Claus Sluters Mourners Images of Fearful

Freedberg, David A.

During the Renaissance, France's borders were not what they are now. Burgundy was an independent realm stretching from Lyons in the south up to what today are Holland and Bel- gium. In 1385 Claus Sluter (active from 1375 to 1405), sculptor of Haarlem, was summoned to the capital, Dijon, by Duke Philip the Bold, ruler of Burgundy. Philip needed him to decorate the large new Charterhouse, or Carthu- sian monastery, which he was building. There the duke wished eventually to have his mortal remains laid to rest in appropriate splendor and to have the ascetic monks pray daily for the redemption of his flawed soul.

Sluter arrived, setting to work first on the figures for the portal of the Church of the Charterhouse. Nothing in the art of the Middle Ages prepares us for the results. Located on the portal’s central column, the Virgin, plain and robust, looks like a peas- ant. With her long nose, large nostrils, and double chin, she is less Queen of Heaven than woman of the people. Flanking her on opposite sides of the entrance, the duke and his wife kneel before her, gazing up in perpetual adoration. They are repre- sented with the same unflattering directness as is the Virgin. Their lips are thin and their jowls sag, so that stone seems to have become flesh.


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Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Published Here
August 24, 2022