Wednesday, January 2, 8430

Antoine Busnois (c. 1430 – 1492)

French composer-poet Antoine Busnois (Busnoys) (c. 1430, near Bethune / Busnes – November 6, 1492) was the leading figure of the late Burgundian school between the time Guillaume Dufay and Johannes Ockeghem, with an immense reputation.

He may have been related to the aristocratic family of Busnes, particularly Philippe de Busnes, canon of Notre-Dame in Lens, which may explain his early association with the French royal court.

As early as the 1450's references to him appear, and in 1461 he was a chaplain at Tours. Busnois filed a petition for absolution in Tours, dated February 28, 1461, in which he admitted to being part of a group that beat up a priest, "to the point of bloodshed", not one but five times. While in a state of anathema he was foolhardy enough to celebrate mass, an act which got him excommunicated (Pope Pius II eventually pardoned him).

He moved from the cathedral to the collegiate church of St. Martin, also in Tours, where he became a subdeacon in 1465 to Johannes Ockeghem's role as treasurer, and the two seem to have known each other well.

Later in 1465 Busnois moved to Poitiers, where he not only became "maîtrise" (master of the choirboys), but managed to attract a flood of talented singers from the entire region.

However he departed suddenly in 1466, working for the Burgundy court in the following year, immediately before the accession of Charles to the title of Duke on June 15, since one of his motets -- In hydraulis -- contains a dedication indicating that he was still Count. Charles, on accession to Duke, quickly became known as Charles the Bold, for his fierce and sometimes reckless military ambitions (which indeed got him killed ten years later). In addition to his love of war, however, Charles loved music, and in his employ Busnois was appreciated and rewarded.

A Busnois Lamentation on the Death of Guillaume Dufay, probably written in 1474, is now lost.

The composer was at the siege of Neuss in Germany in 1475, and survived (or did not attend) the disastrous Battle of Nancy in 1477 at which Charles was killed and the expansion of Burgundy was stilled.

Of Busnois's sacred music, two cantus firmus masses (Missa "L'homme arme" and Missa "O Crux Lignum")

and eight motets survive (many others are probably lost).

According to Pietro Aron, Busnois may have been the composer of L'homme armé, the secular tune more often used than any other as a cantus firmus for mass composition in the Renaissance. In any case, his Missa L'homme armé was by far the most influential; Obrecht's mass closely parallels it and Dufay quotes it directly.


[Antoine Busnois - L'Homme Arme -- the melody survives in both G Dorian (Do Re Me Fa Sol La Te Do) -- above -- and G Mixolydian (Do re Mi Fa Sol La Te Do) -- below -- versions]

Antoine Busnois (1430-1492) - L'Homme Arme (c. 1450)

L'homme armé is a French secular song from the time of the Renaissance. It was the most popular tune used for musical settings of the Ordinary of the Mass: over 40 separate compositions entitled Missa L'homme armé survive from the period.

L'homme, l'homme, l'homme armé,
L'homme armé
L'homme armé doibt on doubter, doibt on doubter.
On a fait partout crier,
Que chascun se viengne armer
D'un haubregon de fer. The man, the man, the armed man,

The man, the man, the man-at-arms
The man-at-arms should be feared, should be feared.
Everywhere it has been proclaimed
That each man shall arm himself
With a coat of iron mail.

[Hans Memling (1430-1495) - St Michael the Arcangel]

The origins of the popularity of the song and the importance of the armed man are the subject of various theories. Some have suggested that the 'armed man' represents St Michael the Archangel (certainly the composer Johannes Regis (c.1425 – c.1496) seems to have intended that allusion in his Dum sacrum mysterium/Missa l'homme armé based upon the melody, which incorporates various additional trope texts and cantus firmus plainchants in honour of St Michael the Archangel), while others have suggested it merely represents the name of a popular tavern (Maison L'Homme Arme) near Dufay's rooms in Cambrai.

[Jean Froissart (1337-1405) - Battle of Nicopolis, September 25 or 28, 1396, between the Ottoman Empire versus an allied force from Hungary, the Holy Roman Empire, France, Wallachia, Poland, the Kingdom of England, the Kingdom of Scotland, the Old Swiss Confederacy, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa and the Knights of St. John near the Danubian fortress of Nicopolis (Nikopol, Bulgaria) -- often referred to as the Crusade of Nicopolis, and was the last large-scale crusade of the Middle Ages]

It may also represent the arming for a new crusade against the Turks.

There is ample evidence to indicate that it held special significance for the Order of the Golden Fleece (Spanish: Orden del Toisón de Oro), a chivalric organization founded in 1430 by Duke Philip III of Burgundy to celebrate his marriage to the Portuguese princess Isabel of Aviz.

It is useful to note that the first appearance of the song was roughly contemporaneous with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks (1453), an event which had a huge psychological effect in Europe; composers such as Guillaume Dufay composed laments for the occasion. Yet another possibility is that all three theories are true, given the feeling of urgency in organizing a military opposition to the recently victorious Ottomans which permeated central and northern Europe at the time.

Another recently proposed theory for the origin of the tune is that it is a stylised combination of a street cry and a trumpet call, and may have originated as early as the late 14th Century, or perhaps early 15th, due to its use of the major prolation, which was the commonest metre at the time.

L'homme armé is especially well remembered today because it was so widely used by Renaissance composers as a cantus firmus for the Latin Mass. It was probably used for this purpose more than any other secular song: over 40 settings are known. Many composers of the Renaissance set at least one mass on this melody; the two settings by Josquin, the Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales, and the Missa L'homme armé sexti toni are among the best known. Other composers who wrote more than one setting include Pierre de La Rue, Cristóbal Morales, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

A cycle of six settings, all anonymous but probably by the same composer, survives in a Neapolitan manuscript which was supposedly a gift to Beatrice of Aragon of some of the favorite music of Charles the Bold [a.k.a Charles the Rash].

While the practice of writing masses on the tune lasted into the 17th Century, including a late setting by Carissimi, the majority of mass settings of L'homme armé, approximately 30, are from the period between 1450 and 1510.

One of the earliest datable uses of the melody itself was in the combinative chanson Il sera pour vous conbatu/L'homme armé ascribed to Robert Morton (c. 1430-1473), which now is believed to probably date from around 1463, due to historical references in the text. Another possibly earlier version of the tune is an anonymous three-voice setting from the Mellon Chansonnier, which also cannot be precisely dated. In 1523 Pietro Aron, in his treatise Thoscanello suggested that Antoine Busnois was the composer of the tune; while tantalizing, since the tune is stylistically consistent with Busnois, there is no other source to corroborate Aron, and he was writing approximately 70 years after the first appearance of the melody. Richard Taruskin has argued that Busnois wrote the earliest known mass on the melody, but this is disputed, many scholars preferring to see the older Guillaume Dufay as the creator of the first L'homme armé Mass. Other composers whose settings of the tune may date from the 1450s include Guillaume Faugues, Johannes Regis, and Johannes Ockeghem.

The tune is singularly well-adapted to contrapuntal treatment. The phrases are clearly delineated, and there are several obvious ways to construct canons. It is also unusually easy to recognize within a contrapuntal texture.

Composers still occasionally turn to this song for spiritual or thematic inspiration. In 1968 the British composer Peter Maxwell Davies wrote his Missa super l'homme armé.

American composer Mark Alburger includes settings of L'homme armé in his Deploration Passacaglias (1992) in the first (Ockeghem) and tenth (Bach) movements.

The Welsh composer Karl Jenkins continues a 600-year tradition with The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, written in 1999 to a commission from the Royal Armouries to mark the millennium. Christopher Marshall wrote L'homme armé: Variations for Wind Ensemble in 2003.


Busnois may have written an additional six masses on L'homme, all found in a Naples manuscript, and a Missa sine nomine. His other secular music includes Magnificat sexti toni and a motet Noel, Noel.

Busnois also wrote chansons, French secular songs, and these are the work on which his reputation also rests.

Some of his tunes were used as source material for cantus firmus mass composition more than a generation after he died, for instance Fortuna desperata (used both by Obrecht and Josquin).

Busnois remained in the employ of the Burgundian court until 1482, dying there in 1492.


[Hans Memling -- Angel Musicians (c. 1480) -- Psaltery, Tromba Marina, Lute, Slide Trumpet, Cornett, Buisine, Slide Trumpet, Portative Organ, Harp, Fiddle]

Hans Memling produced this three-part panel painting more than half a century after the Ghent Altar-piece of the van Eyck brothers.


Herman, Monk of Salzburg (1365-1396)

Der Trumpet (Cornett, Slide Trumpet, Alto Shawm, Tabor)


The central panel not reproduced here shows the figure of Christ surrounded by· singing angels. Thus, laudative music again accompanies the theme of "Majestas Domini". Formalistically, however, the artist does not follow the famous example. One explanation for this is the original purpose of the panels and their horizontally rectangular shape. They used to decorate the organ loft in the church of the Castilian city of Najera. Located relatively high, they were placed in a long, horizontal row, hence the large and bust-like appearance of the figures.

The accurate rendering of the numerous players may create the impression that the painter wanted to present an ensemble of contemporary musical instruments. In fact, however, the composition reveals an arrangement of strict symmetry, partly suggested by the hierarchical order of angels and the related symbolism of instruments, although the classification is not as clear as in the works of Giotto or Geertgen. In the central panel depicting Christ, six singing angels represent music of the highest order. On each side of Him (on the right of the first panel, and on the left of the second), in a mirror arrangement, are two wind instruments: one trumpet on each side and a zink and busine, representing the order of "trumpeting" herald angels. Moving further away from the centre, on the left we see stringed instruments: a lute, a tromba marina and a psaltery, while on the right the mellower, quieter instruments, a portative organ, a harp and a fiddle. The psaltery, for example, was used exclusively to accompany psalms and beseeching prayers.

The picture shows the central panel of a triptych which originally decorated the great organs of the church Santa Maria la real at Najera, in Castile. The panel represents the Blessing Christ surrounded by six singing angels. The side panels represent two other groups of musician angels accompanying the choir.


Hans Memling (Memlinc) (c. 1430 – 11 August 1494) was an Early Netherlandish painter, born in Germany, who was the last major fifteenth century artist in the Low Countries, the successor to Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden.

Born in Seligenstadt, near Frankfurt in the Middle Rhein region, it is believed that Memling served his apprenticeship at Mainz or Cologne, and later worked in the Netherlands under Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1455-1460). He then went to Bruges around 1465.

There is an apocryphical story that he was a wounded at the Battle of Nancy, sheltered and cured by the Hospitallers at Bruges, and that to show his gratitude he refused payment for a picture he had painted for them. Memling did indeed paint for the Hospitallers, but he painted several pictures for them, in 1479 and 1480, and it is likely that he was known to his patrons of St John, prior to the Battle of Nancy.

Memling is connected with military operations only in a distant sense. His name appears on a list of subscribers to the loan which was raised by Maximilian I of Austria, to defend against hostilities towards France in 1480. In 1477, when he was incorrectly claimed to have been killed, he was under contract to create an altarpiece for the gild-chapel of the booksellers of Bruges. This altarpiece, under the name of the Seven Griefs of Mary, is now in the Gallery of Turin. It is one of the fine creations of his more mature period. It is not inferior in any way to those of 1479 in the hospital of St John, which for their part are hardly less interesting as illustrative of the master's power than The Last Judgment in the cathedral of the Hanse city Gdańsk (Danzig), Poland. Critical opinion has been unanimous in assigning the altarpiece of Gdańsk to Memling. This affirms that Memling was a resident and a skilled artist at Bruges in 1473; for the Last Judgment was undoubtedly painted and sold to a merchant at Bruges, who shipped it there on board of a vessel bound to the Mediterranean, which was captured by Gdańsk privateer Paúel Benecke in that very year. This purchase of his pictures by an agent of the Medici demostrates that he had a considerable reputation.

It is characteristic that the oldest allusions to pictures connected with Memling's name are those which point to relations with the Burgundian court. The inventories of Margaret of Austria, drawn up in 1524, allude to a triptych of the God of Pity by Roger van der Weyden, of which the wings containing angels were by Master Hans. But this entry is less important as affording testimony in favour of the preservation of Memling's work than as showing his connection with an older Flemish craftsman. For ages Roger van der Weyden was acknowledged as an artist of the school of Bruges, until records of undisputed authenticity demonstrated that he was bred at Tournai and settled at Brussels. Nothing seems more natural than the conjunction of his name with that of Memling as the author of an altarpiece, since, though Memling's youth remains obscure, it is clear from the style of his manhood that he was taught in the painting-room of Van der Weyden. Nor is it beyond the limits of probability that it was Van der Weyden who received commissions at a distance from Brussels, and first took his pupil to Bruges, where he afterwards dwelt.

The clearest evidence of the connection of the two masters is that afforded by pictures, particularly an altarpiece, which has alternately been assigned to each of them, and which may possibly be due to their joint labours. In this altarpiece, which is a triptych ordered for a patron of the house of Sforza, we find the style of Van der Weyden in the central panel of the Crucifixion, and that of Memling in the episodes on the wings. Yet the whole piece was assigned to the former in the Zambeccari collection at Bologna, whilst it was attributed to the latter at the Middleton sale in London in 1872.

His painting of the Baptist in the gallery of Munich, done circa 1470, is the oldest form in which Memling's style is displayed. It is scarcely surpassed by the Last Judgment in Gdańsk. The latter work shows that Memling preserved the tradition of scared art used earlier by Rogier van der Weyden in the Last Judgment of Beaune. Memling is seen to have purged his master's manner of excessive stringency, and add to his other qualities a velvet softness of pigment, a delicate transparence of colours, and yielding grace of slender forms. Picture-fanciers of Italy were certainly familiar with the beauties of Memling's compositions, as shown in the preference given to them by such purchasers as Cardinal Grimari and Cardinal Bembo at Venice, and the heads of the house of Medici at Florence.

Memling's reputation was not confined to Italy or Flanders. The Madonna and Saints which passed out of the Duchatel collection into the gallery of the Louvre, the Virgin and Child painted for Sir John Donne and now at the National Gallery, London, and other noble specimens in English and Continental private houses, show that his work was as widely known and appreciated in the 16th century.

It was perhaps not their sole attraction that they gave the most tender and delicate possible impersonations of the Mother of Christ that could suit the taste of that age in any European country. But the portraits of the donors, with which they were mostly combined, were more characteristic, and probably more remarkable as likenesses, than any that Memling's contemporaries could produce. Nor is it unreasonable to think that his success as a portrait painter, which is manifested in isolated busts as well as in altarpieces, was of a kind to react with effect on the Venetian school, which undoubtedly was affected by the partiality of Antonello da Messina for trans-Alpine types studied in Flanders in Memling's time. The portraits of Sir John Donne and his wife and children in the National Gallery, London altarpiece are also remarkable as models of drawing and finish than as refined presentations of persons of distinction; nor is any difference in this respect to be found in the splendid groups of father, mother, and children which fill the noble altarpiece of the Louvre. As single portraits, the busts of Burgomaster Moreel and his wife in the museum of Brussels, and their daughter the Sibyl Zambetha (according to the added description) in the hospital at Bruges, are the finest and most interesting of specimens. The Seven Griefs of Mary in the gallery of Turin, to which we may add the Seven Joys of Mary in the Pinakothek of Munich, are illustrations of the habit which clung to the art of Flanders of representing a cycle of subjects on the different planes of a single picture, where a wide expanse of ground is covered with incidents from the Passion in the form common to the action of sacred plays.

The masterpiece of Memling's later years, a shrine containing relics of St Ursula in the museum of the hospital of Bruges, is fairly supposed to have been ordered and finished in 1480. The delicacy of finish in its miniature figures, the variety of its landscapes and costume, the marvellous patience with which its details are given, are all matters of enjoyment to the spectator. There is later work of the master in the St Christopher and Saints of 1484 in the academy, or the Newenhoven Madonna in the hospital of Bruges, or a large Crucifixion, with scenes from the Passion, of 1491 from the Lübeck Cathedral (Dom) of Lübeck, now in Lübeck's St. Annen Museum. But as we near the close of Memling's career we observe that his practice has become larger than he can compass alone; and, as usual in such cases, the labour of a workshop is substituted for his own. The registers of the painters' guild at Bruges give the names of two apprentices who served their time with Memling and paid dues on admission to the guild in 1480 and 1486. These subordinates remained obscure.

The trustees of his will appeared before the court of wards at Bruges on December 10, 1495, and we gather from records of that date and place that Memling left behind several children and considerable property.

Earlier works by Memling:

“Adam and Eve” (c. 1485), Oil on oak, 69.3 x 17.3 cm (each), Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

“Adoration of the Magi” (c. 1470), Oil on wood, 96.4 x 147 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid

“Advent and Triumph of Christ” (1480), Oil on wood, 81 x 189 cm, Alte Pinakothek, Munich

“Allegory with a Virgin” (1479-80), Oil on oak panel, 38.3 x 31.9 cm, Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris

“Angel Musicians” (1480s), Oil on wood, 165 x 230 cm (each panel)

“Annunciation” (1467-70), Oil on panels. 83.3 x 26.5 cm (each), Groeninge Museum, Bruges

“Bathsheba” (1485), Oil on wood, 191 x 84 cm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart

“Carrying the Cross” Oil on oak, 58.2 x 27.5 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

“Christ at the Column” (1485-90), Oil on oak panel, 58.8 x 34.3 cm (with original frame), Colección Mateu, Barcelona

“Christ Giving His Blessing” (1478), Oil on oak panel, 38.1 x 28.2 cm, Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena

“Christ Giving His Blessing” (1481), Oil on oak panel, 34.8 x 26.2 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Christ Surrounded by Musician Angels” (1480's), Oil on wood, 164 x 212 cm, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

“Crucifixion” (detail), Oil on oak, 56 x 63 cm (full panel), Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

“Deposition” (left wing of a diptych) (1490s), Oil on oak panel, 538 x 39 cm, Groeninge Museum, Bruges

“Diptych of Jean de Cellier” (c. 1475), Oil on wood, 25 x 15 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris

[8430 Ockeghem / 8430 Busnois / 8415 Paumann]