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The Exquisite Mourners, With A Website To (Almost) Match

Even at a moment like this, when New York is full of wonderful art exhibits, The Mourners stand out — no pun intended. They are the group of touchingly expressive alabaster figures carved for the tomb of John the Fearless, second Duke of Burgundy, and his wife, Margaret of Bavaria, that are on view at the Metropolitan Museum. They march, two by two, in procession on a table in the Met’s Medieval Hall. Very effective, and affecting.

mourner_70.jpgThe Mourners also happen to have a fabulous website, which — oddly — the press release say nothing about. I discovered it by accident, but when I checked, the Met did, thankfully, link to it on its Exhibitions page for the Mourners.  

The mid-15th century statuettes, each about 16 inches tall, were borrowed from the Musée des Beaux Arts de Dijon under the aegis of the French Regional & American Museum Exchange (FRAME). After leaving New York in May, they’ll be going on a six-city tour here — to St. Louis, Dallas, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Richmond — and then to Paris.

FRAME is creating the website, and it’s still a work-in-progress. But no matter. Right now, you can go there to get closeups, with zoom-in capability, of each of the Mourners — and you can rotate them, 360 degrees. It’s not quite, but almost, as good as being there. Mourner No. 70 is above.

Explaining itself, the site says:

This journey also provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create new digital high-resolution, multi-perspective, and stereo 3D photography of these masterpieces, which would supplement and support the exhibition tour. Over a four day period during the mourners’ removal from their arcade and before their transit to the U.S., a multi-discipline technical team from FRAME joined Dijon’s staff, and staff on site from the Dallas Museum of Art (the American tour organizer) to create an ad hoc photo studio and produce more than 14,000 photographs of the sculptures. This web site is the first fruit of that effort, and will be expanded with more mourner-related resources in the months ahead.

One of the best things about the tour — aside from its taking place, is that this is the first time these figures will be seen together outside of France — is that the Mourners are shown outside of the architectural framework of the tomb, that “arcade”: visitors can appreciate each as an individual work of art, from all sides, and the web replicates that.

Describing them, and its future plans, the website says:


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.


In the future, a library of those images is expected to be made widely available, without charge, to scholars, students, educators and the public. In this way, FRAME, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, and the People of Dijon have assured a lasting legacy for the visit of these treasures.

The Met’s press release notes, with no exaggeration, that the Mourners “exemplify some of the most important artistic innovations of the late Middle Ages.”

Fitting that the accompanying website has its own innovations. Read about what’s “Coming Soon” on the website here.

And check the exhibition schedule: if these sculptures are coming near you, it would be a shame to miss them.

Photo Credit: Courtesy FRAME 


  1. Sharon Weremiuk says

    When is this exhibit coming to Los Angeles?

  2. The schedule is here:
    LA is next May.

  3. Thanks for this discover !
    I saw these mourners in the Musée des Beaux Arts de Dijon, but I didn’t knew about this very creative website!
    Thanks alot!

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