Romance of the Rose
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French, Paris, about 1405
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment bound between pasteboard covered with dark red morocco
14 5/8 x 10 1/8 in.

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The Romance of the Rose tells the story of a lover who dreams of a beautiful rose kept captive in a castle. The rose represents the object of romantic love; allegorical characters in the story, such as Courtesy, Youth, Fear, and Idleness, either help or hamper the lover's attempts to win the rose. The romance was enormously popular in the Middle Ages, and nearly three hundred manuscripts devoted to the tale survive. Two authors wrote the Romance of the Rose in French (Roman de la Rose): Guillaume de Lorris began writing it around 1237 but never finished it. Forty years later, around 1277, Jean de Meun completed the tale.

One of the most extensively illustrated copies of the romance, this manuscript contains 101 miniatures in 256 pages. A workshop of Parisian illuminators, whose patrons included prominent noblemen of the French court, illuminated the book around 1405. The International Style miniatures, done in semi-grisaille, feature slender figures dressed in fashionable clothing of the day. The characters appear as courtiers in a princely retinue, richly conveying the atmosphere of courtly ceremony that suffuses the text.

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