the portraits of Ghirlandaio, and it is to Italy also that the illuminator is indebted for his architectural and sculptural details. Yet Bourdichon is inferior to Fouquet in colouring, as the latter is to the Italians in design and composition. Perhaps he is most successful in his flowers and insects. “Nothing,” said Muntz, “is less like the elegant foliages of Ghirlandaio and Attavante, and nothing is more worthy of being put in comparison with them.”[60]

[60] La Renaissance en Italie, etc., 547-8.

An illuminator of the name of Jehan Poyet is said to have assisted in the “Hours,” thus while Bourdichon painted the miniatures, Poyet put in the flowers and fruit, etc.; but this share of work is by some believed to belong to a smaller Book of Hours executed for the Queen. Flowers and fruit are said to have been Poyet's speciality, and it is quite possible that he may have had the painting of the borders of the “Grandes Heures,” while Bourdichon did the rest. The writer of the MS. was another native of Tours, named Jehan Riveron. During the reign of Francis I. the school of Tours was removed to Paris because the Court had settled there. Louis XII. had died in the Hôtel des Tournelles, and Francis, though full of plans for plaisances elsewhere, lived mostly in Paris. Fontainebleau is the dream of the near future. Il Rosso, the Italian architect, painter, poet, and musician, was busy there amid a crowd of other artists from Florence and Rome—the refuse of a once brilliant sodality. It was the frivolous, pretty, graceful side of Italian art that came northward in that great migration—the graver and more dignified elements were left behind. To see what Italian art became in France, we have only to enter the Grand Gallery at Fontainebleau, and we see it at its best in architecture, sculpture, and painting. And we cannot help admiring it, for it is amazingly beautiful. Yet it is not Italian—the Italian of the Medici and Farnese palaces. Il Rosso was neither a Michelangelo nor a Carracci; but he set a fashion. He changed the face of art for France. Nor was it in painting and sculpture only. The Italian passion for devises, anagrams, emblems, and mottoes became the rage in Paris. It first came in with the return of Charles VIII. from his Neapolitan campaign. Louis XII. adopted the hedgehog or porcupine, with the motto “Cominus et eminus.” His Queen Claude's motto was “Candida candidis.” The Princess Marguerite's emblem was a marigold or heliotrope; others assigned her the daisy. Her motto: “Non inferiora secutus.” The well-known emblem of Francis was a salamander—why, is a mystery—with the motto, “Nutrisco et extinguo.” All this entered into the taste of the illuminator, and elegant cartouche frames—probably of Dutch origin, as we see in the old map-books of Ortelius Cluverius and Bleau, imported by Ortelius and his friends into Italy, and made use of by Clovio, and thence transferred to France—were made into border-frames for miniatures, varied with altar-forms, doorways, and other fanciful frameworks from the new architecture decorated with flowers, ribbons, panels, mottoes. Another new thing, too, no doubt afforded plenty of suggestion to the illuminator. This was stained glass. Jean Cousin was in his glory in glass-painting; Robert Pinagrier also. But it was Cousin who adopted the new Italian ideas, and whose works were models for the illuminator. In the backgrounds and details of his glass-paintings at Sens, Fleurigny, Paris, and elsewhere, we may trace his progress; and an excellent model, too, was Jean Cousin. He has other claims to remembrance in sculpture, engraving, authorship, but it is as the glass-painter that his influence is seen in illumination. Indeed, Mr. A.F. Didot strongly urged the probability that Cousin was himself the illuminator of the splendid Breviary or Hours of Claude Gouffier.[61] The drawing is in his best manner, the frame-border of caryatides in camaieu is of a richness of ornamentation in keeping with the rest of the volume. The arms and motto of Gouffier are painted in it. It is objected that Cousin's name does not appear in the Gouffier account-books, while those of other artists are given. But only a portion of the accounts is extant. Cousin may, perhaps, only have designed the book, and the other miniaturists carried out his designs. At any rate, the accounts give us the names of three miniaturists which we may here record—Jean Lemaire, of Paris (1555), Charles Jourdain, and Geoffroy Ballin (1359). These “enlumineurs” are stated to have decorated two Books of Hours for Gouffier's wedding. As a good example of the style employed in the decoration of title-pages, we may quote the chimney-piece of the Château d'Anet, executed for Diane de Poitiers, where a sculptured marble frame surrounds a painted landscape. Many of the books of the time of Francis I. and Henry II. are ornamented in this style.

[61] Now belonging to M. le Vicomte de Tanzé.

In the British Museum are several fine MSS. illustrative of this period of French illumination, viz. Add. 18853, 18854, and 18855. These three MSS. formed part of the purchase which included the Bedford Offices. 18853 is a Book of Offices executed apparently for Francis I. In some of the borders is a large F with the Cordelière of the third Order of St. Francis and a rayed crown, and on folio 97 v. a large monogram consisting of the letter F, with two crossed sceptres and palm branches, surmounted by the crown-royal of France.

Nothing is known of the history of the MS. from 1547 to 1723, when it was in possession of the Regent Philippe d'Orleans. Possibly it had remained as an heirloom in the family. Philippe gave it to his natural son the Abbé Rothelin, a great lover of rare books and a noted collector, at whose death it was bought by Gaignat, another collector, who sold it to the Duc de la Vallière, and so, step by step, it came at length to Sir John Tobin, of Liverpool, and thence to the British Museum.

The partly sculpturesque character of the border-frames are of the kind just referred to, with festoons and garlands of flowers, and drapery, monograms, and emblems in full rich colours; the architecture and other ornaments sometimes finished with pencillings of gold. The miniatures are of excellent design and colour, finely modelled, and quite in the manner of the paintings of Fontainebleau. The text is a combination of Jarry-like Roman with italic. It may be compared with 18854, similar in some respects, but the smaller miniatures and the frames look more like the older school of Tours. This MS. is also a Book of Offices, and was written for François de Dinteville, Bishop of Auxerre, in 1525, as appears from an inscription in gold letters on fol. 26 v.

C. 1530
Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 18853, fol. 52
Brit. Mus. Egert. MS. 2125, fol. 183

Some of the border-frames are drawn in sepia, others in red-brown or burnt siena, and highly finished with gold. The writing is a small Roman hand. On the whole it is richer in illustration than 18853, but not so perfect in drawing, yet it is a very fine MS. Sometimes it has a border like those in the “Hours of Anne of Brittany.” On fol. 26 v. is a curious border of twisted ribbons covered with mottoes, such as “Virtutis fortuna comes,” “Ingrates servire nephas,” etc.

Some of the tiny miniatures of the saints in the Memoriæ are very charmingly painted: St. Mary Magdalene, for instance, on fol. 147 v. The pillar architecture of some of the borders, with pendant festoons of flowers, is also very handsome.

18855, folio, is a Book of Offices written in a Gothic text. The miniatures are large full-page paintings within architectural frames or porches, with coloured pillars or pilasters with panels of rich blue, covered with golden traceries, bronze gold pendants at side,—occasional borders as in the “Hours of Anne of Brittany.” The work is of the older school of Tours, but loaded with ornamental details from North Italian pilaster-work. Among the best miniatures are the Nativity (34 v.), the Adoration of the Magi (42 v.), and the Bathsheba. The last perhaps a little too open a scene for a lady's bathroom, but placed within a most gorgeous architectural window or doorway (fol. 62 v). Compare also Harl. 5925, No. 574, for a title-page of French Renaissance style from a printed book, which suggests Venice as the source of the style of 18853.

In the National Library at Paris are, of course, a number of this class of MSS., such as the Offices (MS. Lat. 10563), “Officium Beatæ Mariæ Virginis ad usum Romanor” (1531), or the exquisitely painted “Heures de Henry 2d” (fds. Lat. 1429), or the magnificent “Epistres d'Ovide” of Louisa of Savoy (fds. fr. 875), and others.

By no means of less importance we may cite the beautiful volume belonging to the late Comte d'Haussonville, now in the Musée Condé at Chantilly, called the “Heures du Connétable Anne de Montmorency,” and the “Heures de Dinteville” (MS. Lat. 10558), the decoration of which is quite on a par with the “Heures de Montmorency,” or those of Henry II., also the Psalter of Claude Gouffier (Arsenal Lib., 5095), containing the Psalms of Marot.

It is scarcely worth while to carry the subject further. What is done later than Francis II. does not grow finer or better: it only becomes more overloaded with ornament, too much gold, too much richness. Even foliages are often variegated like pearls, or change gradually from colour to colour on the same sweep of acanthus as in a MS. in the British Museum attributed to Pierre Mignard (“Sol Gallicus,” Add. 23745). Compare also the “Heures de Louis XIV.” Now and then an exceptional work, like that of D'Eaubonne at Rouen, belongs to no particular school.