For Salvation or Reputation?: The Representation of Saints In a Jouvenel des Ursins Book of Hours

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Art and Design


Performing and Visual Arts


From humble origins as cloth merchants in the city of Troyes, the Jouvenel des Ursins family rose to wealth and social prominence in France during the first half of the fifteenth century, with its members holding such prestigious positions as the President of the Parisian Parlement, the Chancellor of France, and the Archbishop of Reims. In order to secure their newly acquired social status, the family made use of a multimedia visual campaign to strengthen and proclaim their legitimacy. The art patronage of Guillaume Jouvenel des Ursins, the Chancellor of France under Charles VII – in particular his panel portrait by Jean Fouquet – is well recognized and represented in art historical literature. Yet his younger brother Jacques likewise was the owner of sumptuous luxury art objects. This chapter explores the manner in which Jacques Jouvenel des Ursins took advantage of a book of hours to reinforce his social status earned through his ecclesiastical position, directly calling upon saintly assistance to secure his worldly ambitions in the face of political turmoil involving his relationship with Charles VII rather than only using saintly intervention as a means to redress a number of social sins connected to his family’s wealth. I argue that Jacques took advantage of the flexibility of books of hours to be tailored to one’s individual needs and interests, selectively choosing visual depictions of uncharacteristic saints and events in the Suffrages in order to underscore his position and define his tenuous relationship to the crown.

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Saints as Intercessors between the Wealthy and the Divine: Art and Hagiography among the Medieval Merchant Classes

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