DIGULLEVILLE, Guillaume de. Le Pèlerinage de Vie Humaine, in the French prose translation commissioned by JEANNE DE LAVAL, illuminated manuscript on vellum made for CHARLOTTE OF SAVOY [Tours or Angers, c.1470].
290 x 199 mm. 148 leaves: 16 (of 8, lacking iii and vi), 2-188, 196. 33 lines written in a dark brown lettre bâtarde, ruled in red, written space: 180 x 112mm. Traces of catchwords, headings in red, capitals touched yellow, 3-line illuminated initials throughout, full-length border on first leaf, SEVENTY-SIX MINIATURES (c.70 x 70mm), drawn in brown ink infilled with pale washes, heightened and framed in gold, ARMS OF CHARLOTTE OF SAVOY, QUEEN OF FRANCE on f.1v (lacking two leaves with miniatures, minor cropping, e.g. to the supporters of the arms on f.1v, some light wear and thumbing). Late 18th-century French mottled calf gilt. Black morocco fitted case gilt.
(1) WRITTEN AND ILLUMINATED FOR CHARLOTTE OF SAVOY (1441-1483), QUEEN OF FRANCE, GRANDDAUGHTER OF ANTI-POPE FELIX V, DAUGHTER OF LOUIS OF SAVOY AND MARY OF CYPRUS, WIFE OF LOUIS XI OF FRANCE AND MOTHER OF CHARLES VIII: her arms on f.1v. Likely a presentation copy from JEANNE DE LAVAL, QUEEN OF JERUSALEM (1433-1498). The manuscript appears in the 1484 inventory of Charlotte’s library: ‘Item, un livre couvert de violet, fermant a deux fremouers d’argent, aux armes de la royne, faisant mention du Pellerinaige de vie humaine, remis en ung estuy de blanc et de roge’ (A. Tuetey, ‘Inventaire des biens de Charlotte de Savoie’, Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des chartes, 26, Paris, 1865, p.362 ; A-M. Légaré, ‘Charlotte de Savoie’s Library and Illuminators’, Journal of the Early Book Society, 4, 2001, inv. no 77) and ‘Le pellerinaige, en prose’ (Delisle, Cabinet des Manuscrits, I, 1868, p.93). Charlotte of Savoy’s library consisted of over a hundred manuscripts: of these, only eight now survive – all, except this one, in public institutions. (2) 17- and 18th-century inscriptions on the endleaves, one signed ‘votre affectionné serviteur Launay’, possibly Jean, baron de Launay (d.1687), another ‘votre servante, Marie Be[sanc]not’. At the foot of the spine is a green morocco label with the monogram ‘DR’ below a coronet. (3) SIR THOMAS PHILLIPPS (1792-1872), his MS. 228, bought in Paris from De Bure in 1824; by descent with the residue of the Phillipps collection to Messrs. Robinson, cat.83 (1953), p.41. (4) ‘The Property of a Lady’; Sotheby’s, 6 July 1964, lot 267, to Howlett; re-sold 29 November 1990, lot 117 and again in The Jaime Ortiz-Patino Collection of Important Books and Manuscripts, Tuesday, 21 April 1998. (5) Antiquariat Bibermühle, 2004.
Prologue, beginning : ‘A lonneur et gloire de dieu tout puissant et pour obeir a la requeste de tres haulte [...],’ f.1 ; Le Pèlerinage de Vie Humaine, beginning ‘A tous princes princesses et aultres gens habitans sur la terre [...],’ and ending: ‘[...] de la gloire de paradis que dieu donit aux mors et aux vifs, Amen’ ff.1v-145v.
The Pèlerinage de Vie Humaine was one of the great literary sensations of the 14th century, and the first of a three-book series dealing with the idea of an allegorical pilgrimage (the second being the Pèlerinage de l’Ame and the third the Pèlerinage de Jésus-Christ). Charles V owned at least five copies; Jean duc de Berry three in the vernacular and one in Latin, and Philip the Bold two. Composed in c.1330 by the Cistercian monk Guillaume de Digulleville (whose authorship is shown by acrostics in the texts of his compositions) and inspired by earlier metaphysical pilgrim-texts such as the 12th-century Songe d’Enfer of Raoul de Houdenc and the 13th-century Voie de Paradis, it espouses the popular medieval theme of the homo viator – the travelling Christian pilgrim – and spins it into an epic theological quest to the heavenly Jerusalem, rife with physical and spiritual challenges and existential moral choices. The author/pilgrim recounts how one day, after reading the Roman de la Rose (in many ways the antithesis of the Pèlerinage) in the abbey of Chaalis, he falls asleep and dreams of a celestial Jerusalem (f.1v), and decides to set out on a pilgrimage to reach it. This he can’t do without the help, instruction and protection of the daughter of God Grace-Dieu (f.3), who introduces him to the Church, its teachings and its sacraments. There he encounters Moses, but also Nature, Charity and Reason personified, among others, with whom he debates at length, before he is armed and sets off on his travels, accompanied by Memory (f.46v, with her eyes in the back of her head). On his journey he often makes unhappy decisions, much to the displeasure of Grace-Dieu, and is repeatedly attacked by Vices personified – including Envy, Pride, Hypocrisy and Ire, but is, in the end, rescued by Grace-Dieu. Finally he finds refuge in a monastery, where he encounters Old Age, Infirmity, and Death.
At least seventy-five manuscripts survive of the first version of the text composed by Digulleville in c.1330, and twelve of the second, composed in 1355 – many of them illustrated (for a facsimile edition with commentary see R. Bergmann, Die Pilgerfahrt zum Himmlischen Jerusalem, 1983. For the history of the text and its manuscripts, see. E. Faral, ‘Guillaume de Digulleville: Moine de Chaalis,’ Histoire littéraire de la France, XXXIX, 1952; R. Tuve, Allegorical Imagery: Some Medieval Books and their Posterity, 1966, pp.145-215; and M. Camille, ‘The Illustrated Manuscripts of Guillaume Deguileville's Pèlerinages, 1330-1426,’ unpublished PhD thesis, Cambridge, 1985). The original verse text of the Pèlerinage was adapted and translated over the years into German, Spanish, Dutch and Middle English (a c.1400 prose translation entitled ‘Pilgrimage of de Lyf of de Manhode’ now survives in six manuscripts).
THIS ROYAL MANUSCRIPT REPRESENTS ONE OF THE RAREST INCARNATIONS OF THE TEXT: A PROSE VERSION MADE IN 1464 FOR JEANNE DE LAVAL, QUEEN OF NAPLES, SICILY AND JERUSALEM AND DUCHESS OF ANJOU. IT SURVIVES IN TEN MANUSCRIPTS ONLY.
We know that the original text was immensely popular at the Angevin court. It is plausible that Marguerite of Anjou, Jeanne de Laval’s step-daughter and wife of Henry VI, in addition to perhaps bringing about the English verse translation of 1413 – the Pylgrimage of the Sowle, now at Hatfield House, Cecil ms. 270 – would have been aware of the earlier Middle English prose version (see Camille, 1985, pp. 85 and 370-1) and this inspired Jeanne to commission her own version in French. The text of the present manuscript opens with a preface by the translator, an anonymous ‘treshumble clerc serviteur’ from Angers, explaining that he has been instructed by the ‘tresredoubtee dame Jehanne de Laval, Royne de Jherusalem’ to ‘convertir de rime en prose francoise’ the text of the notable cleric Guillaume de Digulleville. We learn that he embarks upon this project in February 1464. His prose version was subsequently the source for the first printed edition, published by Mathieu Husz in Lyons in 1485, and reprinted in 1486, 1489 and 1499.
Most of the ten surviving manuscripts are stylistically related, and several belong within the immediate cultural circle in Anjou of the dedicatee, Jeanne de Laval, who was widowed in 1480 and died in 1498, and clearly had an active role in the dissemination of the text. The manuscripts are: Soissons, Bibl. Mun. ms. 208, of c.1470 and belonging to Bertrand de Beauvau; Paris, BnF, Ms. Fr. 1137, of c.1470-75 and belonging to Jacques d’Armagnac; the former Perkins/Aldenham copy of c.1478 (Sotheby’s, 23 March 1937, lot 123), made for René de Laval and his wife Guyonne; Geneva, Bibliothèque publique et universitaire, ms. Fr. 181, of c.1480 and made for Aymar de Poitiers, count of Saint-Vallier; Paris, BnF, Ms. Fr. 1646, third quarter 15th century, made for one Jeanne Maillart; Paris, Arsenal, Ms. 2319 of c.1470, belonging in the 16th century to Pierre Demarestz; Paris, BnF, Ms. Fr. 12461 of c.1470 and from the Convent of the Barefooted Augustinians; Paris, Bibl. Saint-Geneviève, ms.294, of c.1470-75 and belonging to a certain Jean de Paris; Geneva, Bibliothèque publique et universitaire, ms. Fr. 182 of c.1500, with the 17th-century arms of Charles Alexandre de Croy, duke of Arschoot.
A SUMPTUOUS PRESENTATION COPY FROM THE QUEEN OF JERUSALEM TO THE QUEEN OF FRANCE OF AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE TEXT.
The cycle of illuminations in the present manuscript is closely related in theme and number to that found in the Pèlerinage of Aymar de Poitiers and, to a lesser extent, the Pèlerinage of Bertrand de Beauvau. Each had strong links to the court of René of Anjou, and it is probable that Charlotte of Savoy’s copy influenced or was influenced by these other contemporary copies – at least in terms of its programme and layout (Legaré – see below – points out that 68 of the 76 miniatures in Charotte’s copy match, in theme and positioning within the text, those in Aymar de Poitiers’s copy). Where the illumination of the Pèlerinages of Aymar de Poitiers and Bertrand de Beauvau displays a marked Parisian influence, the present manuscript is harder to pin down. There are obvious stylistic correspondences that link it to other contemporary Angevin manuscripts: with the exception of the first six miniatures, the illustrations are vividly coloured drawings, sketched out in a loose – almost cubist – but animated fashion, a technique also found in three other royal Angevin manuscripts of c.1460-70 (see J. Plummer, The Last Flowering, 1982, nos 44, 46 and 47). As with the latter two manuscripts, Charlotte’s also displays strong Netherlandish influence, namely that of Barthélemy d’Eyck – who was at the time working in France at the court of René of Anjou – along with more localised regional stylistic strains. The treatment of landscapes, the layout of certain compositions and the occasional use of grisaille find parallels in the Berlin copy of René’s Mortifiement de Vaine Plaisance, made for Jeanne de Laval in 1457 by Jean Herlin and attributed to a follower of Barthélemy d’Eyck. But the palette of pale greens, yellows and deep blues is more akin to the work of the Master of René II, identifiable with Georges Trubert (see N. Reynaud in Revue de l'Art, XXXV, 1977, pp.41-63), an artist employed by René I in Anjou from 1467 until 1476, and then by René's grandson René II in about 1480.
The present manuscript formed the subject of a monograph with full-colour illustrations by A-M. Legaré, Le Pèlerinage de Vie humaine en prose de la Reine Charlotte de Savoie, Heribert Tenschert, 2004. It was exhibited at Splendeur de l’Enluminure: Le Roi René et ses livres in Angers from 3 October 2009 – 10 January 2010, no 49 in the exhibition catalogue.
For further images and information, including a full list of the subjects of the miniatures, please visit www.christies.com.