Le Saint père [Pope Clement VI]
(leaf 247 x 190 mm.; drawing 150 x 135 mm.)
Germany, c. 1500-1550
16th CENTURY DRAWING OF POPE CLEMENT VI ILLUSTRATING THE HISTORY OF THE POPES
Depicting Pope Clement VI (reigned 1342-1352) enthroned holding a crosier, his right hand raised in benediction, the present drawing comes from a manuscript on the history of the popes. The verso recounts the story in French of Pope Clement VI’s reign in Avignon, beginning “Pape clement vi de la nation de limousin fut pape de l’an mil iiic xlii ….” Below the miniature as a sort of title appears “le saint pere d’enfer” and in another hand is “le diable” (now crossed out). The reign of Clement VI was characterized by a profusion of patronage of the arts, on which Clement lavished money and attention. He was openly partisan to the French in his politics. During the period of the Avignon papacy, the church was known as the Babylon of the west (Babylonian Captivity), an idea that would explain the notation on the manuscript referring to the pope as “the devil.” Even though the text of the manuscript is in French, the present drawing has a clear German origin. Moreover its author was probably not in Avignon since he did not know the coat of arms of Clement VI, which was displayed in the Palais des Papes in Avignon.