Jean Corbechon, Livre des propriétés des choses

Painting the flesh

Artists' Techniques

The Mazarine Master applied flesh tones over a light pink base layer, containing lead white and variable quantities of vermilion. He used a range of earth pigments to delineate shadows, and short parallel strokes of vermilion red to define noses, cheeks and mouths, and often eyebrows and foreheads. Facial features were further outlined in brown or black.

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Detail of the king’s face under magnification (20x).
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Detail of a hybrid creature under magnification (7.5x).
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Detail of a dragon under magnification (7.5x).

Holding a blank scroll, the king accepts the manuscript presented to him by a kneeling Jean Corbechon who is dressed in the black Augustinian habit of his Order. The French king is seated beneath a canopy adorned with fleurs-de-lis, the emblem of the French monarchy.

Four courtiers witness the event, including Charles V’s brother, Jean de Berry (1340-1416), resplendent in a black robe trimmed with fur. Jean de Berry shared Charles V’s passion for manuscripts and was one of the greatest art patrons of all time. Although the passage of text written below the miniature names King Charles V (1338-1380) as the dedicatee, it has been suggested that the image shows, instead, his successor, Charles VI (1368-1422), who had succeeded to the throne in 1380, and during whose reign the manuscript was made. Figures in the border include an angel playing a harp, two dragons and a hybrid creature wearing a cardinal’s hat.