During the late Middle Ages, the dukes of Burgundy of the House of Valois were the leading rulers in Northern Europe. The fabulous tombs of Philip the Bold (1342-1404) and his son John the Fearless (1371-1419) bear witness to their enormous wealth.
The best sculptors in Northern Europe were attracted to create the tombs including Jean de Marville and Claus Sluter and Claus van de Werve from Haarlem. They designed the gothic arcades that bear the tomb’s bed with, beneath them, the famous procession of mourners: lay brothers, Carthusian monks, family members and friends all clad in the mourning robes handed out during the funeral.
The depiction of mourning figures on graves is a tradition that can be traced back to the classic sarcophagi for which there was renewed interest during the 13th century. Mourners were generally bas reliefs featuring static postures and had never before been so three-dimensionally depicted or with their robes so expressively sculpted.