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Lot 17: JACQUES DE LONGUYON, LES VOEUX DU PAON, THE VOWS OF THE PEACOCK, A ROMANCE OF ALEXANDER, IN FRENCH VERSE, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON

Sotheby's

June 16, 1997
New York, NY, US

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VELLUM [NORTH-EASTERN FRANCE (LORRAINE), C.1310-20] 147 leaves (last leaf originally blank), plus contemporary flyleaf, 223mm. by 140mm., complete, collation: i-iv8, v7 [text complete, first leaf a single sheet], vi-xiv8, xv6, xvi-xviii8, xix6, mostly with catchwords (in cartouches to quire 4), the bifolia of quires 11 and 12 are misbound, the correct order of the leaves being 1-80, 88-90, 93-95, 87, 81-83, 91-92, 84-86 and 96-147, single column, 28 lines, beginning below top ruled line (31 lines on fols.38v-39v, in order to complete the book within quire 5, 29 lines in quire 6, fols.40r-47v), ruled in plummet, ruling pattern varies considerably throughout the manuscript, the height of the written-space varies from 161mm. (in quire 1) to 174mm. (in quires 16-19), written width usually about 85mm., the first letters of each line of verse are set out slightly in a separate column (except on fol.54r, in error) and therefore there are 3 vertical bounding-lines to the left of each column to provide for these first letters (in the work of the first scribe all three of these vertical lines are pricked at more-or-less equal spacing, but in the work of the second scribe only the column for the initials is pricked and is broader than the unpricked column separating them from the text, in the first stint of the first scribe all lines are bounded by a single vertical line but from fol.40r onwards the ends of the lines are bounded by double vertical lines), written in dark brown ink in a gothic bookhand, probably by two scribes, (a) Scribe 1, quires 1-5 (fols.1r-39v) and quires 16-19 (fols.118r-146r) and (b) Scribe 2, quires 6-15 (fols.40r-117v), no headings, 2-line initials throughout in alternately red and blue, with penwork in the contrasting colour, TEN LARGE INITIALS in divided red and blue with penwork infilling and surround in both colours, one 10-line (fol.1r, 55mm. by 60mm.), two 6-line (fols.49r and 68v), one 5-line (fol.43v), three 4-line (fols.38v, 43r and 145r) and three 3-line (fols.28r, 40r and 60v), THIRTEEN OBLONG MINIATURES in full colours and burnished gold within frames of coloured panels with white tracery and burnished gold corners, sewing holes from silk covers once over all miniatures, some stains and wear, several miniatures partly smudged, extreme edges of pages darkened, signs of much use, generally sound (especially for a secular text), bound in old (probably late eighteenth-century) green velvet over pasteboards, marbled endleaves, paper flyleaves (and one of vellum), blue silk marker, in a black cloth fitted case gilt PROVENANCE (1) The text was composed in about 1310 and dedicated to Thibaut de Bar, bishop of Liege 1303-1312, and, to judge from the style of illumination (see below) and the probable date of the script, this might be the dedication manuscript or a close descendant from it. (2) There are on fols.146v-147v two series of records of medieval families of the Nivernais, to the south-west of Lorraine, the families of Rosay and de la Riviere. On fols.147r-147v are notes on the births of the five children of Guillaume de Rosay and his wife Philliberde de Merin, 1380-1386, at their castles of Anemoy and Mortagie at at Rosay itself. In the fifteenth century the book belonged to Jean de la Riviere (d.1468), chamberlain to Charles the Bold, with his ownership inscription on fol.148r "Ce livre et a Jehan' de la rivie quy loublera per[.]andus sera", with other scribbles and versions of the signature "De la rivie[re]". He married Alix de la Perriere, dame de Verneuil. The births of their four children are then entered on fols.146v and 147v, 1420-1427, including Jacques de la Riviere (b.1420), who inherited the manuscript and signed it at the foot of fol.147v and again on fol.148r within a decorative flourish. (3) On the last page is a note on the text signed by Pierre Masson, bachelor of theology of Paris, dated 1672; the same man wrote a similar note on a Roman du Lis in the Pierpont Morgan Library (de Ricci, Census, p.1342; cf. J.B. Masson, who probably owned lot 7 above). (4) Auguste Chardin, of Paris; his Catalogue de Livres Precieux, Manuscrits et Imprimes sur peau-velin, 1811, p.78, no.300; but apparently not in his sale, de Bure, Paris, 9 February 1824. (5) Robert Lang (1750-1828), of London, with a price "6.6.0" on flyleaf, probably what Lang paid; his sale, Evans, 17 November 1828, lot 2306, to Payne and Foss. (6) Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), his MS.3638, bought in 1828; his sale in these rooms, 30 November 1965, lot 15, to Maggs; their Bulletin 6 (July 1969), no.1, and their cat.938 (September 1971), no.3. (7) Beck MS.19. TEXT AND DECORATION Jacques de Longuyon, Les Voeux du Paon, fol.1r, "Apres che qualixandres ot de defur conquis..." (Voeux du Paon, line 1), beneath a LARGE MINIATURE OF ALEXANDER MEETING CASSAMUS OF LARRIS, 53mm. by 84mm., showing Alexander with a group of seven attendants encountering Cassamus dressed in brown as an elderly traveller approaching from the right; fol.28r, "Cassanus du Larris cassiel le baudrain..." (Voeux du Paon, line 1519), beneath a LARGE MINIATURE OF CASSAMUS AND FESONAS EMBRACING THEIR LADIES THE BAUDRAIN AND EDAS, 50mm. by 81mm., showing the young couples with flowers in their hair in a glade among trees; fol.32v, with no major division in the text (Voeux du Paon, line 1796), A LARGE MINIATURE OF BETIS AND THE BAUDRAIN TALKING TO EDEAS, FESONAS AND YDORUS, 44mm. by 79mm., all seated together on a bench in the chamber of Venus; fol.34v, with no major division in the text (Voeux du Paon, line 1908), a LARGE MINIATURE OF CLARUS BEFORE HIS PAVILION, 54mm. by 87mm., the king crowned and addressing a group of five men, two of whose horses stand behind; fol.38v, "Sire dit li valles ie vous doi bien retraire..." (Voeux du Paon, line 2107), beneath a LARGE MINIATURE OF A SPY CROSSING A RIVER TO CASSAMUS, 37mm. by 78mm., the spy paddling a boat across a river full of fish to Cassamus who waits below a tree on the right; fol.40r, "Mout perfit alixandre grant ioie & grant soulas..." (Voeux du Paon, line 2200), beneath a LARGE MINIATURE OF ALEXANDER GREETING CASSAMUS, 39mm. by 75mm., with Alexander and two attendants emerging from a pavilion towards Cassamus who enters from the right; fol.43r, "Moult fu emenidus frans de ceux & gentis..." (Voeux du Paon, line 2359) with, on fol.42v, a LARGE MINIATURE OF ALEXANDER RECEIVING HOMAGE FROM GADIFER, 52mm. by 75mm., with Alexander seated with an attendant behind as Gadifer and a large group of his companions kneel and hold up their swords like crosses; fol.43v, "Devant le roi de gresse alissne dutre..." (Voeux du Paon, line 2384), beneath a LARGE MINIATURE OF GADIFER RECEIVING HOMAGE FROM EMENIDUS, 43mm. by 75mm., with Gadifer seated before the kneeling figures of Emenidus (with sword raised like a cross) and three companions; fol.49r, "Sur le tapis de soie estendu enlerbier..." (Voeux du Paon, line 2705), beneath a LARGE MINIATURE OF FESONAS AND THE BAUDRAIN PLAYING CHESS, 42mm. by 81mm., watched by Edeas and by Cassamus, all seated together on a long bench; fol.54v, with no major division in the text (Voeux du Paon, line 3058), a LARGE MINIATURE OF FLORIDAS LYING WOUNDED BY PORRUS, 39mm. by 90mm., lying beneath a tree watched by his horse, as Porrus rides off to the right with his lance raised and in full armour emblazoned with his emblem of a black boar; fol.68v, "Ce fu v mois de may que yver va a declin..." (Voeux du Paon, line 3812), beneath a LARGE MINIATURE OF PORRUS AIMING HIS BOW AND ARROW AT THE PEACOCK, 75mm. by 73mm., watched by a lady, as the peacock perches over a gateway in a gothic castle tower; fol.122r,, with no major division in the text (by Voeux du Paon, line 6852), a LARGE MINIATURE OF THE BATTLE OF EPHESON, 43mm. by 81mm., with two pairs of knights on horseback charging each other, and a soldier with drawn sword standing beneath a bare tree; fol.145r, "Si tost condes armes fu li rois ie di..." (Voeux du Paon, line 8045) with, on fol.144v, a LARGE MINIATURE OF ALEXANDER LAYING ASIDE HIS ARMOUR, 49mm. by 85mm., with Alexander near a tree in the centre with one knight holding his shield, another his suit of mail, another his helmet, and a fourth his sword; all ending on fol.146r, "... Tel prinche ne nasqui ne iamais ne naistra, Explicit les veus du paon". COMMENTARY This romance of the Vows of the Peacock is the earliest truly literary manuscript in the Beck collection, and is probably as old as any complete illustrated literary manuscript ever likely to appear on the market again. Many of the secular romances of the Middle Ages were loosely based around fictional events in the lives of Alexander the Great or King Arthur or Charlemagne, and these three chivalric themes provided a large part of the earliest vernacular verse. The Voeux du Paon is one of the latest of the Alexander romances, compiled about 1310 by the jongleur Jacques de Longuyon. In this tale, Fesonas, the niece of the old man Cassamus, has been captured by the evil Clarus, king of Ind. Alexander comes to the aid of Cassamus, and a gallant knight called the Baudrain joins forces with King Clarus, who lays siege to the city of Epheson. Battles and jousts between the two armies make up much of the story. The vows of the peacock, which form the title of the romance, are described from fol.68v of the present manuscript. In this scene Porrus, the son of Clarus, is walking in the courtyard of the castle of Epheson where he is held prisoner when he sees a peacock and shoots it with his bow and arrow. It is cooked and served up at a feast at which Porrus and his captors all make vows to the bird that each will perform some brave or generous deed. The story itself eventually ends with the battle of Epheson, after which the opposing parties are reconciled and the surviving knights and ladies are happily betrothed to each other. The text was hugely influential in its time, and was translated and adapted into Scots and into Middle English. The edition of the Scottish version, edited by R.L. Graeme Ritchie, The Buik of Alexander, Scottish Text Society, 1925-29, includes what is, in fact, the first printing of the much of the original French text (vol.III, 1927, pp.248-350). The Voeux du Paon gave rise to a whole genre of 'vows' poems, such as the Voeux du Heron on the war between Edward III and Philippe IV. It also introduced the theme of the Nine Worthies into European literature: the image of the three pagans, three Jews and three Christians who together embody all the virtues of nobility (fols.133v-135v of the present manuscript; cf. I. Gollancz, Parlement of the Three Ages, 1915). Approximately 35 manuscripts of the Voeux du Paon are recorded, of all dates and textual variants. The previous copy to appear for public sale was the imperfect mid-fourteenth century copy, formerly at Donaueschingenm, which was lot 30 in the Hachette sale, Paris, 16 December 1953, now Pierpont Morgan Library G.24 (Plummer, The Glazier Collection, 1968, pp.30-31, no.39, col.pl.6). Before that, a copy was lot 126 in the Mostyn sale in these rooms, 13 July 1920, now New York Public Library, Spencer 9. The present manuscript is the last still in private hands. The Beck manuscript belongs principally to the textual family P, as described by Ritchie, III, pp.l-li. According to E.B. Ham, the dialect of the manuscript points to north-eastern France, with variants such as 'le' for 'la' and 'se' for 'sa'. This is consistent too with the style of illumination which suggests an origin in Lorraine, very close indeed to the early fourteenth-century manuscripts made in Metz and Verdun under the aristocratic patronage of the families of de Bar and Aspremont. The coloured borders with swaying white tracery, plain gold grounds, rather big heads with compressed faces, quite heavy outlines, and so forth, recur very similarly in a well-defined group of books associated with Renaud de Bar, bishop of Metz, and with his sister, Marguerite de Bar, abbess of St-Maur in Verdun (such as Metz ms.43, Verdun mss.98 and 107, London, B.L. Yates Thompson MS.8, and Paris, B.N. ms.lat.1029a; cf. P. de Winter, 'Une Realisation exceptionelle d'enlumineurs francais et anglais vers 1300: Le Breviaire de Renaud de Bar, eveque de Metz', Actes du 103e Congres National des Societes Savantes, Nancy-Metz 1978, Archeologie, Paris, 1980, pp.27-62, with many further references). The association is tantalising, for their elder brother was Thibaut de Bar, bishop of Liege, original dedicatee of the Voeux de Paon. The present manuscript must belong very closely within the circle of Thibaut de Bar himself, and may even have belonged to the bishop or be a copy presented by him or circulated under his influence. LITERATURE E.B. Ham, 'Three Neglected Manuscripts of the Voeux du Paon', Modern Language Notes, XLVI, 1931, pp.78-84.

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