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Description

This refined miniature comes from a richly illuminated manuscript of the Livre du Lancelot del Lac, the French prose romance of Arthurian legend, and shows the Lady of Malohaut and her cousin visiting Lancelot in prison. Both women gaze upon the knight as he rests in a luxurious bed, depicting a moment not long before the Lady of Malohaut is stopped short of kissing the valiant knight by her cousin. The Lady of Malohaut imprisoned Lancelot unaware of his identity, which she eventually discovers after inspecting his battle wounds and damaged armor. The prison is described in the story as an uncommonly bright and visible cell, here rendered by the Dunois Master in a delightful scene making use of soft colors embellished with liquid gold.

From a well-known group of cuttings, this miniature comes from a manuscript of the Livre du Lancelot del Lac probably dismembered as early as the sixteenth century and that originally contained at least 152 miniatures (several miniatures are reportedly inscribed with dates on the reverse sides). Others from this group are found in important collections around the world, including one miniature similarly showing a bedroom scene with Lancelot’s arrival at the city of Gorre, now in New Haven (Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Takamiya MS 99, no. 3). 34 cuttings were sold in London by W. R. H. Jeudwine in 1962, the present miniature included (Jeudwine 1962, no. 3). The richly illuminated parent manuscript most likely formed a pair with the two-volume Roman de Guiron le Courtois today in Paris (BnF, MS Fr. 356 and 357; see Avril and Reynaud, 1993, p. 37). Both manuscripts share the same scribes and illuminators.

Among the leading illuminators of his day in Paris, the Dunois Master is named after a Book of Hours made for Jean de Dunois (London, British Library, Yates Thompson MS 3). The Dunois Master occupied a leading role in the workshop of the Bedford Master around 1435 to 1440, developing a similar style yet distinguishing his own work with soft colors and modelling. The Bedford Master has been identified as the Alsatian artist Haincelin of Hagenau, recorded in Paris from 1403 to 1424, while the Dunois Master might have been his son Jean Haincelin, mentioned between 1438 and 1449 (this identity not universally accepted by scholars). François Avril and Nicole Reynaud noted that Prigent de Coëtivy, admiral of France and the comrade in arms of Jean de Dunois, paid Haincelin in 1444 for copies of TristanLancelot, and Guiron le Courtois, suggesting that the parent manuscript of the present miniature was part of this commission (Avril and Reynaud 1993, p. 38; for the payment see Delisle 1900, p. 192).

The edges of the parchment cutting mounted to card, the verso inscribed with 13 lines of text written in a gothic hand in brown and red ink, with a single 3-line initial in gold decorated in blue and red and one line filler, the text corresponding to H. O. Sommer’s The Vulgate Version of the Arthurian Romances, III, 1911, p. 221, lines 19-26. The miniature with small losses of pigment and some rubbing at lower corners, trimmed close to the gold frame, in good condition.

Sister leaves:

Since the dispersal of 34 miniatures in 1962 numerous cuttings have entered collections around the world and have appeared at auction. For a recent summary of the sister leaves, their dispersal, and auction history, see Gregory T. Clark’s catalogue entry for a sister leaf at the McMillen Museum of Art, Boston College, in Hamburger, et al, ed. Beyond Words, 2016, no. 186, p. 222.

Provenance:

1. The Livre du Lancelot del Lac and the two-volume Roman de Guiron le Courtois (BnF, MS Fr. 356-357) may well be the same manuscripts for which Prigent de Coëtivy, admiral of France, paid Jean Haincelin in 1444, a crucial piece of evidence to the argument identifying the Bedford Master with Haincelin de Haguenau, perhaps the father of Jean Haincelin, identified by some scholars as the Dunois Master. The Lancelot manuscript most likely dismembered by the 16th century;

2. Joachim Napoléon, 5th Prince Murat (1856-1932), a member of the Bonaparte-Murat family; this cutting part of a series of 34 miniatures from the same parent manuscript which were mounted in a red morocco volume with the bookplate of Joachim Napoléon;

3. Marie (d. 1960), widow of Joachim Napoléon and daughter of the duc d’Elschingen, from her estate handled by Henri Badereau;

4. The album acquired from the estate of Joachim Napoléon by the London dealer W. R. H. Jeudwine in 1960, with the individual miniatures exhibited at the Alpine Club Gallery in London, 22 May to 2 June, 1962, and offered for sale, the present miniature no. 3.

Literature:

L. Delisle, “Les Heures de l'amiral Prigent de Coëtivy,” Bibliothèque de l'École des chartes 61 (1900): 186-200 (for record of payment to Jean Haincelin in 1444).

H. O. Sommer, The Vulgate Version of the Arthurian Romances, vol. III, 1911.

W. R. H. Jeudwine, Early fifteenth century miniatures: exhibited at the Alpine Club Gallery, 22 May - 2 June, 1962, London, 1962.

F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Manuscrits à Peintures en France: 1440-1520, Paris, 1993 [exhibition catalogue].

J. F. Hamburger, et al, ed., Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections, Boston, 2016.

Online resources:

Catalogue entry by G. T. Clark, McMillen Museum of Art, Boston College, 1995.4 (sister leaf)

https://beyondwords2016.org/objects/lancelot-du-lac-equestrian-knight-entering-and-leaving-a-city-cutting

Dunois Master, Roman de Guiron le Courtois, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Fr. 356

https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8514422s/

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