School of Lorraine, c. 1600-1620

Recto: A Young Cavalier Holding a Spear / Verso: A Cavalier From a Carrousel Festival (Fragment)

Cavalier: 31.3 x 21 cm. (12 516 x 8 ¼ in.) Sheet of paper: 39 x 26.8 cm. (15 38 x 10 916 in.)

c. 1600-1620.
Recto: Pen and brown ink, brown wash over black chalk lines
Verso: Pen and brown ink
Sheet of paper cut out along contours of the drawing, recto, and mounted on another sheet of paper bearing an
inscription in brown ink on verso: fouge à grandes feuilles, venant en arbre à la longue, […]mol dont les cordonniers se [serve]nt pour talons (large leafed fern coming from a tree lengthwise [...] which shoemakers use for heels)

· France, private collection

As entertainment, theatrical performances, military exercises, and celebrations of the virtues of chivalry, carrousels were invented in Italy to replace tilting and jousting in which, despite all the precautions, the participants risked serious, even fatal, injuries, as is proved by the Henri II’s tragic accident during the tourney of 1559. Exempt of danger and organized in scenes like a ballet, carrousels included various games with spears, rings, darts, and other pre-arranged equestrian manœuvers executed in quadrilles. Superbly attired, the cavaliers formed symbolic or allegorical groups and appeared in the square in turn following a theme taken from mythology or history.

The Court of Lorraine was, along with that of Prague, one of the most elegant, prosperous, and spiritual in Europe at the turn of the 17th century. The Dukes’ accounts confirm the success of ballets, mascarades, carrousels, foot and equestrian combat, quintain, ring tournaments, lance games, and “ungirthed saddles.” They also inform us of the evolution after 1600 of these activities into more and more elaborate forms.

The works of Jacques de Bellange, Claude Deruet, and Jacques Callot conserve the ostentation and inventiveness of these festivals, but also take into account Lorraine’s own culture of symbols which flourished in its ephemeral court entertainments and ceremonies. Original projects rivaled each other in the creation of emblems, allegories, and devices which were ever more erudite, refined, and complex. Nonetheless, equestrian festivals have not been studied as much as ballets, mainly because there exist few published accounts, other than the Combat at the Barrier in 1627, illustrated by Callot, which is a series of interior battles on foot. Nonetheless in his Quarry of Nancy, dated 1625, the city square “where all of the jousts and tourneys, combats, and other recreational games took place” can be seen with the entrance on the right of a float led by two centaurs and horsemen challenging each other with spears.

Our work is to be understood in this context. Two-sided, the sheet of paper features on the recto, a young lightly-clad horseman holding a spear typical of festivals as it is too light and short for jousting. He is seen in audacious foreshortening and his mount does not touch the ground: with its four hooves in the air, the stallion turning his head towards the audience seems to fly and is even reminiscent of those merry-go-rounds which are the distant descendants of the carrousels. The drawing brings out both the quality of the horse with its powerful morphology and the young man’s gracefulness in a difficult exercise – he executes a croupade and rides without a saddle. The “writing,” that is, the use of line itself, is supple and elegant with very distinct volumes heightened by shades of wash placed with certitude. The overall practically stylized appearance and the decided simplification of forms makes one think of the work of an artist who has broken with practices of codified drawing, probably a talented heraldist who is sensitive to the influences of the School of Fontainebleau. At the Court of Lorraine, the heralds of arms were effectively versatile painters employed at all sorts of jobs, especially for the festivals. Our cavalier can be advantageously compared to a drawing which reinforces the scrivener’s registry conserved in the County Archives of Nancy and which depicts a putto holding two blazons, one for a man from the Pullenoy family, perhaps Jeannot de Pullenoy, ennobled in 1589, and an (empty) one for a woman, probably Marguerite de Fricourt (1D 54, 3 E 1984). The same robust plump physique can be seen with a continuous outline and delicate shading enlivening the volumes instead of modeling them. The condition of the sheet of paper complicates its attribution, but it could be a work by Charles Chuppin painter from Nancy, or else Balthazar Crocq or Pierre Richier, both of whom were heralds at arms.

The way our sheet of paper is cut along the young man’s contours creates gaps in the image on the verso which shows another horseman, accoutred in antique fashion and riding a spirited steed in magnificent trappings. His richly worked breastplate is embellished with heads of putti and three emblems with their motto, of which two are detailed. The larger one depicts a pyramid set on a pedestal garnished with volutes and topped with a Tempietto with the subtitle, VT AET[H]ERA PETAT (So that he reaches the sky). The smaller one, on the horse’s shoulder, shows either a porcupine or else a hedgehog which projects its quills into the distance. Symbolic encyclopedias, such as that by Pierio Baleriano, interpret the hedgehog as an “animal so affable and prudent” that it is assimilated with “the man armed against danger: making a shield of his own virtue, he fears not fortune’s reach.” The motto may read ASTRA VIRTUTI (The stars for Virtue) or more likely VIRTUTE (Virtuous Grace.) The two mottos complement and agree with each other, the “heavens” and “stars” obviously signify immortal glory. They find an echo in the decorations of the chivalric festivals and the challenges launched by the competitors in the combats which gave rise to inventions that were more and more original and surprising.

The drawing on the verso is drawn by a different hand. It consists either of suggesting fairly precise iconographical and decorative indications, or of conserving the memory of a detail of a costume, saddlery, and horse trappings from an equestrian festival. Overall, it bears some similarity to certain of Bellange’s equestrian masks contained in the album conserved at the Condé Museum in Chantilly. Here, the type of horse, with its loose mane and longer chamfron than that of the horse on the recto, renders a very different concept of the animal and would seem to be contemporary with Claude Deruet, although lacking his expressiveness. The calligraphic agitated line contrasts with the very clear descriptive attention given to ornamental details of caparison, saddle, draperies, and individually described tassels, tufts, or crests. On the whole, this drawing appears slightly later than the one on the recto, although barely after 1620, and would confirm the continuity of artistic workshops working in Lorraine and for the Ducal court.

At an unknown date, probably long ago, the young cavalier was preferred to the image on the verso. Cut out, it was glued onto a page that seems to have come from a botanical album, if one goes by the inscription which figures on upper verso of this page. In beautiful old handwriting with surprising syntax, the caption seems to refer to fouge, feuge, or fougère (fern), without rendering the connection between the plant and shoemaker comprehensible.

We would like to thank Dr. Paulette Choné, University Professor Emeritus, specialist in the art of Lorraine during the Renaissance and 17th century, for her assistance in drafting this entry.

See more