Art: Sparkling Burgundy

Burgundy is just a good red wine nowadays, but 500 years ago it was Europe's richest dukedom, spilling from the Alps to the Zuider Zee. Beefy burghers, dressed in furs and velvet, thronged its towns, paid out hard silver for the works of its artists and craftsmen. Last week a sparkling display of the things they bought drew 11,000 visitors to Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. The armor, jewelry, tapestries, illuminated manuscripts, furniture, banners and polychromed sculptures on show reflect one of the most sumptuous eras of all time.

The paintings are mostly small and glossy, done...

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