JEAN MAROT, OCTOVIEN DE SAINT-GELAIS, JEAN PICART and others. A collection of 122 rondeaux, in French verse, decorated manuscript on vellum, [France, c.1500]
170 x 107mm. 65 leaves, ii + 1-48, 56, 610, 78, 86 + i, COMPLETE, modern foliation in pencil 1-61 followed here, 15 lines written in a lettre bâtarde, ruled space 114 x 80mm. Each rondeau with 3-5 initials in gold on red or blue backgrounds (first and final leaves lightly soiled, rondeau no 17 – ‘Pour acomplir le vouloir de mon cueur’ repeated on f.34). Late 19th-century brown morocco gilt by Chambolle-Duru.
The present manuscript bears no evident early marks of ownership, but this type of recueil of French rondeaux dealing with themes of courtly love would have been particularly popular at the courts of Louis XII (1462-1515) and Anne de Bretagne (1477-1514). The authors of the poems included in the selection enjoyed, at the turn of the 16th-century, a restricted aristocratic readership, and it is likely that the manuscript would have served as a passe-temps or perhaps a love token for a member of the royal court.
The rondeau – a forme fixe of fifteen lines consisting of three stanzas: a quintet, a quatrain, and a sestet with the rhyme scheme AABBA-AAB-Refrain-AABBA-Refrain – was a popular form of poetry generally associated with the Grands Rhétoriqueurs of late medieval France and the generation that followed them, including poets like Clément Marot and André de la Vigne. Along with the coq-à-l’âne, ballade, vyrelaiz, chantz royaulx and chansons, it formed part of a medieval literary heritage that was much maligned – undeservedly so – by Joachim Du Bellay in his Deffence et illustration de la langue francoyse.
THE PRESENT MANUSCRIPT IS A RARE SURVIVAL OF A RECUEIL OF SECULAR 16TH-CENTURY FRENCH POETRY AND AN INTIMATE INSIGHT INTO THE MANUSCRIPT CULTURE OF CONTEMPORARY ROYAL COURTS. The recurring leitmotif is that of courtly love, or amour courtois: the rondeaux run the whole gamut of playful courtship, innocent flirting, obsession, adulation, rejection and recrimination.
Of the 122 rondeaux in the present manuscript, 107 are also found in a manuscript in Lille, ms.Y402, published by M. Françon, Poèmes de transition (XVe-XVIe siècles), Rondeaux du ms. 402 de Lille, Paris, 1938. Other comparable manuscripts include Paris, BnF, mss. fr. 1721, 1722, 12490 and 19182; Oxford, Taylor Institution Arch. I. d. 22; London, BL Sloane 2553 and a manuscript sold at Sotheby’s, 22 June 2004, lot 63. Ten of the poems in the present collection are ascribed to Jean Marot (1463-1523), court poet and secretary to Anne de Bretagne, either in other manuscripts or in the Recueil Jehan Marot de Caen published in 1533 under the supervision of his son Clément: ff.28v, 29, 38v, 55, 57, 57v, 58, 59, 59v and 61. Seven are attributed to Jean Picart, bailli d’Estellan (ff.13, 14, 19, 21v, 32, 51 and 56); three to Octovien de Saint-Gelais (ff.11, 24v and 26v); one to Jean d’Auton (f.35); one to Henri Baude (f.4v) and one to Martin de Housse (f.5v). THIRTEEN OF THE POEMS APPEAR TO BE UNRECORDED.