oh she was gorgeous - Fouquet's Madonna


I had one of those weeks where I have been working like a dog again. But in the last two days some exciting museum-related jobs landed on my desk, which will keep me happy through February. So, reflecting on my home town's museums, I thought about the extraordinary painting of the Madonna by Jean Fouquet, which rests in the hallowed halls of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp.

The painting itself is striking, surreal almost, considering it was painted by the artist somewhere around 1450. The second panel of the Melun dyptich, which depicts its benefactor, resides in Berlin. It is said that the person who sat for the Madonna is Agnès Sorel, the first mistress of a French king to be officially recognized as such. Sadly, the power that Mlle Sorel amalgamated over King Charles VII and the court at Chinon did not do her much good, as she eventually died, from mercury poisoning. The order was probably given by the heir to the throne.

What is interesting about this work first and foremost, is of course the apple-like exposed breast at the centre of the painting. French kings seemed to be infatuated with their mistresses' breasts. For instance, did you know that the "coupe de champagne" apparently was modelled on the breast of Jeanne Poisson, better known as Madame de Pompadour (all I can say is, judging by our champagne coupes, that there was not much to write home about... an A cup at the most. So pour me seconds please.).

You will also notice the lack of angular shapes in this painting. Everything is curvy, or rounded, even the nude, chubby angels, who are positively glistening. The rounded shapes contrast with the angular, distant manner in which the mother holds the child on that pristine white silk.

Also, the angels are not staring adoringly at the mother and child. In fact only one gazes in their direction, and his eyes actually are oriented beyond the painting, to us, as it were.

And finally, the colour of the angels themselves. All I can think of is latex. Lots of latex. I was thinking about making a remark about the French tricolore, but that would have required Fouquet to have a glass ball to predict the Révolution... and the French flag... so I'll just leave it at that.
Anyway, I just thought to share this treasure with you, so I posted it among my gorgeous offerings.

6 messages:

vitium said...

And in the adjecent room there is that little gem of Van Eyck, a scketch of Saint Barbara and her tower. It gives a very interesting insight in the way Van Eyck drew. So much detail!

Great post by the way! I love to read about art, certainly when the opinion is so well put. Are you an art historian of some kind?
I'm currently studying my way trough a course on Renaissance art - don't you love exams? - Let's hope it goes well tomorrow.

Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

A fascinating painting for sure. Such circular shapes.

Lula de Montes said...

@vitium: true, but the museum holds many unexpected treasures.

Not an art historian, although I had a good dose of it during my studies. I love Renaissance art, but Botticelli above all.

I used to dread exams. Torture. Hope yours went well, but I'm sure it did.

@sieg: I know... the buttocks on those angels have Jean-Claude van Damme green with envy.

Fresco said...

I came up with two comments on this post:
1) Yes Eddie, but is it art?
2) The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies.

I feel such a cultuurbarbaar...

Lula de Montes said...

@Fresco: I read this and I thought, oh god, he has the same culture references as I have... I always thought the swish Lieutenant Gruber was such fun with his little tank. Although I nursed a weak spot for Helga... In retrospect, I should have known.

Fresco said...

And I thought you were more an Yvette kind of girl – the 80s Nigellla?

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