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Roman de Gillion de Trazegnies
Belgium (Place created)
Tempera colors, gold, and ink on parchment, bound in blind-tooled orange morocco featuring the arms of the sixth duke of Devonshire
Closed: 38.9 x 28 x 9.4 cm (15 5/16 x 11 x 3 11/16 in.)
This manuscript follows the adventurous and romantic exploits of the medieval nobleman Gillion de Trazegnies, who journeys to Egypt on pilgrimage, mistakenly becomes a bigamist, and dies in battle as a glorious hero. Alongside detailed depictions of European architecture and contemporary dress, there are also imaginative references to exotic Eastern travel and customs, such as camels, flashing scimitars, and figures in turbans.
The tale includes faithful love, nefarious villains, family loyalty, and violent combat. The artist, Lieven van Lathem, takes full advantage of the tale's dramatic possibilities in the book's eight miniatures and 44 historiated initials. Lively figures, light-filled landscapes, and complex visual narratives are distinctive traits of his style that reflect the greatest developments of Renaissance panel painting and anticipate others. Rather than having other artists complete the decorations in the margins, as his contemporaries might have, this manuscript also features the elegance and delight of his figures in the borders, too.
This is one of only four known manuscripts in French of this romance. Designed to be read aloud, a reader would likely have shown images to the audience and broken off each evening at a cliffhanger moment to be continued the next evening.
The book was commissioned by Louis de Gruuthuse (1422-1492), trusted advisor of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and one of the great book collectors of the Middle Ages. He amassed a library of almost two hundred volumes at a time when the English royal collection was composed of less than half that number.
Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts (1908) (no. 160; fols. 36v-37)
- Burlington Fine Arts Club (London), 1908
Le Siècle d'Or de la Miniature Flamande: Le Méçénat de Philippe le Bon (1959) (no. 160; fols. not known)
- Palais des beaux-arts (Brussels), 1959
Medieval and Early Renaissance Treasures in the North West (1976) (no. 51; fols. 8v-9)
- Whitworth Art Gallery, (Manchester), 1976
Treasures from Chatsworth: the Devonshire Inheritance (1979 to 1980) (no. 130; fols. not known)
- Toledo Museum of Art, (Toledo), 1979 to 1981
- San Antonio Museum Association, (San Antonio), 1979 to 1981
- Kimbell Art Museum, (Fort Worth), 1979 to 1981
- New Orleans Museum of Art, (New Orleans), 1979 to 1981
- Royal Academy of Arts (London), 1979 to 1981
- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, (Richmond), 1979 to 1981
Lodewijk van Gruuthuse: Mecenas en europees Diplomaat, ca. 1427-1492 (1992) (no. 4; fols. not known)
- Gruuthuse-museum, (Bruges), 1992
Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe (June 17, 2003 to February 22, 2004) (no. 58; fols. 134v - 135: Gillion's Son in Combat with Saracen Lucion [fol. 188v - 189: Gillion and family take leave of the Sultan])
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 17 to September 7, 2003
- Royal Academy of Arts (London), November 29, 2003 to February 22, 2004
Miracles and Martyrs: Saints in the Middle Ages (August 29, 2013 to March 2, 2014) (fols 8v - 9; fols 188v - 189)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), August 29, 2013 to March 2, 2014
Chivalry in the Middle Ages (July 8 to November 30, 2014) (fols. 10v - 11)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), July 8 to November 30, 2014