National Heritage has bought for 500,000 euros the iconic piece that kept the Institute of Valencia of don Juan, in Madrid: the Codex of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The precious book leaves the museum dedicated to the sumptuary arts with destination to the Museum of the Royal Collections, whose opening might happen in 2021. None of the two institutions have wanted to add comments to the purchase. There are only two codices of the Golden Fleece in the world: the other is preserved in Vienna. It is a work of 1537, made by the extraordinary miniaturist Simon Bening.

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This purchase is in addition to the 400,000 euros invested last week to recover an comfortable of Carlos III, at an auction at Christie’s in New York. Both pieces will share an exhibition space. The codex consists of 126 folios in vellum, in lyrics bastard French, and in the first part of the same, are written the constitutions of the order and the protocols of their parties. The second describes the knights who have died and the new affiliates. Appear the portraits of the sovereigns that stand out for their color and realism. Their binding does not reflect the jewel that hides. Simon Bening paid out to 452 pounds of Flanders by portraying, among others, to the five figures of the sovereigns and their coats of arms, which occupy a whole page, as well as the 184 shields that peek through these pages.

The codex reflects “the glory and the greatness” of the order of chivalry and the blood royal, europe’s most linajuda, from its founding by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and Count of Flanders, on 10 January 1429, the day of his wedding with Isabel of Portugal, at Bruges. This day were appointed to 24 knights, supposedly gentilhombres without stain, models of chivalry, courage and decency. With time the number of knights grew from 24 to 85, in 1516, by the wish of Charles V. Juan Carlos I appointed to 24, among which are José María Pemán, Aki Milestone, Adolfo Suárez, Javier Solana, Nicolas Sarkozy, and last of all, Enrique Valentín Iglesias.

Fame and blows of steel

The name of the Order that is most representative of the Spanish Crown makes reference to the golden fleece of the ram that got Jason and his argonauts (which was Hercules), in the Cólquide, and that brought prosperity to those who possess. On paper, the institution upholds the ideals of honor and knightly virtues, in addition to being a tool to propagate the catholic faith and to defend it from its enemies, the turks. Its bylaws are distributed in 94 articles that describe the obligations of the knights. They figure that the badge of the Order is a gold chain composed of links and flints which give off flames, with the motto: “Ante ferit quam flamma micet” (Before the fame you have to suffer the blows of the steel). From the collar hangs a fleece of gold enamelled and starred in royal portraits done by Cranach, Velázquez, Rubens, Carreño de Miranda, Pantoja de la Cruz, Velázquez, Goya, Ingres, Sofonisba Anguissola or sculptures by Pompeo and Leone Leoni.

After the work of the miniaturist Bening, the codex formed part of the treasury of the Institution of Brussels until the EIGHTEENTH century, when the Order is divided into two branches, the Austrian and the Bourbon. At the end of the NINETEENTH century we know from the codex that just bought National Heritage. At that time is in the possession of the empress Eugenia de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III. It is unknown how he came to his hands, but directs the count of Valencia de don Juan, John Crooke Navarrot, find out if the codex was stolen from the library of the Royal Palace. In 1901, the count responds that it is not missing anything, but it is possible that in remote times may have been stolen.

In 1916, the counts of Valencia de don Juan, Guillermo J. de Osma and Adelaide Crooke and Guzmán, founded in Madrid a museum and institute of arts minors and the empress handed over the codex as a gift to the institution, in 1918. “The foundation of your Institute of Valencia of don Juan I’ve been sympathetic and I approve, so I want to be a little bit associated with it. This is the reason why I give to the library of the Institute the book of the Golden Fleece, which you already know. So it will be kept in Spain,” writes the empress to the counts. The own count he moved to England to pick up the precious codex, and taking him to Spain. Before you start your journey back, and fearful to an assault on his ship to the passage by the channel, are commanded to do in London a box unsinkable, fireproof and waterproof. Arrived safe and sound to the institution that has remained for a century until today.

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