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In the late 1400s, artists were often surprisingly mobile. Discerning French patrons had traditionally attracted outstanding artists from other regions, particularly from the provinces of the Low Countries immediately to the north. In the fifteenth century, artists migrated not only to Paris and the Loire Valley, but to the courts of the secondary branches of the royal family, courts that often rivaled that of the king in brilliance. These "princes of the blood" took their titles from their territories in France, but they had amassed land and influence beyond the kingdom through marriage and astute maneuvering. The dukes of Burgundy controlled rich provinces to the north and east, including Flanders and Holland. Their court set the style for magnificence. The dukes of Bourbon acquired large territories in the center of France. René, duke of Anjou, claimed the kingdom of Naples and also held the southern county of Provence, whose culture was closely related to that of Italy. At his court he employed artists from the Netherlands, like the painter Barthélemy d'Eyck and the embroiderer Pierre du Billant. From the sculptor Francesco Laurana, active in Croatia and Naples as well as Provence, René commissioned what were the first portrait medals made in France in the Renaissance style. The circulation of those sculptors who were called upon to produce tombs and monuments for several patrons produced a common style, at once idealized and realistic, that played out against strong regional variations.


Our Lady of Grace (Notre Dame de Grasse), c. 1470. Languedoc. Musée des Augustins, Toulouse, RA 788.