Anonymous Artist, Le Saint Pere [Pope Clement VI]
This ink on paper drawing depicts Pope Clement VI (reigned 1342-1352) enthroned holding a crosier, his right hand raised in benediction, and comes from a manuscript on the history of the popes. The verso, written on twenty-three lines in French, recounts the story 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…." The arms on the right are the crossed papal keys on a red ground. Below the miniature as a sort of title appears "Le saint pere" with a small penwork face in the descender of the letter 'p.' In another hand is added "le diable" ("the devil," now rubbed out), a line "Le st pere l'enfer," and other additions. A later hand has also written the name "messire Jehan Joly" at top, possibly a past owner.
Even though the text of the manuscript is in French, the present drawing perhaps has a German origin. The way the beard is rendered, short and bushy, corresponds to the pope's description in the Vaticinia Pontificum and to German drawings. 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.
The reign of Clement VI was characterized by a profusion of patronage of the arts, on which Clement lavished money and attention. He was known for his famous banquets, and his palace at Avignon stands as the most significant record of his patronage. 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 (the Babylonian Captivity), an idea that would explain the notation on the manuscript referring to the pope as "the devil." Although the present example comes from a manuscript, and its composition is schematic, meant to be "illustrative" rather than graphically representational, it bears testimony to the graphic arts during a crucial period of its history.
Reference number: MIN-8009