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Sunday, September 24, 2023

LACMA Presents Historic French Tomb Sculptures as Part of the First and Only US Tour

Jean de la Huerta and Antoine le Moiturier, Mourner with Cowl Pulled Down, Right Hand Raised, Left Hand Holding a Book in a Flap of His Cloak, no. 78, 1443–56/57, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon Jean de la Huerta and Antoine le Moiturier, Mourner with Cowl Pulled Down, Right Hand Raised, Left Hand Holding a Book in a Flap of His Cloak, no. 78, 1443–56/57, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon
(Los Angeles, March 31, 2011)—The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy—a group of nearly 40 alabaster sculptures that have never before been presented together outside of France—on view from May 8 through July 31, 2011, as part of the first and only seven-city exhibition tour in the United States. Co-organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and the Musée des Beaux- Arts in Dijon, France, under the auspices of the French Regional & American Museum Exchange (FRAME), LACMA’s presentation will be curated by J. Patrice Marandel, department head and Robert H. Ahmanson Chief Curator of European Art.
“It’s such an honor for LACMA to be a part of this groundbreaking tour,” says Marandel. “The Mourners are not only a great piece of art history, but their sorrowful expressions are known to touch audiences on a very emotional level.” 

During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Valois dukes of Burgundy were among the most powerful rulers in the Western world, presiding over vast territories in present-day France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands from their capital in Dijon. The significant artistic patronage of the dukes drew artists, musicians, and writers to Dijon, which became a major center of creativity and artistic patronage. 
Carved by Jean de la Huerta and Antoine le Moiturier between 1443 and 1457, the unique devotional figures, known as mourners, were commissioned for the elaborate tomb of the second Duke of Burgundy,John the Fearless (1371–1419). The sculptures—each approximately 16 inches high—depict sorrowful figures expressing their grief or devotion to the second Duke, who was both a powerful political figure and patron of the arts.
Crafted with astonishing detail, the alabaster sculptures exemplify some of the most important artistic innovations of the late Middle Ages. Each individual figure has a different expression—some wring their hands or dry their tears, hide their faces in the folds of their robes, or appear lost in reverent contemplation. The motif echoes that of ancient sarcophagi, but these innovative tombs were the first to represent mourners as thoroughly dimensional, rather than in semi-relief. The presentation of the mourners passing through the arcades of a cloister was also a great innovation for the tombs of the era. The Mourners provides an unprecedented opportunity to appreciate each sculpture as an individual work of art. 
Exhibition Schedule, Catalogue, and Website
The Mourners debuted at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in March 2010, and traveled on to the Saint Louis Art Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts. After its presentation at LACMA, the exhibition will travel to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
The Mourners is accompanied by a richly illustrated 129-page catalogue by Sophie Jugie, Director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, with prefaces by FRAME Co-Presidents Marie-Christine Labourdette, Elizabeth Rohatyn, and Dijon Mayor François Rebsamen, and an introduction by Philippe de Montebello, Director Emeritus of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and FRAME Trustee.

Published by Yale University Press, the catalogue explores the social and political context in which the tombs were created and features detailed photographs and descriptions of each sculpture in the group. 
In addition, a special website dedicated to the mourners ( provides extensive historical context, as well as 360-degree views of each sculpture in two and three dimensions, allowing viewers to intimately examine every angle and detail. The website, offered by FRAME, also features an interactive exploration re-creating the tomb’s cloister arcade and showing the mourners in situ. Special photography of The Mourners was made possible by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.