EN Alumina: Jean Poyer

Le immagini sono del New York Pierpont Morgan Library



Daniele Guernelli

Vertiginous quality, pure class and the ability to render colour highly vivid, making illuminated pages sparkle with their own light and enveloping them – if need be – with masterly flashes of night, as is the case in the Taking of Christ in the immensely beautiful Briçonnet Book of Hours at the Teylers Museum in Haarlem (Ms. 78). At the end of the fifteenth century, these talents allowed Jean Poyer to climb to the heights of the art of miniature beyond the Alps, leaving proof of his superb pictorial mastery in a series of astounding illuminated manuscripts. The exact date of Poyer’s birth is unknown but it is probably sometime in first half of the 1440s, if not earlier, as he is already documented as active and independent in 1465. His father can probably be identified as Mathelin (or Maturin) Poyer, he too an artist, to whom, coincidentally, there is a payment documented in 1453 for the preparation of the king’s arms (eight livres and five sols tournois). From then on, the young Poyer must have made his own way in world, and heraldry often seems to have provided him with a source of income. In 1483 he was paid more than 157 livres tournois for painting a total of 1031 coats of arms (!), which were to be attached to an equal number of candlesticks and torches intended for the funeral of Queen Charlotte of Savoy, wife of Louis XI, king of France. In this document, he is cited as a retinue of the court, where he evidently held a position under her majesty the queen. This is demonstrated by the assignment of a good three measures (aunes) of cloth to the artist, items that were highly regarded at the court and clearly reflected his social status (the valets only received two and the highest level of recognition was three and a half). This is also interesting because it makes it possible to remember, if ever necessary, that artists of this time took on a range of tasks and responsibilities that was definitely broader than one normally thinks, in keeping with the interdisciplinarity typical of the fifteenth century. Critics have also suggested that Poyer may have travelled to Italy, which seems to be backed by the stylistic facies of the remarkable Triptych of the Crucifixion in Loches (Musée du Château). In addition to the influence of Italian art and of local tradition, with which the art of Jean Fouquet and Jean Colombe (Alumina, 39, 2012) had reached considerable heights, Poyer was also influenced by Flemish factors. He actually organised a major part of his work around an item that was then a bestseller of Franco-Flemish production: the Book of Hours, such as, for example, the one he made for Mary of England (Lyon, Bibliothéque Municipale, Ms. 1558) dated 1495–1500.

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