MEDIEVAL MOURNERS COMING TO CITY HALL

Alabaster figures to take a sabbatical from the Musée des Beaux-Arts

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

A group of nearly 40 of the greatest masterpieces of medieval sculpture, which have never before been seen in their entirety outside of France, will be presented in seven cities in the United States for the first and only time starting in 2010. Carved by Jean de La Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier between 1443 and 1470, the unique devotional figures, known as “mourners,” were commissioned for the elaborate tomb of the second Duke of Burgundy. Crafted with astonishing detail, the alabaster sculptures exemplify some of the most important artistic innovations of the late Middle Ages. The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy represents the first time that these figures will be seen together outside of France and provides an unprecedented opportunity to appreciate each sculpture as an individual work of art.

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Mourner from the Tomb of Jean Sans Peur (John the Fearless), second Duke of Burgundy.
Photos of Mourners, by François JAY

Co-organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, France, under the auspices of the French Regional & American Museum Exchange (FRAME), The Mourners will premiere on March 2, 2010, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York before traveling to six additional museums throughout the United States. The exhibition will be on view at the Dallas Museum of Art from October 3, 2010 through January 2, 2011.

“This singular exhibition exemplifies the DMA’s ongoing programming, which connects Dallas residents and visitors with extraordinary art and cultural treasures from around the globe,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “These are incredibly beautiful works that are as powerful and meaningful today as they were the day they were created.”

“The loan and tour of the ‘mourners’ is a shining moment in the history of FRAME, a testament to shared friendship and shared knowledge,” added Richard R. Brettell, Director of FRAME in the United States.

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Tomb of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, with Mourners

The sculptures—each approximately 16 inches high—depict sorrowful figures expressing their grief or devotion to John the Fearless (1371–1419), the second Duke of Burgundy, who was both a powerful political figure and patron of the arts. The tomb, which is not traveling, comprises life-sized effigies of the duke and his wife, Margaret of Bavaria, resting upon a slab of black marble, with a procession of mourners weaving through an ornate Gothic arcade beneath. Each individual figure has a different expression—some wring their hands or dry their tears, hide their faces in the folds of their robes, or appear lost in reverent contemplation. The motif echoes that of ancient sarcophagi, but these innovative tombs were the first to represent mourners as thoroughly dimensional, rather than in semi-relief. The presentation of the mourners passing through the arcades of a cloister was also a great innovation for the tombs of the era.

“The renovation of our museum has created the opportunity for these exceptional works to travel together to the United States,” said Sophie Jugie, the Director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. “This FRAME project allows the sculptures to be viewed and appreciated as discrete works of art.”

During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Valois dukes of Burgundy were among the most powerful rulers in the Western world, presiding over vast territories in present-day France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands from their capital in Dijon. The significant artistic patronage of the dukes drew artists, musicians and writers to Dijon, which became a major center of creativity and artistic patronage.

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This prolific creativity and innovation extended to the ducal court’s sculpture workshop, which produced some of the most significant art of the period. The tombs of the first two Burgundian dukes, John the Fearless and his father Philip the Bold, are among the best examples. Both tombs were originally commissioned for the family’s monastic complex outside of Dijon, the Charterhouse de Champmol, and were moved following the French Revolution to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, France, where they have remained since the early 19th century. The forthcoming exhibition tour will enable the mourners to remain on view during the museum’s renovation.

The exhibition tour will include:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (March 2, 2010–May 23, 2010)
Saint Louis Art Museum (June 20, 2010–September 6, 2010)
Dallas Museum of Art (October 3, 2010–January 2, 2011)
Minneapolis Institute of Arts (January 23, 2011–April 17, 2011)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (May 8, 2011–July 31, 2011)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (August 21, 2011–January 1, 2012)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond (January 20, 2012–April 15, 2012)

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About FRAME
The French Regional & American Museum Exchange (FRAME) is a formal collaboration of 12 museums in France and 12 museums in the United States which serves as a catalyst for cultural exchange between France and the United States. Founded in 1998, FRAME is dedicated to promoting French-American cooperation in the cultural arena concerning museums, their collections, and their professional staffs. It fosters partnerships, projects and exchanges of information, personnel, technology and resources. The projects range from a shared website to many joint exhibitions, educational resources and programs, and  publications. They serve the cultural needs of each country and educate a constituency of great size, breadth and distribution. The museums of FRAME are all purposely drawn from regions outside the economic and governmental capitals of both countries, in order to draw attention to, and broadly share, the richness of cultural resources that characterize these institutions and regions. FRAME’s directors are Richard R. Brettell, PhD, in the United States and Jean-Hubert Martin, Conservateur Général du Patrimoine, in France.

About the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon
Founded just before the French Revolution, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon is a superb combination of the prestigious architecture of a ducal residence, now the Palais des Etats de Bourgogne (Burgundy State Palace), and one of the richest collections in France. Thanks to the legacy of the dukes of Burgundy, some undisputed masterpieces from the end of the Middle Ages are displayed within its walls. Its exhaustive collections, resulting from both the founding period of the French Revolution and the curiosity of collectors, lead to the most varied of discoveries, from Egyptian art to the 20th century. Welcoming all art forms, the museum regularly organizes exhibitions, tours, conferences, workshops and shows for a dynamic and often unusual exploration of its collections.

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Mourner and Philip the Bold

About the Dallas Museum of Art
Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs are its encyclopedic collections, which encompass more than 23,000 works and span 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Established in 1903, the Museum today welcomes more than 600,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings and dramatic and dance presentations.

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John the Fearless and Mourner

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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