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13 The Van Lymborch ('Van Limburg') Brothers

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At the beginning of the fifteenth century three Nijmegen brothers had illustrious careers working as artists at the court of the King of Burgundy. The prayer books they made for their patron became world famous.

In the fourteenth century the Duke of Gelders and his retinue stayed at Valkhof castle on a regular basis. A retinue could consist of dozens of people, among whom were many clergy and nobility who supported the Duke in his political and administrative work. There were often many artists working at the court, including musicians, actors, poets, goldsmiths, painters and sculptors. The ducal court offered work to many different Nijmegen artists. Among them were the famous brothers Herman and Willem Maelwael, who worked as artists and gilders for Duke William of Gulik during the late fourteenth century.

The Maelwaels were an artistic family. The son and three grandsons of Willem Maelwael, who lived in Burchstraat on the corner of Stockumstraat, became particularly famous. Son Jan made the transition from the Gelders to the Burgundian court. He entered the service of Duke Philip the Brave of Burgundy as a painter. Willem’s daughter married the Nijmegen sculptor Arnold van Lymborch who, just as his father-in-law, worked for the Duke of Gelders. Their three sons, Paul, Herman and Johan, proved to be just as talented. In 1400 they followed their Uncle Jan to Paris. After studying with a goldsmith they too started to work for the Duke of Burgundy for whom they made an illustrated Bible. Around 1410 the young artists started working for the Duke of Berry, an important art collector. They made two books of hours with beautiful illustrations: Les Belles Heures and the unfinished Très Riches Heures. The twelve calendar pages of the latter have become world famous. They portray lively and very detailed scenes of the lives of nobles and peasants. The brothers only came back from France to visit Nijmegen a few times on family business. They died in France in 1415/1416, one shortly after the other, possibly as a result of a plague epidemic.
Artists at the Burgundian court
circa 1400-1416
Part of ‘May’ from Les Très Riches Heures, by the Van Lymborch brothers

13 detailmei tresrichesheures.jpg

Source: Jan Kuys, in: De Canon van Nijmegen, Uitgeverij Vantilt (Nijmegen 2009)
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