THE FALL OF MAN, miniature with full border on a leaf from Raoul de Presles's French translation of St Augustine, De civitate Dei, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
465 x 340mm. Adam and Eve on either side of the female-headed serpent coiled round the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; a corpse lies on the ground to signify that they introduced Death into the world, as explained in the rubric. The miniature opens Book XIII within a full border above a large initial, on the verso of a leaf of 54 lines (small hole in upper margin, a few losses in diapering of miniature and to gold background of initial, slight cockling, possible fading of pink in border).
Raoul de Presle's French translation of Augustine's City of God, made for Charles V of France between 1371 and 1375, proved very popular, with over 40 manuscripts surviving in whole or part in public collections. It is rare at auction. This apparently unrecorded leaf comes from the same impressive volume as the four leaves with the miniatures for Books V, VI, X and XVII that were with the Librairie Leclerc in Paris in 1906, having been bought from the comtesse de Lurcy. The leaf for Book VI was purchased by C.L Hutchison and given to Coella Lindsay Ricketts of Chicago (de Ricci, I, p.642) and is now in a US private collection. De Laborde, for whom the miniatures were recorded, commented on their closeness to works by the Boucicaut Master (A. de Laborde, Les manuscrits à peintures de la Cité de Dieu de Saint Augustin, 1909, pp.178-179, 188, 196-197, 288, and pl.XIX) but it was the Mazarine Master who was responsible for the present lot and the miniature for Book VI.
The translation was issued with illustrations. Charles V's presentation copy (Paris, BnF, ms fr. 22912-22913) and the Duke of Berry's roughly contemporary copy (Angers, Bibl, mun, ms fr. 162 and Cambridge, Mass., Houghton Library, fMS Typ 201) established conventions for layout and decoration still followed by this dispersed copy. The content of the miniatures, however, has evolved and become more complex: the programme is that defined by de Laborde as the third family of illustrations, a new cycle originated c.1405 by a scholar who closely read Raoul de Presles's commentary as well as Augustine's text, so that the miniatures are no longer merely narratives but, as with the corpse added to the Fall, embody their implications (S. Off Dunlop Smith, 'New themes for the City of God around 1400: the illustration of Raoul de Presles's translation', Scriptorium, 36, 1982, pp.68-82). The cycle was popularised by the Virgil Master, not known for iconographic invention, and neither the illuminators who first followed the new programme nor the patron for whom it was devised can be determined with certainty. It has been proposed that the new cycle was conceived for an apparently lost copy of the text presented to the Duke of Berry in 1404, a date that is not incompatible with the decoration of these leaves.