The Roman de la Rose illuminated by Jean Semont

Exhibition June 1 to June 10, 2021. (By appointment only)

Les Enluminures: One Magnificent Mile, 980 North Michigan Ave., Suite 1330, Chicago 60611. 

This exhibition features a single illuminated manuscript, the Roman de la Rose, a splendid, grand copy of a seminal text of French literature.  In an anonymous age before artists signed their works, it is always remarkable to know the name of a painter—to be able to tell their story.  Such is the case with this manuscript of the Rose.  It was illuminated by Jean Semont, the first manuscript painter documented by name in the artistic center that produced some of the most important early Flemish panel paintings. 

The Roman de la Rose (or the Romance of the Rose) is perhaps the greatest love story in French literature. It is a poem written in Old French around 1230 initially by Guillaume de Lorris.  The Lover falls asleep and dreams of finding his love, symbolized by the Rose. On his quest he encounters many personifications—Jealousy, Desire, Hate, Old Age.  But not the Rose.  Alas he suddenly wakes up, bereft, dejected, lovelorn.