Jean Fouquet, Melun Diptych
Jean Fouquet, Melun Diptych (c.1450) was a two panel piece of art work. The left panel shows Étienne Chevalier, the treasurer to the King of France praying. To the side of Chevalier is his patron saint St. Stephen, who is identifiable because there is a large rock resting on his bible, as well as the fact that he appears to be bleeding from a head wound. This dictates the life and death of St. Stephen who is widely considered the first martyr of Christianity. The right panel displays an image of the Virgin and child. In this incarnation, Mary is represented dressed as a member of french royalty. She is surrounded by red and blue cherubim, thus representing the longstanding blue covering red motif when depicting the Virgin Mary. The physical image of the Mary is believed to have been taken from Agnés Sorel, Charles VII's mistress. This artwork represents the changing times. in earlier centuries a man such as Chevalier, who was born poor, could not have hoped to have died an aristocrat. The nature of marriage has experienced a large change since this the 15th Century. In today's time it would be unthinkable for a man, better yet a king, to have mistress and have a painting made of her as the Virgin Mary. Fouquet's work would be considered insulting to many christians today, but the people at the time would have been cool with this portrayal. At this point in history, marriage was more of a business contract. This allowed the royal court and queen sanctioned Sorel as Charles's mistress, as he was in love with her. Furthermore, Sorel was actually loved by the people of France and held some influence in the royal court. She died slightly before Fouquet made the diptych, suggesting that this was a special way that the king could mourn of his loss. It was an interesting time with different values. Unfortunately, over time both panels as well as a medallion Fouquet used to sign the artwork were separated from each other. The left panel is located in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, Germany. The right panel is at the Koniklijk Museum (Royal Museum of Fine Arts) in Belgium. The copper and gold medallion resides at the Louvre in Paris, France.
Biography of Jean Fouquet
Gallery of other artworks by Fouquet