Jean Poyer: Artist to the Court of Renaissance France

January 25 through May 6, 2001
Image of Poyet manuscript detail

The first one-man show in the United States devoted to the work of a manuscript illuminator, Jean Poyer: Artist to the Court of Renaissance France took a novel approach to the traditional manuscript exhibition. Poyer, who lived in Tours, France, and was active ca. 1483–1503, was an illuminator, painter, draftsman, and designer of festivals; he served the courts of three successive French kings: Louis XI, Charles VIII, and Louis XII.

Poyer's oeuvre was explored through his early phase, his mature style, his workshop practices, and his influence. His mastery of perspective, subtle use of color and light, and convincing representation of the human figure show a break from the Late Gothic style. Influences of Renaissance paintings are noticeable: Poyer journeyed to Italy and experienced the works of artists such as Mantegna and Bellini. The exhibition emphasized connoisseurship, allowing the visitor to judge works attributed to Poyer, his workshop, his contemporaries, and his followers.

Drawing upon the Morgan's collection of Poyer manuscripts, the exhibition also included choice loans of drawings and manuscripts from this country and abroad. During the peak of his career, Poyer produced his most impressive creations, including the Morgan's Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne, who commissioned this work to teach her son, the Dauphin Charles-Orland, his catechism. On loan from the Teylers Museum in Haarlem is the Briçonnet Book of Hours, commissioned by Guillaume Briçonnet, France's Secretary of the Treasury under Charles VIII, as a gift to his wife.

Browse all the images from the Hours of Henry VIII and the Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne in online exhibitions.

Generous support for the Poyer project was provided by Michel David-Weill; the H. P. Kraus Fund for Lectures, Research, and Acquisitions in Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts; James E. Ferrell; Bruce Ferrini; and the Andrew W. Mellon Research and Publications Fund. Additional assistance was received from the Marilyn M. Simpson Charitable Trust and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Image Caption: 

Month of May: Picking Branches
Border: Saints of May
Hours of Henry VIII, in Latin
Illuminated by Jean Poyer
France, Tours, ca. 1500
The Pierpont Morgan Library, Gift of the Heineman Foundation, 1977
MS H.8 (fol. 3)