A lost fifteenth-century drawing rediscovered: Donors Kneeling in Adoration before the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne
The Bacri drawing, on the other hand, does not include
any epigraphy; instead, the place usually devoted
to epigraphic text is occupied by the acanthus. This
observation seems crucial in the context of its function.
How does one explain the absence of an epitaph if it
is a study for a memorial brass? Even in other types of
funerary monuments, the text appears below the scene.
However, the other elements that the drawing shares
with such plates, as described above, are not present.
Would the painter have prioritized the aesthetics of
the composition by decorating with acanthi the bands
that are normally intended for inscriptions and left
in reserve, to be completed by another artist at the
execution phase? This question merits further thought.
The empty shields of the drawing were probably,
furthermore, intended for heraldry or motifs specified
by the patron. As the main figure in the Bacri drawing is
Anselme Adornes, his coat of arms would not need to be
depicted before the creation of the monument. It must
therefore be a vidimus for an ante mortem project which he
himself would have commissioned. Or, if the work was
not executed during his lifetime, it could be a project
undertaken by his son Arnold Adornes for a memorial
made for the charterhouse of Sint-Anna-ter-Woestijne
or that of Genadedal. These monasteries maintained
close links with the Adornes family, consolidated by the
Carthusians’ involvement in the management of the
accounts of the Jerusalem Chapel.19 Regularly solicited
to celebrate perpetual masses and welcome members of
the aristocracy, they hosted Pierre Adornes, Anselme’s
father, and several of his children including his son
Arnold who was a priest and prebendary there.20
Given the wealth of details, all executed with great
care, in the Bacri drawing, and how different it is
from the general, much more graphic style, of even
the finest published monumental brasses, another
hypothesis presents itself. Is the drawing a study for
a commemorative monument painted on a panel or
for a small epitaph-altarpiece? It seems to me that, if
this were so, it would have the inscription dedicated
to the deceased which usually accompanies this type
of composition, and it would probably not feature
acanthus leaves and quatrefoils.
A lost fifteenth-century drawing rediscovered: Donors Kneeling in Adoration before the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne
This type of comparative study raises many questions
and should discourage any hasty conclusions because
none of the likely theories are entirely convincing.
The drawing’s function, be it a study for a tapestry, a
monumental brass, or some other form of epitaph,
remains hypothetical. Furthermore, the identity of the
drawing’s patron, Anselme or his son, and the purpose
of the final work remain unresolved. The same goes for
the fate of this work, since there is no trace of it. Was it
made and then destroyed?
It is now necessary to situate the Bacri drawing
historically and connect the work to a school or a
master. In the Louvre Documentation archives, the
drawing is attributed to the Bruges School of the
fifteenth century, a fair assessment considering the
composition and its very balanced organization.21
However, as I have shown for the Adornes drawings,
the more in-depth stylistic analysis above highlights
peculiarities of style and invention which are also
apparent in the work of the Brussels painter, the
Master of the Legend of Saint Barbara and his
immediate entourage.
At the end of the fifteenth century, there were
several cases of collaboration between artists and
workshops in Brussels and Bruges. There are many
documented examples of one centre influencing the
other.22 Assuming that tomb sculptors worked from
models produced by painters, the hypothesis of a
design originating in Brussels for a Bruges monument
is plausible. The decorative motifs in the Bacri drawing
provide an interesting example of this transmission
of influence. Under the canopy behind the angel and
in the upper right side of the drawing (above Saint
Anne), there is a repetitive floral design made of large
flowers with rounded petals and a raised heart, similar
to the flowers adorning the fabric stretched behind the
Virgin in the Virgin and Child with Canon Van der Paele by
Van Eyck (figs. 12a, b & c). On the other hand, in the
right part of the composition, we find the traditional
interlacing of acanthus leaves adorning the band of the
drawing found, for example, in early sixteenth-century
monumental brasses from Bruges (figs. 12d & e).23
There were thus two styles being borrowed.
Fig. 12a / Detail of floral motifs on
the left in Fig. 1.
Fig. 12b / Jan van Eyck, The Virgin
and Child with Canon Van der Paele,
detail of the brocade motif (IRR), ca.
1436, oil on panel, 122 x 157 cm,
Bruges, Groeningemuseum.
Fig. 12c / Detail of floral motifs on
the right side of the canopy in Fig. 1.
Fig. 12d / Detail of floral motifs on
the right in Fig. 11a.
Fig. 12e / Anonymous, fragment
from a funerary monument, early
sixteenth century, Bruges, Private
Collection. Rubbing by R. Van Belle.
These observations provide further evidence that
models of ornamental motifs were kept for years in
workshops and that the artists who worked there,
temporarily or permanently, took inspiration from
them according to their needs. They also corroborate,
if we accept the attribution of the work to the Brussels
Master of the Legend of Saint Barbara, the hypothesis
that artists moved between cities and cultural centres
depending on which patron they were working for.24


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