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Jean Hey’s (also known as the Master of Moulins) Margaret of Austria

Lisa Duffy-Zeballos, PhD
Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2008;10(3):220-221. doi:10.1001/archfaci.10.3.220.
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The exquisite panel painting by Jean Hey, also known as the Master of Moulins (active in the fourth quarter of the 15th century), of the young Margaret of Austria (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York) is an unforgettable image and a reminder of the unhappy fates that awaited many royal daughters as marriageable pawns in dynastic alliances. On the death of the French king Louis XI of Valois in 1483, his heir, the 13-year-old Charles VIII (1470-1498), was too young to assume the throne. The young king's sister, Anne of France, and her husband, Pierre II, Duke of Bourbon, established a regency government in Moulins. Anxious to glorify their reign, the regents commissioned numerous artistic projects from the legions of artists coming into Moulins to work for the Bourbon court. One such artist was Jean Hey, who probably immigrated to France from the Netherlands sometime before 1493, when he painted Ecce Homo(Musee Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium), which depicted Christ after the flagellation. Around 1498, he painted a triptych for the altar of the Cathedral of Moulins showing the Virgin and Child in Glory(Moulins Cathedral) in the center panel, flanked by the kneeling figures of Anne of France and her daughter Suzanne and Pierre II. Scholars had previously identified the sitter in the Metropolitan Museum's portrait as Suzanne of Bourbon but now identify the figure as another young princess at the Bourbon court, Margaret of Austria (1480-1530). She was the daughter of the Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, and Mary of Burgundy, Duchess of Burgundy and the Netherlands, who died in a riding accident in 1482 at the age of 25 years. The following year, as part of a political alliance, the 3-year-old Princess Margaret was betrothed to the future king, Charles VIII. According to tradition, child princesses were raised in their future kingdoms, and therefore Margaret was sent to France to be educated at the Bourbon court, where she was known as “la petite reine.”1(p12)However, the sudden ascendancy of the 11-year-old Anne of Brittany as Duchess of Brittany in 1488 made her a more valuable marriage prize. When Charles VIII reached his majority in 1491, he repudiated the Hapsburg princess to seek a marriage with Anne. He invaded Brittany and forced Anne, who was already married by proxy to Margaret's father, the widowed Emperor Maximilian I, to enter into an engagement with him. Although the disgraced Hapsburg princess and her dowry should have been returned immediately to her father, Charles VIII kept Margaret in France until 1493.

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Jean Hey (also known as the Master of Moulins) (active fourth quarter of the 15th century). Margaret of Austria,ca 1490. Oil on oak panel, 12⅞ × 9⅛ in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.130). Image copyright, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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