Jean Fouquet and His Time

Jean Fouquet and His Time

Jean Fouquet and His Time

Jean Fouquet and His Time

Excerpt

From the depths of her defeat, when the moral and material life of France was at its lowest ebb at the end of the Hundred Years' War with England, the French genius arose again in two important artists: Jean Fouquet and François Villon, Painter and Poet, the first two great realists in the history of French art, and the founders of French pictorial and literary style. The Miracle of Jeanne d'Arc, a military and political miracle of national reawakening, was here repeated in the intellectual sphere.

When Fouquet and François Villon were born, within the space of a decade-- Fouquet was born about 1420 at Tours, Villon about 1430 at Paris--the once powerful realm of France had dwindled to half its size, torn by party strife, its capital besieged by enemies; and with the decline of trade, commerce and agriculture, poverty and insecurity were universal.

At Fouquet's death in about 1480 (the end of Villon's life, like the greater part of his adventurous and sordid career, is lost in obscurity) France had recovered and had again become great, strong and prosperous, thanks to the inexhaustible fertility of her soil and the vigour of her people; thanks, too, to the progressiveness, the power of organization, the statesmanship and realism of her two kings, Charles VII and Louis XI, and their counsellors and officials.

The new realistic outlook which was so typical a feature, not only of the government but of the whole life of France, was the result of the Hundred Years' War, in which the feudal and romantic Middle Ages came to a violent if timely end. The war itself, an outcome of the conflict of the feudal powers of the Middle Ages, had in effect resulted in a transformation of power; for, while the feudal lords were liquidated, a new centralized state, a new conception of absolute monarchy triumphed. France experienced at this time the greatest rebirth of her history, a true Renaissance in every sphere of her life.

This Renaissance had little in common with the Italian Renaissance. It was a purely national affair. The cosmopolitan ideal of Humanism, which in Italy inspired and united every form of life, was lacking. In the French universities no Greek or classical Latin was taught, only mediaeval dog-Latin, which, abhorred by the Humanists, was still, even at the University of Paris, held to be the key to knowledge. It is true that during the war, new universities were founded at Toulouse, Caen, Bordeaux, Angers and Poitiers, but even at . . .

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