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The king and queen, their family members, and their courtiers sought out the best artists in France and abroad. But they were able to fulfill many of their artistic commissions through the workshops established in the cities of the Loire valley, particularly Tours and Bourges. Such workshops were often family enterprises or collaborative ventures in which the next generation of artists was trained. The sculptor Michel Colombe, who had made tombs and altarpieces for royal patrons over several decades, worked in Tours with his nephew Guillaume Regnault and other assistants, sometimes in concert with the Italian sculptors who were imported to the Loire Valley as a result of the French expeditions into Italy beginning in 1494. In Tours the painter Jean Fouquet was aided by his two sons, and he apparently also trained Jean Bourdichon, who succeeded him as painter to the king. Jean Poyer came out of the same milieu in Tours and produced illuminated manuscripts of great refinement for court patrons, including Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany; these manuscripts have only recently been identified as his work. Though Poyer seems to have had no official court responsibilities, he is listed in royal accounts and was praised by the contemporary poet Jean Lemaire de Belges. These court artists were called upon to make designs for a variety of media, including ephemeral decorations for royal entries and other special occasions. Only a small fraction survives of their total output of altarpieces and other paintings on panel; as a result the illuminated manuscripts they created are often the best evidence of their sophisticated art.


Jean Bourdichon. Louis XII of France Kneeling in Prayer Accompanied by Saint Michael, Saint Charlemagne, Saint Louis, and Saint Denis, Tours, 1498/99. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2004.1.