Enguerrand Quarton

Enguerrand Quarton (or Charonton) (c. 1410 – c. 1466) was a French painter and manuscript illuminator whose few surviving works are among the first masterpieces of a distinctively French style, very different from either Italian or Early Netherlandish painting. Six paintings by him are documented, of which only two survive, and in addition the Louvre now follows most art historians in giving him the famous Avignon Pietà. His two documented works are the remarkable Coronation of the Virgin (1453–54, Villeneuve-les-Avignon) and The Virgin of Mercy (1452, Musée Condé, Chantilly). Two smaller altarpieces are also attributed to him.

Life and career

Quarton was born in the diocese of Laon in northern France, but moved to Provence in 1444, possibly after working in the Netherlands. There he worked in Aix-en-Provence, Arles in 1446, and Avignon, where he was based from 1447 until his death there in about 1466. Provence at this time had some of the most impressive painters in France, to judge by surviving work at any rate, with Nicolas Froment and Barthélemy d'Eyck, who both appear to have collaborated with Quarton; the North had Jean Fouquet however. All were influenced by both Italy and the Netherlands to varying degrees. The Popes and Anti-Popes were no longer living in Avignon, but it remained Papal territory, and the city contained many Italian merchants.

Except for some banners, no works by Quarton for René of Anjou, the ruler of most of Provence, are documented, although René was a keen patron of the arts who employed D'Eyck for many years and patronised several other artists. Many of Quarton's clients were important figures in René's court and administration, like the Chancellor of Provence who commissioned the Missal of Jean des Martins (BnF, Ms nouv. aq. Latin. 2661).

Although the influence of Quarton can be seen strongly in subsequent Provençal painting, and also in some works as far away as Germany and Italy, he was later almost wholly forgotten until the Coronation of the Virgin was exhibited in Paris in 1900, since when both awareness of his importance, and the number of works attributed to him, has steadily increased. The attribution to him of the Avignon Pietà has only been generally accepted since about the 1960s.

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