Among the highlights in our latest issue is a review by associate editor Matthew Boudway of The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy, an art exhibit touring the United States (and currently stopping in St. Louis).
Philip the Good had the statues made for the tomb of his father, John the Fearless, the second Valois duke of Burgundy. Sculpted between 1443 and 1457, they were set in an elaborate gothic arcade that circled the tomb under recumbent stone effigies of the duke and his wife. There the statues stood in single-file procession. Only one side of the them was ever meant to be seen, but visitors to this exhibition, who have the luxury of viewing them from several angles, might have trouble guessing which side, so carefully did the artists, Jean de la Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier, carve every exquisite detail. As the mourning procession was a ritual performed in the sight of God, so the statues were designed to be seen by the One who sees everything.
Such monuments were for death a little like what modern wedding albums are for marriage: treasured memorials of initiation into a mystery that time threatens to bury. The tomb was designed not to impress museum-goers but to remind the Carthusians at Champmol to keep praying for the duke in case he hadn’t yet made it to heaven. Until he did, the procession continued.