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Funerary sculpture evolved rapidly between the 13 and 16C . In 1269 St. Louis (IX) reestablished St.-Denis as a royal mausoleum and tombs were created for all the royal remains that could be located and acquired. Initially idealized effigy figures on stone slabs were made for each person with perhaps a symbol at the feet , a crown and a scepter. By 1285 there was a demand for realism and real identity. This was achieved by death-masks and attempts at true body shapes. Such an example is the effigy of Betrand du Guesclin, who was short and heavily built (See Tips in Dinan). He had wished to be buried in Dinan but the King demanded his skeleton and it is here . During the Renaissance (especially the 16C), the cult of the individual became strong (and power and money emphasized that), leading to the commissioning of famous sculptors and architects and the creation of mausolea.(most of Michelangelo’s great sculptures are funereal). In the case of Catherine de Medici, 30 years before her death, she order a work by Germain Pilon. She fainted when she saw the effigy (in the tomb here) and ordered a new one, a collaboration of Pilon, Primaticcio and J. Ponce. Both versions are in St.-Denis.
Written Feb 17, 2008
The belief that redeeming qualities are emanated from relics is a strong one. This has led to intense rivalries for the remains of revered individuals. In some instances body parts serve as surrogates for the entire person (relics). They may be “awarded” to sites particularly favored by the deceased or others in power. The heart of Francis I is at St.-Denis in a special urn (created by P. Bontemps (1550-5). It originally stood on a special column. Only the heart of du Guesclin made it back to Dinan where it is buried. His bones are here and other relics somewhere else. Jeanne de Bourbon,’s effigy is clutching a bag to her breast indicating that only her entrails are buried “here” (the effigy was brought to St.-Denis from a destroyed convent in Paris).
Written Feb 17, 2008