Master of the Getty Froissart
Flemish, Bruges, about 1480
Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and ink on parchment
18 7/8 x 13 3/4 in.
MS. LUDWIG XIII 7, FOL. 274V
The popularity of Jean Froissart’s narrative derived in part from the author’s taste for dramatic stories, exemplified by the death of the king of Navarre, shown in this miniature. Froissart recounted that the king, while awaiting his young mistress, called for his bed to be warmed. His servant proceeded in the usual way, but there was a disastrous mishap: the bed caught fire and the king died of his burns several days later. Froissart remained ambiguous about whether the fire was intentionally set, attributing the death to “God or the devils.” The artist communicated the possibility of conspiracy by presenting courtiers in the room, whispering among themselves while the king burns in his bed. As vivid orange and yellow flames rise around the king’s pillows, the figure in tights stands in an elegant dancelike pose that seems utterly inappropriate to the disaster. In his rendering of setting and characters, the artist revealed an interest in observing the natural world. He differentiated textures of wood, stone, and tile and attended to details of the figures that make them convincing as representations of living humans, such as the puffed-up cheeks of the servant blowing his bellows and the carefully modeled anatomy of the king’s naked upper body.