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A Hedgehog
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Unknown illuminator
Franco-Flemish, Thérouanne?, about 1270
Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment
7 1/2 x 5 5/8 in.
MS. LUDWIG XV 3, FOL. 79V

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A cute, stocky fellow with his spikes raised, this hedgehog crawls on a vine among bunches of grapes and leaves. A native of Europe, the hedgehog represented in this miniature from a bestiary is one of the more familiar animals appearing in the compendium. Despite the naturalism of the image, the text supplies a fantastic story that has no parallel in nature. It describes how a hedgehog gathers grapes that have fallen off the vine by rolling itself upside down on top of them, catching the fruit on his spikes to deliver it to its babies. The moral drawn from this story is that man should care for spiritual truths or the devil may carry them off.

The illuminator's preference for Gothic elegance and refinement led him to place this common woodland and pasture animal in front of a curling, decorative vine whose striking green leaves are set off by a rich, glowing, gold background.