Museum Home Past Exhibitions Imagining the Past in France, 1250–1500

November 16, 2010–February 6, 2011 at the Getty Center


Imagining the Past in France

This major international loan exhibition highlights one of the greatest chapters in the history of French art and the development of France as a nation. For more than 200 years—from about 1250 to about 1500—monarchs and nobles employed the finest artists of the day to paint the heroic tales of bygone eras on the pages of lavish manuscripts. These illustrations helped the French understand their present and plan their future by celebrating an epic past.

Explore the manuscript: Admiring Ancient Role Models Slideshow: highlights of the exhibition
Explore the manuscript: Exploring World History
Explore the manuscript: Telling French  History

In these manuscripts, the past came alive before the eyes of medieval French readers through images of the legendary deeds and adventures of figures such as Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great, Emperor Charlemagne, and even the Virgin Mary. These dramatic depictions of moral dilemmas, valiant battles, and chivalrous derring-do illuminate the broader conception of history in the Middle Ages, which often encompassed material that is now considered myth, propaganda, or outright invention.

The exhibition has been organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum and has its sole presentation in Los Angeles. The Museum is also grateful for the generous support of MaryLou Boone (in honor of Bob and Lois Erburu), Jeffrey P. Cunard (in honor of Gerald and Lori Cunard), James E. and Elizabeth J. Ferrell, Mel Seiden (in honor of Bob and Lois Erburu), and Mr. and Mrs. L. von Hoffmann.

Introductory Video
Curator Elizabeth Morrison introduces the exhibition.