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A Favorite: portrait of John the Fearless


John the Fearless (1379-1419) was Duke of Burgundy during the Hundred Years War. The life he led was like so many of the upper crust, then and now: contention, scheming, betrayal, murder, and war. Portraits of such people tend to be muscular and assertive: I’m tough, get it?

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Certainly, John was a busy player in the years leading up to his assassination. There was his artful dalliance with Henry V of England, his sneaky murder of the rival Duke of Orléans, his shifting political alliances, and so on. 


John the Fearless    unknown artist    [Wikipedia]
But then we have this portrait. It’s not about an overbearing big shot. Those half-closed eyes, the serious brows, the almost-smile. Also the straight, stiff neck: he’s thoughtful, but alert and disciplined. There is almost a puckish air about it, as if he were contemplating some unspoken, probably not very funny joke — perhaps even a regret.