Historians believed for more than five centuries that it was nothing more than the design of a simple carved stone. But recent research carried out on the Diptyque de Melun by Jean Fouquet (1420 - 1481), - official painter to the kings of France Charles VII and Louis XI -, by specialists in art history from Dartmouth College and the The University of Cambridge would demonstrate that this detail of the painting would rather represent a prehistoric ax with strong symbolic power.
The Diptych of Melun, an important work of the pre-Renaissance, was painted by Jean Fouquet between 1452 and 1452, at the request of Étienne Chevalier, one of the great advisors of Charles VII and his son and successor Louis XI. This work in oil on wooden panels is composed of two parts, now separated. The right panel, the most famous, is exhibited at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp and depicts a Madonna and Child. The left part (which interests us today) is kept at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin and represents the patron of the painting alongside Saint Stephen.
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The Melun Diptych takes its name from the birthplace of Étienne Chevalier. It was kept at the Notre-Dame de Melun collegiate church for a long time before being dispersed.
The “stone” which rests on a book held by Saint Stephen was until now interpreted as a symbol of the martyrdom suffered by Stephen, one of the first seven deacons, in the 1st century AD. For British researchers, not only would this stone be a Paleolithic hand ax but it would also be a sacred relic, which also had a social function in the kingdom of France in the 15th century.
The first analyzes by art historians show that six centuries ago already prehistoric flint tools, Acheulian bifaces dating from the early Paleolithic (-450,000 to -350,000), had been discovered in quarries near Amiens. These first conclusions on the Melun Diptych now suggest the imperative need to carry out further research on the symbols carried by these prehistoric axes up to the modern era.