Bust of a young nobleman
North of France, probably Normandy, XV century
Dimensions (with the pedestal) 26,5 x 1§,5 x 11 cm
Dimensions (without the pedestal) 21,5 cm
Beardless face of a young man, wearing a crown of precious stones; face with sensitive model; long hair, framing the face and drawing wavy curls.
The sculpture is mounted on a blackened wooden pedestal and lateral marble inlay from the 1970s with a collector's label indicating its provenance.
This refined head is obviously a portrait. The features are rendered with finesse: the delicate expression lines around the eyes, the slightly hollow cheeks, the thin lips and the round chin. The polychromy, traces of which are still visible, was only supposed to increase the realistic effect sought by the sculptor.
According to the fashion in vogue in the 15th century, he wears a shirt and a doublet held back not by buttons but by lacings and aiguillettes; on the top he wears a houppelande held by a lozenge-shaped clasp.
The sculptor has accurately described the clothes of the young man which allude to his wealthy condition: the headgear richly decorated with stones, the halberd held in place by a clasp, and even the very long hair were a sign of power and wealth.
From the second half of the 14th century, the portrait started to emancipated and became an autonomous genre. The 14th century patrons wanted to prolong theirs memory and therefore were no longer satisfied with idealized portraits, they wanted to be recognized.
The reduced dimensions of this bust and the attention given to the attributes of its rank may suggest that the sculpture was placed in a noble chapel to immortalize the features of the donor. The claimed realism of the features and the displayed signs of its wealth were to make the patron of the place recognizable. The reduced dimensions were a sign of respect for the holy personage to whom the chapel was consecrated.
Most often, high dignitaries chose painting as a medium to immortalize their power; the illuminations and painted portraits which multiplied in the 15th century confirmed this fashion.
This small bust of a nobleman is one of the rare examples of sculpted portrait announcing the end of the Gothic era.