The Romance of Troy
This is the finest and most richly illuminated extant manuscript of the version called “Prose 1” of the Romance of Troy, which is the earliest great rendering of the Trojan legend in the French language. Its miniatures are by the artist known as the Master of Girart de Roussillon, named after the manuscript in Vienna of the Roman de Girart de Roussillon. Probably identical with Dreux Jean, this rare and accomplished illuminator worked for the court of the dukes of Burgundy, and this manuscript must also come from the ducal circle. The addition of a newly attributed manuscript to the elusive and incomparable Master himself is a major event in the scholarship of southern Netherlandish art. This is probably the finest manuscript of Trojan romance ever likely to be sold again.
1. Doubtless written for a member of the court of the dukes of Burgundy, possibly Charles the Bold himself, for whom reputed descent from the Trojans was paramount. The arms hanging on the tent in the miniature on folio 61v, quarterly or and azure, were borne by the family of Tournemine of Brittany and it has been suggested that the manuscript was illuminated for Gilles de Tournemine (d. 1474), celebrated soldier and patron of British Library, Harley MS 5781. However, the arms are not shown in a position of proprietorship and the manuscript is not Breton. There was a branch of the family of Tournemine in Lille, principally mercers, which is at least geographically more plausible. Léopold Constans proposed instead that the manuscript may have belonged to the library of the Château de Montbeton, near Montaubon, close to where it was first recorded in the nineteenth century: the inventory of its very small library in 1495 included a “Histoire de Troie.” The château was then owned by the family of St-Étienne.
2. There are nineteenth-century inscriptions on the flyleaf and pastedown, “Capus” and “Capus au Théron, comune de Cestayrols,” probably Jean-Antoine-Raymond-EuzèbeProsper-Grégoire Capus; he was born 1829 and was still head of the family when A. B. Bardou published his Famille Capus, du Théron-sur-Cestayrols (Tarn), Albi, 1898. Théron was then a village of only 24 houses, where the Capus family had lived since at least the time of Pierre Capus de Théron around 1600. It is approximately 14 km. north-west of Albi in southern France. In 1894 the Capus family unsuccessfully offered the manuscript for sale to the Bibliothèque nationale.
3. Bernard Quaritch, London, Manuscripts, Bibles and Liturgies, cat. 176, January 1898, no. 22, at the then considerable price of £440.
4. John Thomas Adams (c.1849-1931), manufacturer of polishes, Sheffield; his sale, Sotheby’s, 7 December 1931, lot 59, with folding plate.
5. William Harrison Woodward (1856-1941), Professor of Education, University of Liverpool; his sale, Sotheby’s, 14 June 1937, lot 508, with color plate; bought by the London bookseller, G. Michelmore; his Rare and Choice Books … including the Tournemaine Illuminated Ms. of the Roman de Troie, cat. 27 (1938), no. 148, and color frontispiece.
6. Private collection, small gilt book label of a rising bird, MS 6.
Although none of the writers had seen it or knew its location, the present manuscript is cited in:
L. CONSTANS, Le Roman de Troie par Benoît de Sainte-Maure, publié d’après tous les manuscrits connus, VI, Paris, 1912, pp. 271-72.
B. WOLEDGE, Bibliographie des Romans et Nouvelles en prose française antérieurs à 1500, Publications Romanes et Françaises XLVII, Geneva and Lille, 1954, p. 126.
C. NORDENFALK, WITH C. FERGUSON, D. S. STEVENS SCHAFF AND G. VIKAN, Medieval and Renaissance Miniatures from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975, pp. 186-87. M.-R. JUNG, La légende de Troie en France ay moyen âge, Analyse des versions françaises et bibliographie raisonnée des manuscrits, Romanica Helvetica 114, Basel and Tübingen, 1996, pp. 442 and 466.
A. M. GAUTHIER, “Édition et étude critique du ‘cycle des Retours’ du Roman de Troie de Benoît de Saint-Maure,” PhD diss., University of Montréal, 1997, p. 339.
M. GIL, “Le cycle d’illustration du Roman de Troie en prose be Benoît de Sainte-Maure dans le milieu bourguignon,” in J.-C. Herbin, ed., Richesses médiévales du Nord et du Hainaut, Valenciennes, 2002, pp. 155-83, at pp. 165-66.
F. VIELLIARD, “Du Roman de Troie à la ‘vraie estoire de Troie’ (Prose 1, version commune): le choix de l’Histoire,” in L. Harf-Lancner et al., eds., Conter de Troie et d’Alexandre, Pour Emmanuèle Baumgartner, Paris, 2006, pp. 177-93, at p. 179, n. 11.
D. E. BOOTON, Manuscripts, Market and the Transition to Print in Late Medieval Brittany, Farnham and Burlington, 2010, p. 283.
For the general background on the “Prose 1” text of the romance of Troy, and on the work of the Master of Girart de Roussillon, in addition to items already cited, see also:
BOSSUAT, R. Manuel bibliographique de la littérature française du Moyen Âge, Paris, 1955, p. 88, nos. 6795-96.
CASPAR, G., AND F. LYNA, Philippe le Bon et ses beaux livres, Brussels, 1944.
CROIZY-NAQUET, C. “Le Roman de Troie en prose et le monde païen antique,” Études médiévales 4 (2002): 197-205.
DOUTREPONT, G. La littérature française à la cour des ducs de Bourgogne, Paris, 1909.
DURAND, C. “L’illustration du Roman de Troie et de ses dérivés dans les manuscrits français,” PhD diss., École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, 2003.
ROCHEBOUET, A. AND A. SALAMON, “Les échecs et la cite de Troie,” La règle du jeu, Questes 18 (2010): 30-43 (available online).
TANNIOU, F. “‘Raconter la vraie estoire de Troie,’ Histoire et édification dans le Roman de Troie en prose,” PhD diss., Université de Paris X-Nanterre, 2009.
And for the artist:
DOGAER, G. Flemish Manuscript Painting in the 15th and 16th Centuries, Amsterdam, 1987, pp. 77-83.
CLARK, G. “Le Maître du Girart de Roussillon (Dreux Jeahan),” in B. Bousmanne and T. Delcourt, eds., Miniatures flamandes, 1404-1482, Paris and Brussels, 2011, especially pp. 188- 91.
KREN, T., AND S. McKENDRICK, Eds., Illuminating the Renaissance, The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, Los Angeles, 2003, pp. 212-16.
PÄCHT, O., U. JENNI AND D. G. THOSS, Flämische Schule, I, Die Illuminierten Handschriften und Inkunabeln der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek 6, Vienna, 1983, esp. pp. 50-51.
VAN BUREN, A. “Dreux Jean and the Grandes Heures of Philip the Bold,” in B. Cardon, J. Van der Stock and D. Vanwijnsberghe, eds., ‘Als ich can’, Liber Amicorum in Memory of Professor Dr. Maurits Smeyers, Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts from the Low Countries 9, Louvain, 2002, pp. 1377-1414.
WIJSMAN, H. Luxury Bound: Illustrated Manuscript Production and Noble and Princely Book Ownership in the Burgundian Netherlands (1400-1550), Turnhout, 2010 (and associated corpus compiled for the online database www.cn-telma.fr//luxury-bound).