Monday, 21 October 2013

Saint Stephen Protomartyr
Fifteenth Century

The above painting, dating from around the year 1450, is a reproduction of the left-panel in a diptych, painted by the French Renaissance artist Jean Fouquet and formerly in the Church in Melun (near Paris). It depicts Saint Stephen with the French diplomat Etienne Chevalier.

Saint Stephen is depicted wearing an ample dalmatic made from what appears to be black velvet (but it may be black wool).  It is ornamented with clavi formed from strips of a silk damask of a familiar Renaissance pattern. The dalmatic is extremely simple.

The more ancient form of the amice is also shewn, being very ample and not fitting closely around the neck. To this amice, an apparel is attached made from the same silk damask as the dalmatic's ornament. It was usual in the mediaeval period and beyond for an amice apparel to match the ornament of the vestments. Usual, too, was that the stole and maniple also matched the ornamentation of the vestments, rather than matching the base colour (namely, the liturgical colour of the vestments).

We find the following information at the Web Gallery of Art.

This is the left wing of a diptych, originally located in Melun. The diptych was in the chancel of the Church of Notre-Dame at Melun, south of Paris, from 1461 until about 1775, when the two halves became separated.

Etienne Chevalier, who came from Melun, was French Ambassador to England in 1445 and six years later became Treasurer to Charles VII of France. He presented the diptych (of which this panel forms the left wing), to his native town around 1450; on this wing he had himself painted next to his patron saint, Stephen. The saint is holding a book, on which a jagged stone is lying, as a symbol of his martyrdom. The formal architecture in the background is in the Italian Renaissance style showing pilasters with coloured inlaid marble panels between them. On the wall, receding in perspective, the name Etienne Chevalier is inscribed several times. Originally the donor and the saint were looking towards the Madonna, who occupied the right wing of the diptych; this panel found its way into the Antwerp Museum.

According to a description of the paintings by Denis Godefroy in 1661, the original frames were covered in blue velvet. Round each picture were strands of gold and silver thread, in which the donor's initials were woven in pearls. There were also gilded medallions on which stories of the saints were represented.

Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame de Melun, founded in 1013.