Paris’s Louvre spends over € 5 million buying two sculptures …

  Walking through the Louvre museum I always come to a halt when a thought comes into my head. The thought is a calculation. I always try to imagine the combined value of the works of art around me. I never can: there are not enough numbers in my head to do such a calculation. On […]

The two mourning monks bought by the Louvre for over 5 million euros.

The two mourning monks bought by the Louvre for over 5 million euros.

 

Walking through the Louvre museum I always come to a halt when a thought comes into my head.

The thought is a calculation.

I always try to imagine the combined value of the works of art around me. I never can: there are not enough numbers in my head to do such a calculation.

On Wednesday, June 15, the Louvre even increased the value of its treasures when the museum bought two medieval sculptures at an auction held at Paris’s Christie’s.

The sculptures, of marble, are of two mourning monks. (You can see them above.)

The mourners, as Christie’s informed potential bidders, were from the tomb cortege of Jean de France, Duke of Berry (1340-1416) and the third son of King John the Second of France, and they were the work of the sculpture Jean de Cambrai (Jean de Cambrai – Jean of Cambrai).

Little is known of Jean de Cambrai but he was born around 1375 in the small town of Roupy in the Picardie region of France and was known as Jean de Roupy until he began to call himself Jean de Cambrai because he was creating a sculpture for the bell tower of the Cambrai cathedral. Around 1401, working as the Duke of Berry’s valet, he began to create sculptures of mourning figures which would be placed on the tomb of his master. In the middle ages such mourning figures were placed on the tomb of monarchs, their spouses, and such royals. They stood around a sculpture (a gisant) which covered the tomb and represented the deceased, in death, lying on top of the tomb.

(Below is such a tomb, mourning monks around the gisant. It is my favourite work of art of the Louvre’s treasures, and whenever I visit the Louvre (it is often) I spend some time here with these monks.)

In Paris's Louvre. CC Marilyn Z. Tomlins

In Paris’s Louvre. CC Marilyn Z. Tomlins

The two mourning monks are clothed in full cassocks. Their hair is covered. One wears a hood his face completely hidden, while the other, who holds a rosary, has around the head what I can only liken to the Muslim chador. The mourner with the hood is, at 37,8 cm (14 4/5 in), slightly taller than the other mourner of 37,5 cm (14 ¾ in).

The Duke de Berry was laid to rest in the Saint-Chapelle chapel of his ducal palace with him in sculpture lying on top of the tomb, mourners all around it. There were altogether 40 such mourners, five of them created by Jean de Cambrai, around the duke’s last resting place, and human remains, the final touches put to the tomb in 1453, some 37 years after the duke death.  However, it was not quite the duke’s last resting place, because in 1756 the tomb and all its ‘accoutrements’ were transferred to the crypt of the Saint-Étienne Cathedral in Bourges. Some of the mourners had already by then disappeared, but today the tomb is still in the crypt, Jean de Cambrai’s ‘gisant’ representing the duke still on top of it, and at the duke’s feet, the head of a bear, the duke’s emblem. It was the custom to lay at the feet of the defunct a sculptor of one or other animal, a fish or a tree, plant or flower.

Duc de Berry Tomb

Duc de Berry Tomb

Of the 40 mourning monks which had once stood around the duke’s tomb in the crypt of the Saint-Étienne Cathedral in Bourges, 29 have so far been found, some in museums all over the world, others in private ownership.  One of these is in the Ermitage Museum of Saint-Petersburg, two in the Berry Museum in Bourges, and two are in the Louvre, and now another two have joined those two.

Jean de Cambrai’s two mourning monks have had to travel a long road to reach Paris’s Louvre.

As a result of the French Revolution of 1789 and the expropriation of church property, the duke’s tomb, like the tombs of other royals, was vandalised, the duke’s remains destroyed, but the mourning monks and the ‘gisant’ had been left intact, and then in 1807, some of the mourning monks had been gifted to Pierre-Henri Péan de Saint Gilles (1758-1823) who held the title of ‘royal advocate’, in gratitude for the inventory he had made of surviving art works. On de Saint Gilles’ death, the mourning monks, had become the property of his daughter, Hélène (1857-1946) wife of Denys, Baron Cochin (1851-1922), and since her death, the mourning monks had been the property of her descendants. Who the current owner was who had commissioned Christie’s to auction two of the mourning monks, the auction house has not revealed: in other words, the seller was noted as ‘anonymous’.

In 2013, the Consultative Commission of National Treasures had classified the two mourning monks as ‘National Treasures’ which meant that should they be sold, they could not leave French territory.

Basing their value on two mourning monks from the Duke de Berry’s tomb but not by Jean de Cambrai, which had been sold in the not so distant past on auction for 4 million euros, the Commission had estimated the value of these two together as between 4,5 to 5,5 million euros. (These two were, by the way, being sold by Christies on behalf of the same person.)

The two mourning monks had fetched €5,652,190. The seller’s share of this amount after the auction house’s commission, was €5,025,500.

One can only wonder who it is who is today wealthier by over five million euros.

I swear to you that it is not me. I do however have a mourning monk of my own and here below is a photo of it.

My mourning monk (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

My mourning monk (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins

cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

One Response to “Paris’s Louvre spends over € 5 million buying two sculptures …”

  1. 1
    Susie Kelly Says:

    That’s a lot of wonga! I find them quite creepy, but magnificently sculpted. What an extraordinary talent.

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