8 Van Limburg Brothers: in the service of Burgundy
|In 1397, Jan Maelwael had become court painter of Philip the Bold in Dijon and Paris. Within a short time, he gained a high income and a lot of influence. Around 1400, he decided to let his three talented nephews come over from Nijmegen. Paul, Herman and Jan van Limburg joined the growing ranks of 'northern' painters in Burgundian service. Patron of this artist colony was Philip the Bold, the ambitious duke of Burgundy and at that time de facto ruler of France.
Actually, the Burgundian court was a remarkable destination for the four (or perhaps even six) men from Nijmegen. Some years before, their lord and most important patron at that time, 25-year-old Duke Willem, had chosen the side of the English, and had insulted and challenged the King of France in a reckless letter. Philip the Bold had been leader of a failed French punitive expedition against Gulik (Jülich) and Gelre (described so expressively in Barbara Tuchman's bestseller "A distant mirror: the calamitous fourteenth century"). His campaign was bogged down in mud. It was the wettest summer for a hundred years in these parts. In better weather conditions, Duke Philip might have burnt down Nijmegen - Gelre's most important town - and with it, the Maelwaels/Van Limburgs family residence. But despite the fact that Gelre and Burgundy were hereditary enemies, the men from Nijmegen apparently transferred from the court in Gelre to the French and Burgundian court without problems.
In 1402 and 1403, Paul and Jan van Limburg were in Burgundian service in Paris, where they stayed in the house of the Duc's personal physician, Jean Durand Kost, and worked on a 'Bible moralisée'. This manuscript has not been preserved.
Philip the Bold died in 1404. In 1402, Paul and Jan van Limburg had signed a four-year contract. By Philip's decease, they were discharged from this.
Jan Maelwael stayed in Dijon, and after a brief period became court painter to the next Duke of Burgundy, the fierce John the Fearless.