The Fool and a Demon
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Master of Jean de Mandeville
French, Paris, about 1360 - 1370
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment

MS. 1, V1, FOL. 284

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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.