Claus Sluter

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David and Jeremiah from the Well of Moses

Claus Sluter (1340s in Haarlem[1] – 1405 or 1406 in Dijon) was a sculptor of Dutch origin.[2] He was the most important northern European sculptor of his age and is considered a pioneer of the "northern realism" of the Early Netherlandish painting that came into full flower with the work of Jan van Eyck and others in the next generation.

Sluter probably worked in Brussels before moving to the Burgundian capital of Dijon, where from 1385 to 1389 he was the assistant of Jean de Marville, Court Sculptor to Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. From 1389 to his death he was Court Sculptor himself, with the rank of valet de chambre. He was succeeded by his nephew Claus de Werve.

Sluter's most significant work is the so-called Well of Moses (1395–1403), created for the Carthusian monastery of Champmol, which was founded by Philip the Bold near Dijon in 1383. The "well" was originally a Calvary group, including figures of the crucified Christ, the Virgin and John the Evangelist, supported by a pedestal. The calvary group was dismantled during the French Revolution; a fragment of the corpus is preserved in the Musée archéologique de Dijon. Life-sized figures representing Old Testament prophets and kings (Moses, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Zachariah, and Isaiah) stand around the base, holding plylacteries and books inscribed with verses from their respective texts, which were interpreted in the Middle Ages as typological prefigurations of the sacrifice of Christ. The work's physical structure, in which the Old Testament figures support those of the New Dispensation, literalizes the typological iconography. The pedestal surmounts a hexagonal fountain. The entire monument is executed in limestone quarried from Tonnerre and Asnières.

A few steps away from The Well of Moses one finds the portal of the former chapel of Champmol. This includes five figures sculpted by Sluter. Sluter was also responsible for the main part of the work on Philip's tomb, which (restored and partly reconstructed) has been moved to the Museum of Fine Arts which is housed in the former ducal palace in Dijon.[3]

Sluter was one of the sculptors of the pleurants, or mourners, which occupy niches below the tombs of Philip the Bold, his wife Margaret, and John the Fearless.


  1. ^ [1] Netherlands Institute for Art History
  2. ^ Murray, P. & L. (1997). Penguin dictionary of art and artists (7th ed.). London: Penguin Books. p. 492. ISBN 0-14-051300-0. 
  3. ^ Beth Harris; Steven Zucker. "Claus Sluter and Claus de Werve, Mourners, from the Tomb of Philip the Bold". Smarthistory. Khan Academy. Retrieved 13 January 2013. 

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