[CATHERINE D'AMBOISE (1481-1550)], Les continuelles méditations de la volubilité et soudaine mutation des créatures raisonnables, in French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM, [Bourges?, c.1520s]
231 x 149mm. 80 leaves, ruled space: 149 x 100mm. THIRTEEN LARGE MINIATURES IN ARCHITECTURAL FRAMES (some staining and pigment loss to six miniatures, lacking at least 10 leaves, including possibly three miniatures). Brown sheep-backed calf, gilt-stamped with the name of an early owner ‘REMY MEGRET’ (rubbed and lightly scuffed).
A PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN TEXT BY CATHERINE D’AMBOISE, PROSE-WRITER AND POET, DAUGHTER OF CHARLES I D'AMBOISE AND CATHERINE DE CHAUVIGNY: A RARE SURVIVAL OF FEMALE AUTHORSHIP FROM THE FRENCH RENAISSANCE.
(1) CATHERINE D’AMBOISE (1481-1550): her arms (paly of 6 or and gules) hang from a tree on f.2v, along with the monogram ‘PK’ (possibly ‘Philibertus’ – her second husband Philibert de Beaujeu, seigneur de Lignières, whom she married in 1501 – and ‘Katherina’). Although it is possible that the arms signal Catherine’s authorship rather than ownership, her other works achieved such restricted circulation that all were almost certainly commissioned by her and probably also owned by her (her full arms also appear in her 'premier coup d'essay', Le livre des prudens et imprudens, Bnf Arsenal 2037). A terminus post quem of 1509 for the composition of the text is provided by the mention of Henry VIII as King of England: ‘Samblablement si nous parllons de richart sucesseur de edouart le quart il fut audit Royaulme de angleterre en plaine bataille occis par henry de richemont pere de henry qui a present est’. The text is similar in subject matter and style to the later of Catherine's two known prose works, La Complainte de la dame pasmee contre Fortune, datable to 1525-35, but this manuscript is slightly earlier. (2) REMY MEGRET, ‘frère en Dieu’, friar at the Premonstratensian Abbey of Notre-Dame de Thenailles (‘de l’ordre de Premonstre natif de Vervin demeurant au monaster de notre dame de Thenailles assez pres de Douay College Royal’): his binding and inscriptions on f.1 (legible under UV light) and f.80. It is Megret who dubs the manuscript 'La Passe solitaire'. (3) ALLAN HEYWOOD BRIGHT: letter addressed to him and typed notes by him loosely inserted.
Les continuelles méditations or La Passe Solitaire ou Vie Contemplative, beginning: ‘Les continuelles meditations de la volubilite et soudaine mutation des creatures raisonnables’ and ending : ‘Et finablement apres avoir paye le tribut de nature parvenir en la terre de promission la ou reside lessance divine cest paradis. Amen’ ff.1-79v.
Until now, there were two surviving prose works attributed to Catherine d’Amboise. The first, Le livre des prudens et imprudens, composed in 1509, drew moral conclusions from the fates of the prudent and imprudent from Adam and Eve to recent history. The only copy is BnF Arsenal 2037. The second work, La Complainte de la dame pasmee contre Fortune is a rare semi-autobiographical example of consolatory literature intended to circulate among family members. Three copies survive: BnF, SMAF, 79-7; BnF, n.a.f. 19738; Les Enluminures, Flowering of Medieval French Literature, catalogue 18, 2014, pp.203-213. All signs point to the present manuscript being a third, previously unknown work by Catherine. The text, in the vein of the allegorical pilgrimages and dialogues composed by Guillaume de Diguleville, Philippe de Maizières, Gabrielle de Bourbon and inspired by Jean Bouchet’s Triomphes, is a spiritual voyage of the soul to the Fontaine de Penitence via the Château de Contention diabolique and the Chemin de Crainte de Dieu and then to the Terre de Promission on the Navire de Penitence, in the company of ‘Dame Inspiration’ and ‘Raison’.
Catherine d’Amboise was the subject of a thesis by Ariane Bergeron-Foote, Les oeuvres en prose de Catherine d'Amboise, dame de Lignières (1481-1550), Paris, 2002.
The style of illumination displays an intriguing mingling of the influences of the Parisian artist Jean Pichore and the Master of Spencer 6: a localisation in Bourges would seem most likely given Catherine d’Amboise’s links to the region.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows: Catherine falls asleep beneath a tree f.2v; the soul, accompanied by Dame Inspiration, begins her pilgrimage to the Fontaine de Penitence f.9; Inspiration explains to the soul what needs to be done in order to reach the Fontaine de Penitence f.11, the soul, carried on the back of Inspiration, flies to the Château de Contention diabolique f.17, Inspiration and the soul meet Raison f.20; the soul enters the Chemin de Crainte de Dieu f.35; souls are cleansed in the Fontaine de Penitence f.47; the soul sets off on her journey to the Terre de Promission f.50v; the company journey to the coast where they find boats awaiting them f.53; the company embark f.58; the company sets off on the Navire de Penitence f.61; the company is attacked by seven other boats f.63; the company is swept up by the Vent de Hypocrisie f.69v.