CAMILLUS LEADING THE ROMANS TO DEFEAT THE GAULS and SEA BATTLE IN THE AFRICAN WARS, two miniatures from the Romuléon in Fench, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[northern France, c.1490]
1. 136 x 94mm. In the foreground the heaped bodies of the defeated are about to be joined by their two still-mounted colleagues as they are struck by one of the ranks of visored troops advancing from the left, behind them a hillock with more cavalry, a castle and shoreside town in the distance, the heading Le xli chap[itr]e. Tituslivius in red (three tiny splits in vellum at hillock and four in the armour of the dead soldiers, small pigment losses from sky, foreleg and brow of the white horse and down the left edge). On the recto 22 lines of text from Book II, chapter 40 written in a hybrid bookhand. Mounted and framed.
2. 126 x 97mm. A sea battle between two ships packed with soldiers wielding spears, a flamethrower and longbow is visible between tall sharp rocks in the foreground, further rocky outcrops and hillocks emerge from the sea that extends into the distance with a further ship with a sailor climbing the rigging, the heading with Le xliiii.e chap[itr]e in red (three tiny splits in vellum on rocks, small pigment losses at upper and left edges). On the recto 21 lines of text from Book VIII, chapter 43. Mounted and framed.
These miniatures illustrated a copy of the Romuléon, a work drawn from several classical and Christian authors that tells the story of Rome and the Romans from the time of Romulus and Remus to Constantine the Great. It was originally compiled in Latin by Benvenuto da Imola between 1361 and 1364. In the 1460s, in response to the courtly taste for histories and chronicles in the vernacular, two writers independently undertook to translate the work into French. The present miniatures illustrated Chapters 41 and 44 from Books II and VIII respectively of the translation of Jean Miélot, resident of Lille between 1453 and 1472, who was in the service of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy from around 1448 until the duke's death in 1467. Only six complete manuscripts of Miélot's translation survive, all of them luxury volumes made in the Southern Netherlands for members or friends of the Burgundian court. Intriguingly, the fragmentary manuscript to which these miniatures once belonged (now Niort, Bibliothèque Municipale Rés.G.2.F) is the only copy known that is French in origin. S. McKendrick, 'The Romuléon and the Manuscripts of Edward IV', England in the Fifteenth Century, Harlaxton Medieval Studies IV, (1994), ed. N. Rogers, pp.149-169. For other miniatures from the manuscript: Christie's, 21 June 1989, lots 6-11 (including the present leaves); McKendrick, p.152; Les Enluminures, Cat. 5 (1996), no 18. The style of the illumination is difficult to localise: the subdued tonality and compositional features suggest an affinity with Jean Colombe and manuscript production in Bourges. (2)