Cover image for Medieval Art in Motion: The Inventory and Gift Giving of Queen Clémence de Hongrie By Mariah Proctor-Tiffany

Medieval Art in Motion

The Inventory and Gift Giving of Queen Clémence de Hongrie

Mariah Proctor-Tiffany


$96.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08112-0

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232 pages
8" × 10"
28 color/30 b&w illustrations/5 maps

Medieval Art in Motion

The Inventory and Gift Giving of Queen Clémence de Hongrie

Mariah Proctor-Tiffany

“Mariah Proctor-Tiffany’s long-awaited and meticulously researched and argued book makes an important contribution to the growing body of scholarship that sits at the nexus of archival art history, feminist cultural history, and the development of object- and thing-based theoretical models for the practice of art history.”


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In this visually rich volume, Mariah Proctor-Tiffany reconstructs the art collection and material culture of the fourteenth-century French queen Clémence de Hongrie, illuminating the way the royal widow gave objects as part of a deliberate strategy to create a lasting legacy for herself and her family in medieval Paris.

After the sudden death of her husband, King Louis X, and the loss of her promised income, young Clémence fought for her high social status by harnessing the visual power of possessions, displaying them, and offering her luxurious objects as gifts. Clémence adeptly performed the role of queen, making a powerful argument for her place at court and her income as she adorned her body, the altars of her chapels, and her dining tables with sculptures, paintings, extravagant textiles, manuscripts, and jewelry—the exclusive accoutrements of royalty. Proctor-Tiffany analyzes the queen’s collection, maps the geographic trajectories of her gifts of art, and interprets Clémence’s generosity using anthropological theories of exchange and gift giving.

Engaging with the art inventory of a medieval French woman, this lavishly illustrated microhistory sheds light on the material and social culture of the late Middle Ages. Scholars and students of medieval art, women’s studies, digital mapping, and the anthropology of ritual and gift giving especially will welcome Proctor-Tiffany’s meticulous research.

“Mariah Proctor-Tiffany’s long-awaited and meticulously researched and argued book makes an important contribution to the growing body of scholarship that sits at the nexus of archival art history, feminist cultural history, and the development of object- and thing-based theoretical models for the practice of art history.”
“In focusing on Clémence’s use of art objects to assert her identity as queen, Proctor-Tiffany contributes to a growing body of scholarship that argues for medieval women’s agency in relationship to works of art.”
“Proctor-Tiffany’s emphasis on the mobility of such noble women, and the objects they owned, makes a key contribution to medieval studies.”
“The study by Proctor-Tiffany demonstrates in an exemplary manner how the two sources of inventory and will can be made fruitful for art historical research and what rich information they provide for object research (medieval subject culture in general, book, treasure and textile art in particular) ready.”
“Richly illustrated and written in clear and accessible language, this study will be of interest to many different readers for its engaging analysis of the possessions and gifts of a medieval queen.”
“This study highlights how a careful and intelligent reading of such documents as inventories and wills can be so useful for opening up areas that could easily be overlooked. Clémence de Hongrie may have been one of the more obscure queens of France but the survival of these documents has provided us with an insight into her career and a wardrobe that might otherwise be overlooked. Mariah Proctor-Tiffany must be commended for bringing these documents to the attention of the English-speaking world and for drawing out so much insightful material from them.”
“Proctor-Tiffany’s pathbreaking study of the art of Clémence de Hongrie, queen of France (1293–1328), argues convincingly that queens were crucial bearers of culture in medieval Europe. Proctor-Tiffany’s expertise as an art historian is evident on every page. Especially innovative is her use of urban cartography and geospatial mapping to track the sources of raw materials and their movement to the artists who created objects for personal delight, bodily adornment, spiritual devotion, or public display.”
“Billed as a ‘microhistory,’ Medieval Art in Motion is expansive, using understudied primary sources related to one woman to explore networks across Europe. Clémence de Hongrie’s remarkable manuscript inventory proves a treasure, in and of itself. Examining sacred and secular contexts and encompassing luxury media from bejeweled, enameled goldwork and illuminated manuscripts to coconuts and fossilized shark teeth, this beautifully produced volume restores to these works—and their impressive owner—physicality, materiality, and dynamism.”
“By reconstituting Clémence de Hongrie’s long-lost collection, this meticulous and yet expansive study of the queen’s detailed inventory adds a significant chapter to our understanding of female royal patronage. Medieval Art in Motion excels in mapping the vibrant social life of things, the trajectories of materials sourced from distant lands, and courtly practices of gift-giving.”
“Clémence de Hongrie is a particularly inviting subject as both her testament and the inventory made after her death in 1328 still exist. Mariah Proctor-Tiffany enlivens these texts by considering the idea of movement: provenance of materials in the objects the queen commissioned, the sources of gifts she received, and the destinations of those she bestowed on others. This study, as finely detailed as the documents and the objects they describe, goes beyond the case study to enrich our understanding of the nature and functions of collecting and the bonds created by exchange, among women and with men, in France and across Europe.”
“A well-written and richly illustrated volume of topical interest especially to scholars of medieval art and history, women’s studies, and digital mapping, the work of Mariah Proctor-Tiffany reflects a lively image of late medieval Europe as a place of international connections and exchanges in which art was used intentionally to express and buttress women’s individual and social identity.”
“With Medieval Art in Motion, Mariah Proctor-Tiffany modifies scholarly approaches to aristocratic women by pointing out the economic components of their collections and the consequences of the circulation of luxurious objects. Her analysis demonstrates the importance, for female patrons, of the inventory, a document usually associated with men.”

Mariah Proctor-Tiffany is Associate Professor of Art History at California State University, Long Beach.

List of Illustrations


A Note on Terminology and Nomenclature


1 The Life, Times, and Art of an International Queen

2 Systems of Exchange: Moving Art and Material Culture

3 The Body, the Altar, and the Table: Possessions and Sites of Identity Proclamation

4 The Queen’s Manuscripts and Identity

5 Gift Giving in the Gothic World

6 The Queen and Ritual Gift Giving

7 Gifts to Individuals, Near and Far

Conclusion: Good and Glorious Exchange

Appendix 1: The Testament of Clémence de Hongrie

Appendix 2: The Inventory of Clémence de Hongrie

Appendix 3: Glossary




From the Introduction

In the summer of 1315 Princess Clémence de Hongrie and her entourage prepared to set sail from Naples to Marseille, where they would travel by land to meet her fianc., Louis X, king of France. The twentytwo-year- old princess was the youngest of three children, who had been raised in Naples by their grandmother Marie de Hongrie after the deaths of their parents when Clémence was a young girl. As she and her attendants prepared her jewels, manuscripts, and clothing, Clémence surely realized that she might never see Naples or her family again. Any anxiety she felt would soon have been confirmed: a massive storm struck during the voyage, and the ship seemed doomed to sink in the Mediterranean. The poet Geoffroi de Paris writes that Clémence pleaded with God to spare the members of her entourage, recognizing that their loyalty to her had placed them in peril, and he bemoans Clémence’s treasures, “For in the sea she lost many joyaux , her best and most beautiful.” Although the wind and waves finally subsided and the travelers arrived in Marseilles alive, many of her sumptuous works in silver, gold, and precious gems had been either washed or thrown overboard. It is from this low point that over the next thirteen years, until her death, in 1328, Clémence amassed one of the most resplendent collections of art in France.

This frightening episode in the life of Clémence de Hongrie (1293–1328) speaks to three essential facts about medieval works of art. First, medieval sculptures, textiles, jewels, and manuscripts were in constant motion. As we gaze today upon these objects, anchored and spotlighted in their museum vitrines, it is tempting to imagine them similarly fixed in the residences or chapels of their original patrons. However, in truth, these functional objects were bought and sold, carried when their owners traveled, pawned, and sent as long- distance gifts. Second, the possessions that Clémence lost in the water were essential markers of her identity. Because sumptuary laws restricted the wearing or display of luxurious cloth, precious gems, and objects in silver and gold to the nobility, such jewels, reliquaries, and silks instantly signaled a woman’s high place in late medieval social networks. Finally, this perilous sea voyage represents just one of the ways works of art could perish. As only a small percentage of the sumptuous works extant in the Middle Ages have survived, it is rare to be able to study the objects, composition, and contents of a medieval collection. Such an opportunity is provided by two documents: the testament and the inventory of Clémence de Hongrie—evidence that has not been thoroughly studied until my research. Indeed, while the inventories of many medieval men have been the subjects of scholarship, Medieval Art in Motion is the first book to analyze the inventory of a medieval woman.

Upon her arrival in France, Clémence married King Louis X (1289–1316), the oldest son of Philippe IV and Jeanne de Navarre. As the new queen, Clémence provided the hope of a male

heir to the throne, and to the joy of the court, she quickly became pregnant. But during her pregnancy her husband died suddenly, leaving the court and kingdom waiting to see if the queen’s baby would be a boy. The chroniclers record that Clémence was often ill and depressed during the end of her pregnancy. When the baby was born, it was a boy, whom Clémence named Jean. However, he was not well. The pope promised indulgences for those who prayed for the infant, but even these prayers could not save the child. Jean died within a few days of his birth.

To make matters worse, Clémence soon offended the new king, Philippe V. He refused to pay her the income Louis had promised her, and Clémence entered the fight of her life. Her high social status became slippery; she needed to harness the power of her art treasures to fight the social extinction that now stalked her in widowhood. In order to collect her income and support her large household, she had to maintain her identity through careful performance; to this end she employed the visual power of her possessions, displaying them and offering them as gifts. Adorning her body, the altars of her chapels, and her dining tables with jewelry, vessels, reliquaries, extravagant textiles, manuscripts, sculptures, and paintings—the exclusive accoutrements of royalty—she argued for her place at court, her status, and her income by embodying the role of queen. Giving her works of art as gifts, both locally and internationally, she reminded the larger society of her importance. Ultimately she prevailed, successfully ruling her domain and, most importantly, maintaining residence in Paris to promote the reputation of her husband, her son, and her natal family through patronage and art collecting.

Commissioning art that glorified her family and moving numerous works of art were keys to the success that she saw as a widow. Clémence was buried at the church of the Jacobins in Paris, and her tomb effigy survives today at the basilica of Saint- Denis. The sculpture depicts the queen in full- length dress with her hands in prayer. Her crown is decorated with leafy fleurons, and she wears both a veil and wimple, appropriate for her status as widow (figs. 1–3).

A Queen’s Position and Identity

Queens did inherit crowns and rule in some places and, when married to kings, were a central component in medieval monarchies, yet their individual statuses varied widely. One of the most visible ways medieval queens practiced power was through biological reproduction: bearing and educating heirs to the throne and other children who might increase the importance of the dynasty through leadership or their own politically advantageous marriages. Theresa Earenfight indexes the many other roles queens played: monarch; queen consort, when a woman ruled in conjunction with her husband; queen mother; queen regent, when a woman ruled for her minor child; or finally queen dowager, upon the death of her husband. Although their names were not always present with their husbands on governmental charters, queens exercised real political power: advising, sometimes ruling, acting as intercessors, and serving as representatives of the Crown.

Queens were active not only politically and charitably but also culturally, often bringing their sensibilities, tastes, and artists to their new courts. In her pioneering 1982 article, “Medieval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambassadors of Culture,” Susan Groag Bell establishes the importance of women as readers and patrons of medieval manuscripts and argues that through their own movement and book patronage they effected cultural change. Therese Martin argues that as patrons of the arts such women should be considered “makers” of art themselves, even as much as the artists who made their commissions. Elena Woodacre, in her Queenship in the Mediterranean: Negotiating the Role of the Queen in the Medieval and Early Modern Eras, looks at multiple women who brought their distinctive Mediterranean cultures with them when they married men in other regions, particularly in the north of Europe.

As they moved into widowhood, queens often found this period more treacherous than the years of their reigns. More than ever, the widow’s influence and reputation were closely related to her skill in negotiating the political landscape. Pressures from many sides could incentivize a widowed queen to live out her days on her dower lands or to take the veil at a convent of her choosing; if she sought to remain near the center of power, she often needed to be highly prudent and avoid any apparent desire for control.

Some women negotiated the transition to widowhood with skill (and they will be important comparative examples throughout this study). Clémence’s sister- in- law, the famous bibliophile Jeanne d’Évreux (1310–1371), was the third wife of Charles IV of France (1294–1328), and during more than four decades as a widow, Jeanne cultivated a reputation as a generous benefactor of religious institutions and a careful administrator of her lands, thereby retaining political influence. For example, she mediated the conflict between Charles le Mauvais, king of Navarre and count of Évreux, and Jean le Bon, king of France in 1354, and she brought messages to the pope during the Hundred Years War. Jeanne is well known for the tiny book of hours that her husband gave her. Also important is the silver- gilt- and- enamel sculpture of the Virgin that she offered to Saint- Denis in 1339. Her skill as a diplomat and her carefully managed wealth and foundations made her a key figure at the court of France long after her husband died.

Another formidable widow, also Clémence’s contemporary, was Mahaut d’Artois (1268–1329). Twenty- five years older than Clémence, she ruled over the counties of Artois and Bourgogne, two realms separated from each other by great distance. She actively participated in court life and ruled her lands with enthusiasm and diligence. Although Mahaut was not a queen herself, through the advantageous marriages of her daughters she became the mother of two queens, and the extensive records of her expenditures reveal an enthusiastic patron interested in manuscripts, the sumptuous arts, and monastic endowments.

Blanche de Navarre (1331–1398) was another

fourteenth- century queen who outlived her spouse. Blanche married Clémence’s cousin King

Philippe VI de Valois in 1349. The age difference of almost forty years meant that Blanche outlived her husband by almost five decades. During this time Blanche lived in Paris and spent her days at the convents she favored. She and her aunt Jeanne d’Évreux were extremely close and spent much time together. The two highly regarded queens had to vigilantly defend their domains through legal action when others claimed ownership of their lands. When Blanche died, in 1398, she left an extensive will documenting her collection. Brigitte Buettner analyzes this dowager’s testament, noting that as the queen stipulated legacies to be distributed at her death, she couched the lengthy descriptions to sound as if she were tenderly parting with her beloved objects, and Marguerite Keane writes of the testament that it was a sentimental biography.

The status and respect Clémence and each of these women gained were highly individual, and a queen’s ability to thrive was dependent on a number of factors, including the traditions of the court into which she married, her own personality, the length of her reign, the breadth and depth of her support from courtiers, her income, and her surviving progeny, if she had any.

A Queen’s Possessions

When Clémence de Hongrie died, in 1328, at the age of thirty- five, a detailed inventory was made of her belongings and property at her Paris home and her other estates (fig. 4, appendix 2). This document allows a rare glimpse of the relationship between a medieval queen’s works of art and her identity. The inventory does not simply list objects; it contains a wealth of information about the origins, sizes, weights, materials, appraised and sale prices, and buyers of 748 individual lots, many comprising numerous objects. In order to analyze the overwhelming amount of information in this ninety- nine- page manuscript, I entered the lots into spreadsheets with a column for each data type and then sorted the list by buyer, price, or material. Through this process, it became clear that appraisals were made by weight for most works in metal. Some buyers chose numerous objects of the same materials, which led me to suspect that they were specialized dealers, and the frequent appearance of their names in the documents of other patrons, as sellers of the types of objects they bought from Clémence’s estate, confirmed this. That there were sometimes differences in appraised and sales prices led me to investigate the possibility that, remarkably, some of the items were auctioned, making the inventory the first studied example of an auction occurring in France. It also became apparent that many of the queen’s objects were moving from her private chapel to ecclesiastical settings, suggesting objects could easily move between the lay world and churches. This data- driven approach to studying a large group of objects is key to my analysis. Clémence’s document is one of only a few surviving inventories from a fourteenth- century French queen, making it invaluable in analyzing medieval art, material culture, and economy.

It is exceptional to have both the extensive inventory made after the queen’s death and the queen’s testament (appendix 1), which she dictated days before her passing. These records provide us two different descriptions of many objects. We can look into the queen’s collection and her closet through these detailed documents, which often together reveal where Clémence received individual works of art and where they went upon her death. So we can trace the trajectories of her objects through time and space, which I accomplish using geospatial mapping, another data- based approach to art history. The trails of her cherished works of art reveal her relationships and how she deployed her objects to buttress her endangered identity during the years of her widowhood. I include both the testament and the inventory in the appendixes of this book to allow readers to consider objects in their textual contexts and to make these important documents more accessible and thereby encourage their continued study. Object numbers in parentheses throughout this study refer to the inventory in appendix 2.

The days following Clémence’s death, on October 13, were filled with activity as the inventory was made at the queen’s Paris residence. The kingdom’s foremost jewelers, including Simon de Lille, the goldsmith of Charles IV, were called to appraise the jewels and objets d’art that had belonged to the queen. Artists, scribes, and bureaucrats worked for five days, weighing, assessing, and describing Clémence’s worldly possessions, carefully documenting the queen’s golden crowns, studded with rubies, emeralds, and pearls. They meticulously measured artworks and textiles, such as one set of tapestries depicting a hunting scene in a forest; and they described dozens of her manuscripts. The group catalogued reliquaries that held pieces of the True Cross, and they counted the sapphires on the queen’s paternosters. Under orders from the reigning king, Philippe VI, the inventory process then continued at her twelve other estates and properties south of Paris and in Normandy.

The inventory reveals more information about how objects changed hands than do most inventories made for medieval kings. For example, the inventory of the belongings of Charles V made in 1363, before he came to the throne, includes the weights and descriptions of objects but not appraised values or information about transfers, because the works of art were to stay in his collection. Clémence’s inventory is vitally important because it helps us to understand the movement of medieval possessions and the composition of a royal person’s collection, in spite of the fact that Clémence’s objects that have survived represent only a small percentage of those that she originally owned. Works in metal were particularly vulnerable to destruction because their materials were inherently valuable and re- formable as financial emergencies arose and styles changed. Yet joyau, or works of the goldsmith (reliquaries, plate, and jewels), were the centerpieces of a courtly art collection. My analysis of Clémence’s inventory reveals that more than 55 percent of her net worth was held in works in metal. This inventory provides an understanding of both individual pieces and the composition of the collection as a whole, in addition to the supremacy of the so- called minor arts in the Middle Ages.

Clémence de Hongrie’s inventory, written in French, was edited in the nineteenth century and has been used widely in dating the first use of particular objects in Europe and in tracing the provenance for works of art. Now, I bring the document to life, analyzing the group of objects as a whole and the manner in which the queen moved them. Even when the physical jewels, precious sculptures, and textiles are lost to us today, comparison of the descriptions in the inventory and testament with existing works made in early fourteenth- century Paris and Naples allows me to make valuable suggestions about what some of Clémence’s objects looked like. One can study comparanda much as one might make a reconstruction of a destroyed building based on its footprint, characteristics of neighboring buildings, and historical descriptions of the destroyed building. Particularly useful as comparative examples are objects commissioned by members of the queen’s family or made by artists who did work for her. Clémence’s inventory and testament both, for example, describe a special shrine that the queen received from Naples and then gave to her sister (89). Although this shrine does not survive, another made at the same place and time does. That shrine, now in Brno, in the Czech Republic, fits the description and conveys the general characteristics of the important piece that traveled from Naples to Paris and then to Vienne as a gift between women in this royal family; this work of art figures prominently in chapter 7 (see fig. 54). Although the exact characteristics of pieces described are elusive, the appearances of many of Clémence’s lost possessions may be approximated by considering them as examples of classes of objects.

Any discussion of a queen’s inventory or testament must address how her collecting and giving activities differed from those of contemporary kings and princes. In recent decades, scholars have begun to write about gender within the scope of their different inquiries. In her analysis of gifts given at the New Year at the Valois court, Brigitte Buettner finds that both men and women were giving the same types of objects, but the women had smaller gift- giving budgets. Also, while women did give gifts to men, most of women’s gifts were to other women: ladies- in- waiting, washerwomen, seamstresses, and women who cared for children. Women were more likely to be the recipients of gifts from their fathers and husbands than to be the givers of gifts to these men, since the women were dependents of men. This makes sense because men had ready access to the full coffers of their holdings, whereas women received a small portion of these same monies to cover their annual expenses. Anne Stanton examines the differences in subject matter of the books documented in the collections of Isabelle de France and her husband, Edward II of England, and finds that Isabelle’s library, which aligned with those of her female relatives, consisted largely of French romances and Franciscan service books, while the books documented in her husband’s collection often related to law and governance. Marguerite Keane examines gender differences in the testament of Blanche de Navarre. She sees that Blanche gave women more than twice as many books as she gave men and wrote differently about the books she gave to women, particularly emphasizing the importance of books in women’s roles as educators of their families.

In the case of Clémence, the survival of the inventory of her husband, Louis, who died in 1316, just twelve years before her own death, provides a helpful comparative document, which I analyze throughout this book. Louis’s inventory was begun after his death, and the finalized document rendered in 1321, after his belongings had been liquidated to pay his debts and fund his testamentary gifts. Patterns of similarity and difference in the two inventories might relate to gender. Even while considering gender in these inventories, though, I do not see people like Clémence or her husband as passive actors, unwittingly playing out the gendered expectations of their courts. Rather, they acted as individuals with agency and unique personalities and interests in dialogue with their cultures in regard to objects they gathered.

Excerpt ends here.