The Mourners: Tomb Sculpture from the Court of Burgundy

Artstor is collaborating with the French Regional & American Museum Exchange (FRAME) to share approximately 1,600 images (1,450 still photographs, 100 3-D images, and 39 stereoscopic 3-D files) of 39 seminal medieval sculptures from the tomb of John the Fearless (1371-1419) in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. The high-resolution images will allow viewers to zoom in and explore intricate details in 360° and from angles above and below the objects. The sculptures can also be viewed in stereoscopic 3-D using the appropriate glasses. The ongoing expansion and renovation of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon created the opportunity for the alabaster figures from the tomb to tour the United States and consequently presented a once in a lifetime opportunity to create new, high-resolution photographs.

These unique sculptures, known as "pleurants" or "mourners," decorate the tomb of John the Fearless, second Duke of Burgundy, and his wife, Margaret of Bavaria. Sophie Jugie, Director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon and curator of the exhibition, describes the mourners as "deeply affecting works of art. Beyond their evident visual and narrative qualities, we cannot help but be struck by the emotion they convey as they follow the funeral procession, weeping, praying, singing, lost in thought, giving vent to their grief, or consoling their neighbor. Mourning, they remind us, is a collective experience, common to all people and all moments in history." The sculptures were carved by Jean de La Huerta and Antoine Le Moiturier between 1443 and 1470, according to the model of the tomb of Philip the Bold, the first Duke of Burgundy, which was executed by Claus Sluter and his workshop. Both tombs were originally housed in the Chartreuse de Champmol, a Carthusian monastery and the dynastic burial place for the Valois dukes of Burgundy, before being moved to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in nearby Dijon in the 19th century. Each figure stands approximately 16 inches high and represents a mourner moving in procession through the elaborate Gothic arcade in the lower register of John the Fearless' tomb. Though part of a larger monument depicting a funeral cortege of monks and clerics, each mourner is individualized and masterfully sculpted to portray various states of grief and sorrow. Minute details register profound pathos — the figures sing hymns while holding back their tears, clutch rosary beads in their hands, clasp their hands to their chests, or dry their eyes with their cloaks. Since many of the figures are hooded, their emotional states are conveyed by the boldly modeled folds of their voluminous cloaks. In situ, the figures are positioned such that visitors cannot get very close and may only view the sculptures from limited angles. These new photographs make full views of each sculpture available and are especially valuable to scholars and educators. According to Leonard Steinbach, Project Director for FRAME, "This is possibly the most extensive and most accessible photography of a set of sculptures in an exhibition ever undertaken. We hope that the ability to study and enjoy these important objects will be unparalleled."

Never before seen in their entirety outside of France, the mourners will be presented in a travelling exhibition to seven cities in the United States. Between 2010-2012, the sculptures will travel to the following venues: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA; and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA. The exhibition is co-organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, under the auspices of theFrench Regional & American Museum Exchange (FRAME). Founded in 1999, FRAME is a formal collaboration of twelve museums in France, twelve museums in the United States, and one associate member in Canada. FRAME is dedicated to cultural exchange between France and the United States and seeks to encourage cooperation among its member museums, their collections, and their professional staffs. The images were created as part ofThe Mourners Photography Project, which was made possible by a generous grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.