All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Noa Turel

Advisory Committee Members

Paulina Banas

Tanja Jones

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2023

Abstract

In Rogier van der Weyden’s (1399/1400-1464) Beaune Altarpiece (fig. 1, c.1445-1451), Christ presides over the Day of Judgment while seated atop a rainbow. Previous analyses of the polyptych briefly mention the rainbow’s presence. However, in this thesis, I will show how the rainbow motif symbolizes a significant and, until now, undiscovered allusion instigated by the patron Nicolas Rolin (1376-1462), the chancellor of Burgundy, to Noah, the Old Testament patriarch. In the chancellor’s previous commission to Jan van Eyck (1390-1441), the Virgin and Child with Chancellor Nicolas Rolin (fig. 3, c.1435), Rolin first exhibited the Noahic allusion through the Drunkenness of Noah capital relief directly above his portrait’s head. Rolin continued this association in his later large-scale commission of the Beaune Altarpiece, appropriating the Noahic Covenant rainbow for the eschatological context of the polyptych. Examining exegetical texts and artistic representations of Noah, my research will demonstrate how Noah’s essence as an exemplar of righteousness and loyalty appealed to the chancellor. Rolin’s character, observed through contemporaneous anecdotes, describes an ambitious and megalomaniac political figure capable of instrumentalizing Noah for social display. Furthermore, I argue the grandiose standards of Burgundian court life prompted Rolin’s patronage, manifesting in his ostentatious displays of power, wealth, and association with Noah. This thesis offers a fresh evaluation of the Beaune Altarpiece in light of Rolin’s Noahic affiliation in the larger context of late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance art. As a result, I propose an alternative analysis of the Beaune Altarpiece contrary to the accepted interpretation that the polyptych is medieval, via the rainbow motif’s symbolism of Noah.

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