The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Fool and a Demon

Object Details


The Fool and a Demon


Master of Jean de Mandeville (French, active 1350 - 1370)




Paris, France (Place Created)


about 1360–1370


Tempera colors, gold, and ink on parchment

Object Number:

Ms. 1, v1 (84.MA.40.1), fol. 284


Leaf: 34.9 × 26 cm (13 3/4 × 10 1/4 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

The fool says in his heart 'There is no God.'(Psalm 52)

In a miniature prefacing Psalm 52, the illuminator represents the poem's imagery literally. The "fool" of the text appears here as the lunatic figure familiar during the Middle Ages: shoeless, wearing rags, and carrying a club. He holds an unidentifiable object, perhaps a stone, to his mouth; from this he can draw no nourishment, a visual analogy to the denial of God's existence.

In the medieval period, lunacy was seen as a punishment inflicted by the devil. In the upper right corner of the miniature, a small demon crouches before the swirling gold decorative patterns, either the cause of the fool's lunacy or, perhaps, the agent inspiring the fool's denial.

Five Hundred Years of Manuscript Illumination (February 11 to June 1, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 11 to June 1, 2003