What we are presenting here is the altered famous triptych with a scene of Christmas by Gerard David who painted it somewhere between 1505 to 1515.
The triptych was amended in such a way as to make it refer to a different birth recorded in a certain chronicle, a birth extremely controversial in history. Presented here is a specific version of the interpretation of the event to which reference is given in the frame with the date “10 Novembre MCCCCVII” (“10 November 1407”).
A monk named Michel Pintoin lived during the period from about 1350 to 1421. From 1380 he wrote a chronicle known as the “Chronique de Religieux de Saint-Denys.”
It was recorded in the Chronicle that a boy, Philip de Valois, was born on the day of 10th November 1407. He died shortly after birth and was buried in the Abbey of St Denis, near Paris, at the usual place of burial of the members of the royal family. Consequently, the Queen of France, Isabeau of Bavaria (von Wittelsbach) had supposedly given birth to her 12th child as the wife of King Charles VI of France.
But the record contains a falsehood. A child was indeed born, as another chronicle, the “Chronique de Guillaume Cousinot” (aka the “Geste des Nobles” ), informs, except that the second chronicle states only that a child was born but without giving the child’s gender. Yet another chronicle, “Chronique d’Enguerrard de Monstrelet “, states that the child was born already dead.
The child was, however, not buried at Saint Denis. We know this from several sources: a register of the masses and church services in the Saint Denis Abbey does not contain any mention of any mass or service for the deceased little Philip de Valois. In 1793, the (already Republican) government conducted a requisition of all metal coffins and jewelry suitable for melting from St Denis. During the requisition an inventory of all the coffins opened was carried out. There was no coffin found of a small Philip who was born and died on November 10 1407. And in 1868, two French authors, E. Mathon and E. Midoux, published their work on paper and watermarks which were used in France during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. As it turned out, the sheet of paper on which the information was written about the birth and death of Philip was produced only during a period which started at least 50 years later and the sheet of paper carried a different watermark. Another historian, Jean-Jacques Garnier, states in the two editions of the “Histoire de France” (1770 and 1783) that the child born was a girl named “Jeanne”:
“The last child of Isabeau was a girl whose first name was Jeanne, a child who lived only one day and who was buried in Saint Denis. “
But that child was also not found in 1793 during the mass-exhumation…
Among the revisionists of the story of Joan of Arc there is no shortage of people who believe that it was she who was born at the Hotel Barbette on November 10, 1407 as a child to both Isabella, Queen of France, and her lover, Louis I Orléans, the younger brother of her husband. That is why at the manger we see Isabella (left) and her husband, King Charles VI (right), who had to be the father of this child, in theory, but behind the King we see the scene of mourning for his younger brother after he was murdered.
Valentina Visconti, the wife of Duke Louis I de Valois d’Orleans, is mourning for her murdered husband while sitting at the window partly covered with a green curtain, green being the color of the Dukes of Orleans. It is a famous painting, painted in 1802 by Fleury-Francois Richard and is in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Prince Louis I of Orleans was murdered on 23 November 1407, barely 13 days after the birth to which the presented triptych refers.
In the left wing of the triptych, we see a successor to the throne of Charles VI ofFrance, King Charles VII (in the foreground), who was the king, who owed his crown largely to Joan of Arc. Next to him stands Pope Pius II. He was the pope who expressed a view (and specifically in writing!), that the official version of the story of Joan of Arc as a humble virgin-shepherdess who was inspired by God to restore the crown to the de Valois family, was invented at the court of Charles VII as a political action intended to enlist the support for the court.
Pope Pius II seems to be patting Charles VII on his back while smiling, so as to congratulate him on the great idea.
And in the right wing of the triptych we see yet another two people who are also important. In the foreground kneeling is none other than the famous Jeanne des Armoises who, for years, was considered to have been Joan of Arc and who enjoyed the support of a number of Joan’s comrades-in-arms, and even of her two brothers! The profile of Joan des Armoises comes, of course, from the only known portrait of her which was painted at Jaulny castle. Next to Jeanne des Armoises is Cardinal Guillaume d’Estouteville who played a key role in the rehabilitation of Joan of Arc. Cardinal d’Estouteville gives the impression of looking up in the direction of the scene of mourning for Louis I of Orleans as if he knew whose child he “rehabilitated” in 1456…
The whole triptych is flanked by two coats of arms: on the left by the coat of arms of the Dukes of Orleans, and on the right by another clearly modeled on the first: the coat of arms of Joan of Arc, which, incidentally, Joan never used herself: during her condemnation trial in Rouen she even said that she did not have any shield or crest. Next to the coat of arms there is the sword of Joan. It is not shown in the central part of the triptych because that’s where we already see Joan in armor. Instead, it is located next to Jeanne des Armoises because she also was known for her use of a sword.
And, finally, Joan herself. In the center she appears twice: as a newborn baby, and, above, as a person known to history as the armed Virgin with a halo. This is the only halo in the entire triptych for it belongs only to the armed Virgin. A newborn baby, as someone who has not done anything yet, does not deserve a halo!
The triptych shows a “revisionist” version of the story of Joan – or rather, the likelihood of this revisionist history. The Inquisition’s stake and the flames from the stake are absent here because some “revisionist” versions assume that Joan did not die at the stake but lived for a number of years longer – as for example did Jeanne des Armoises.