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Porcher, Jean

    Full Name: Porcher, Jean

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1892

    Date Died: 1966

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): French (culture or style) and manuscripts (documents)

    Career(s): librarians


    Historian of French illuminated manuscripts and librarian, Bibliothèque Nationale. After completing his studies at the école des Chartes, Porcher joined the Bibliothèque Nationale. By publishing books on illuminated manuscripts, Porcher encouraged scholars to study them in an art historical context. He became the Conservateur en Chef of the manuscripts department in 1944, where his work focused solely on illuminated manuscripts. Porcher acquired several manuscripts from the Rothschild family and the Comte Guy de Boisrouvray, increasing the amount of material available for art historical research. He established the practice of photographing the manuscripts, preserving them and making them more accessible to researchers. In 1954 and 1955, Porcher curated two exhibitions that displayed illuminated manuscripts from French libraries. The results of his research for the two exhibitions culminated in a survey of French manuscript painting in 1959, which was later translated into Italian, German, Swedish, and English. He and Anselme Dimier (1898-1975) published L’art cistercien, France, a survey on the art of the period, in 1962. In 1967 and 1968 Porcher collaborated with Jean Hubert and Fritz Volbach in the “Arts of Mankind” survey series on early medieval art. As a manuscripts scholar, Porcher was significantly more interested in the images than the text, a criticism gently lodged against him in reviews of his work. Erwin Panofsky wrote a homage praising Porcher’s relaxing of the bureaucratic regulations for scholars during his tenure at the Bibliothèque. Porcher published numerous facsimile editions of the manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Nationale.

    Selected Bibliography

    [complete bibliography:] “Bibliographie de Jean Porcher.” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 62 (July 1963): 13-16; and Hubert, Jean, and Volbach, Wolfgang Fritz. Europe des invasions. Paris: Gallimard, 1967, English, Europe of the Invasions. New York: G. Braziller, 1969 [British edition translated as Europe in the Dark Ages]; and Hubert, Jean, and Volbach, Wolfgang Fritz. Empire carolingien. Paris: Gallimard, 1968, English, The Carolingian Renaissance. New York, G. Braziller, 1970; Chefs-d’œuvre de l’enluminure française du 15e siècle. Paris: éditions Nomis, 1950’s?, English, Medieval French Miniatures. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1960; Les très riches Heures du duc de Berry, Musée Condé à Chantilly. Paris: Les éditions Nomis, 1950; and Dimier, Anselme. L’art cistercien, France. La Pierre-qui-Vire (Yonne): Zodiaque, 1962.


    [bibliography:] Panofsky, Erwin. “Homage to Jean Porcher.” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 62 (July 1963): 11-12; Cain, Julian. “Jean Porcher conservateur en chef du cabinet des manuscrits.” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 62 (July 1963): 171-175; Morgan, Nigel. “Porcher, Jean.” The Dictionary of Art 25: 248.


    "Porcher, Jean." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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