(b. ca. 1420, Tours, d. ca. 1480, Tours)

Book of Hours of Étienne Chevalier

Manuscript, 209 x 143 mm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

This manuscript was created for Étienne Chevalier (c. 1410-1474, secretary and finance minister to King Charles VII of France (reigned 1422-1461). He was one of those bourgeois court officials who because of their great capabilities and loyalty, had risen in rank and influence in Paris and had as a result acquired considerable wealth. The creator of the miniatures in his Book of Hours was Jean Fouquet, with whom French 15th-century painting attained its undisputed zenith.

Originally this Book of Hours was a sumptuous manuscript rivaling the most beautiful manuscripts of the 15th century. Yet, it has suffered a sad fate. In the 18th century it was divided up into sections, with the loss of all the text pages except two. The illuminated pages were scattered in all directions in the 19th century. From the surviving 47 illuminated folios 40 are kept in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, 2 in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1 each in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, British Library, London, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Wildentein Foundation, London, and a private collection.

The shown leaf in the Louvre represents St Martin. In the main scene, Fouquet shows how the martyr, a magnificent horseman, dressed in the fashion of the royal court, shares his cloak with a beggar. The painter has transposed the event to Paris, to the bridge opposite the Grand Châtalet and the Petit Châtalet. In the initial O beneath this scene, Christ appears to St Martin in a dream.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.