JAN DU QUESNE (fl.1466-79). Commentaires de Cesar and Cronique habregie, in French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Lille and Bruges, c.1480]
435 x 320mm. 326 leaves: 1-26, 3-158, 166, 175(of 6, vi cancelled blank), 188, 19-206, 21-338, 346(of 8, vii & viii cancelled blanks), 354, 36-428, 439(ix a singleton), COMPLETE apart from the textually blank folios cxvi, ccxlvii and ccxlviii that were cancelled in a subsequent binding, original foliation from i-cccxvii in red in upper outer corners from 13th folio to end, followed here, two columns of 37 lines written in black ink in a lettre bâtarde between four verticals and 38 horizontals, two further horizontals for the foliation, ruled in violet, text justification: 280 x 90-14-90mm, paraphs, one- and two-line initials of burnished gold on grounds and infills of dark pink and blue with white penwork decoration, line-endings of the same colours, five- and six-line initials beneath large miniatures with staves of pink or blue against grounds of burnished gold with trefoil-leaf sprays in the infills, ELEVEN LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES ACCOMPANIED BY FULL-PAGE BORDERS with sprays of fruit and flowers and blue and gold acanthus and two containing the achievement of arms of the original owner, FOUR COLUMN-WIDE MINIATURES accompanied by large illuminated initials and three-sided borders and FOUR LARGE HISTORIATED INITIALS with borders of the same type (cropping to final numerals of foliation on some folios, a few tiny pigment losses from opening miniature and border, occasional spots or smudges in margins). Gold-tooled red morocco, sides panelled with central arabesques, turn-ins with multiple fillets, vellum doublures, Botfield arms painted on front doublure, gilt edges, by C. Smith, stamp on front flyleaf (faded).
A LUXURIOUSLY ILLUSTRATED SECULAR MANUSCRIPT: THE ONLY COPY OF THE COMMENTAIRES DE CESAR IN PRIVATE HANDS, AND THE UNIQUE EXAMPLE WITH THE SECOND VOLUME, SIGNED AND DATED BY THE AUTHOR
1. André de Haraucourt, seigneur de Bayon, Ubéxy, Landécourt, Franconville, Seneville, Louppy-Dreuville and Maréville (d.1484): his achievement of arms in the borders of ff.1 and 253. The Haraucourt, one of the four oldest families of Lorraine, took their name from a château near the capital of Nancy. In 1419 René of Anjou had married the heiress of Lorraine, and it was in Angevin service that members of the Haraucourt family attended the Dukes of Lorraine for much of the 15th century. André's father, Gérard, seigneur de Haraucourt (d.1456), was regent for René in the neighbouring Duchy of Bar and in 1448 was a founding member of René's Order of the Crescent, which is seen below his son's arms in this manuscript. André was elected to the order in 1462 (C. de Mérindol, Le roi René et la seconde maison d'Anjou, Paris, 1987, p.136). His career seems to have been closely connected with that of his brother, Guillaume, Bishop of Verdun from 1456, who was head of the council of René's son and heir, John of Calabria, and with him fell foul of Louis XI. John of Calabria's brief alliance with Charles the Bold of Burgundy was revived by his son Nicolas, who died suddenly in 1473 during negotiations for his marriage to Charles's daughter and heiress. André's youngest brother Pierre, seigneur de Chauvirey, was chamberlain to Charles the Bold and André came to support Charles's longstanding ambitions in Lorraine, which culminated in his annexation of the Duchy in 1475. Although Charles was defeated and killed at the Battle of Nancy in January 1477, it was not until May that André surrendered the town and castle of Darney to the victor, René II of Lorraine. André's goods were confiscated and only restored to him in 1482. André is likely to have obtained this manuscript after his reconciliation with René II, yet its text celebrates his former leader, Charles the Bold, and it is typical of the luxurious secular manuscripts favoured by the Burgundian court.
2. ?Louis-César de la Baume Le Blanc, duc de La Vallière (1708-1780), the most celebrated book collector of the second half of the 18th century: a bookseller's catalogue entry pasted on the verso of the first endleaf ends 'Formerly in the La Vallière Collection'. There were five public, although sometimes anonymous, sales of books owned by La Vallière. The most significant sale for manuscripts being that catalogued by Guillaume Debure and Van Praët in 1783, from which a number of manuscripts passed into the Bibliothèque du Roi. This sale included a copy of Jan du Quesne's Commentaires de Cesar as lot 4915, but this is now Oxford, Douce 208.
3. Beriah Botfield: his achievement of arms painted on the front doublure.
Table of contents ff.1-12; Commentaires de Cesar, the translation of Jan du Quesne, opening Cy commence le prologue du translateur des Commentaires Gayus Jullyus Cesar .... Tres hault tres puissant tres excerlent Victorieux et chr[ist]ie[n] prince .... ff.i-ccxlvi; Table of contents ff.ccxlviii-lii; Cronique habregie, by Jan du Quesne, opening Cy commence une cronicque habregie des empereurs Cesariens q[ui] regnerent apres la mort julle cesar .... Apres que gayus jullius cesar fut occis par le senat Rommain .... ff.ccliii-cccxvii.
A colophon on folio 317 reads 'Et ainsi fine ma cronique habregie depuis la mort Julle Cesar Jusques a lan mille .iiii.cs lxxviii et .xix. Escript et translate par .J. du quesne.'
Jan du Quesne (sometimes Jehan and sometimes Chesne) is known from the colophons of at least ten manuscripts; all of them large-format secular and vernacular texts datable between the late 1460s and the early 1480s and, where the original owners are identifiable, destined for owners at the Burgundian court including Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy, and the great Flemish bibliophile Louis de Gruuthuse. Several times Jan specified that he worked in Lille.
Among the most impressive volumes written by him are two copies of Vasco da Lucena's translation of Quintus Curtius Rufus, Les faits d'Alexandre le grant (Los Angeles, J.P. Getty Museum, Ludwig Ms XV 8 and BL, Royal Ms 17 F I): Scot McKendrick, The History of Alexander the Great, an Illuminated Manuscript of Vasco da Lucena's French Translation (1996). Vasco da Lucena's widely disseminated text, known in at least 34 copies, was dedicated to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. The translation was completed in 1468 and the copies made by Jan du Quesne, apparently among the earliest, should be dated around 1470.
The Commentaires de Cesar is another product of the great enthusiasm for classical history at the court of Charles the Bold -- according to the chronicler Olivier de la Marche the duke always had two hours of ancient history read aloud before he retired for the night -- and, in the prologue, Jan explains that he undertook his translation at the Duke's request. Seven other copies are known and in all but two Jan is named as translator: for six of these see R. Bossuat 'Traductions françaises des "Commentaires" de César à la fin du XVe siècle', Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance, iii (1943), pp.255-373.
The work is not a straight translation of Caesar's Commentarii: Jan made various additions and interpolations. Book I opens with a prologue addressed to Charles the Bold, explaining how he went about his task, deciding to complete the account of Caesar's career by adding Books before and after De bello Gallico drawing on many other classical authors. This prologue is followed by a brief commentary on the nature and obligations of nobility, leading into a history of Rome before Caesar and an account of Caesar's life. Books II-IX are the translation of Caesar's De Bello Gallico and Book X covers the Civil War, and Caesar's death, finishing with the translator's conclusion. For Book I Jan drew upon Les Faits des Romains, a 13th-century composition which had a revived popularity in the final third of the 15th century: Scot McKendrick, 'La Grande Histoire Cesar', English Manuscript Studies 1110-1700, 2 (1990), pp.109-138. This was also the source for some auxiliary material in Book X, which was otherwise heavily dependent upon another 13th-century compilation, the Chronique dite de Baudouin d'Avesnes. In the preambles, interpolations and, at the end, the translator's conclusion du Quesne makes plain his aims for the work: as well as giving pleasure to his prince he provides a flattering and instructive comparison of the careers of Caesar and Charles, justifying Charles' actions as those of a good ruler, but providing a warning by showing that Caesar's pride and power led to his fall.
This is the text known in seven other copies, of which one of the earliest examples, also in the hand of Jan du Quesne, is a manuscript in London with the date of the translation given as 1473 (BL, Royal 16 G viii). This will be discussed in the context of the other copies of the text by Scot McKendrick in the forthcoming catalogue of the exhibition Illuminating the Renaissance: the Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting 1467-1561 (Los Angeles, J.P. Getty Museum and London, Royal Academy, 2003). We are grateful to Dr McKendrick for discussing the du Quesne manuscripts with us.
In the Botfield manuscript the Commentaires is followed by a further text, a work of Jan du Quesne unknown in any other copy, called the Cronique habregie. It starts as a continuation of the history of the twelve Caesars, acknowledging a debt to Suetonius, but from folio 286v the scope of the work is expanded to intermingle the history of emperors, popes and kings up to the time of writing. This is clearly the 'second volume' that Jan declares his intention of writing in the prologue to the Commentaires (f.2 of the present manuscript): 'traitent des empere[u]rs rommains quy ont rengne de puis Julle Cesar jusques a lheure present avec ce des papes et roys de france ensa[m]ble des ducs de bourgoigne depuis le premier duc phelippe de vallois vostre noble ancesteur'. Such may have been Jan's plan in 1473 but, with the death of Charles the Bold in 1477, the sequence of the Dukes of Burgundy was replaced in the completed work by the ancestors of another bibliophile ruler, Edward IV of England: on f.286v the rubric introduces 'listoire des Roys dangleterre laquelle nous entremeslerons avec les papes et empereurs jusques a Roy Edouard present'. The Cronique ends with Edward, 'il rengne maintenant puissament et noblement sans quelque difficulte ou moyen'.
More than a score of large Flemish manuscripts, similar in subject matter and of the same date as the present manuscript, were illuminated for Edward IV and remain as the first Royal manuscripts in the British Library. The importance given to the Kings of England in Jan du Quesne's Cronique suggests that, having lost the princely patron for whom he started these two volumes, when he completed the work it was with the intention of attracting the patronage of another prince.
The colourful, action-packed miniatures are by the illuminator who painted the single miniature in another copy of du Quesne's Commentaires (Copenhagen, Royal Library, Thott 544) and some of the small miniatures in a copy of Froissart's Chroniques in Los Angeles (J.P. Getty Museum, Ludwig XIII 7).
The unity of tone and saturated colours make for a strong sense of pattern, and the complex settings, where landscapes are divided up by hillocks, rivers and woods, allow four or five events from the book they illustrate to be included in each miniature. Many reveal a close reading and interpretation of the text, for example the portrayal of details such as the rigging-cutting tools carried by the Romans in the seabattle with the Venetic forces (f.92v) or the dramatic evocation of the storm by the flying crow's-nests of the destroyed Roman fleet (f.137).
Both large and small miniatures are painted in a uniform style and, with the possible exception of f.152, seem to be the work of a single illuminator, who could be named the Master of the Commentaries of Caesar from his work in this and the Copenhagen manuscript. His style, particularly his use of colour and strong narrative impulse, seems derived from that of Loyset Liédet, whose work in Bruges is recorded from 1468 until his death in 1479. Around 1470 Liédet was the most prolific of the illuminators working for Charles the Bold and his court. The Master of the Commentaries of Caesar seems not only to have succeeded to aspects of his style but also to his clientele.
The subjects of the large miniatures are as follows:
f.1 On the left a building where Jan du Quesne presents his book to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, watched by two courtiers; in the right middleground another building where a surgeon and midwife deliver Julius Caesar by Caesarian section.
f.58 Caesar, in gilded armour, appears twice at the head of his legions, at the rear on the left they emerge from the Alps, and in the right foreground he watches a bloody battle by a riverside, probably the battle with the Germans by the Rhine; in the left foreground stand a group of civilians in discussion, probably the German envoy speaking to Ariovistus.
f.80 In the middle distance the citizens of Bratuspantium emerge from the gates of their city to surrender the keys to Caesar and his troops; in the foreground the battle with the Nervii outside Caesar's encampment near the river Sambre; on the left the wood where the Nervii hide, their spears emerging from the treetops.
f.92v Towards the foreground the Romans besiege a Venetic fortress, which is evacuated by sea; in the rear the battle of Quiberon Bay between the high-prowed Venetic ships and the Roman galleys, with the Romans armed with hooked weapons for cutting rigging.
f.116 Towards the rear on the left Caesar marches against the Germans who have crossed the Rhine, and is met by their envoys with arms outstretched; in front of this the slaughter of the Germans at the confluence of the Moselle and the Rhine, with the Roman bridge over the Rhine in the foreground.
f.137 At the rear on the left Casear gathers the legions in Gaul; to the right a great storm destroys the Roman fleet; in the middleground on the left the battle with the Britons in the woods; in the right foreground Cassivellaunus asks for terms of surrender.
f.152 In the background Caesar's return and reprisals against the Eburones who had siezed fugitives and cattle after pillaging the Roman fortress of Aduetuca; in the foreground the ?Senones suing for peace and, in the Roman camp on the left, Caesar receiving a soldier.
f.152 To the rear on the left the execution of Acco (actually from the end of Book VII); in front of this the confederacy of the Gaulish tribes in the forest, led by Vercingetorix on a white horse; to the right sapping operations, probably for the crossing of the Cevennes mountains, and the Roman camp.
f.185 In the centre background the siege of Uxellodunum, to the right the defenders being punished by having their hands cut off; in the left foreground legionaries receiving gratuities; on the right the Romans plotting against Caesar, with Pompey and his legions outside Rome.
f.203 Caesar and his legions, in the centre following the giant who sounded the advance to lead them across the Rubicon, and shown again at the back entering Rome, and once more in the middle left receiving the head of Pompey; in an open-fronted building to the right Caesar is crowned with a triple crown and holds a sword and orb; in the right foreground Caesar, under a cloak, being stabbed by five attackers.
f.204 On the left Octavian (Augustus) being crowned emperor; Augustus and the Tiburtine Sybil in the landscape to the right looking up at the Ara Coeli; in the foreground the young Octavian entering Rome with his forces after the death of Caesar.
The subjects of the small miniatures are as follows:
f.270 Tiberius sending Pilate into Judea, Pilate erecting an idol in a temple, the beheading of John the Baptist
f.274v Gaius (Caligula) receiving the imperial crown in bed, the crowning of Herod Agrippa as king, assassination of Gaius
f.277 Coronation of Claudius as emperor, the imprisonment of dissenters
f.281v Rome in flames with Nero ordering the dissection of Agrippina and the suicide of Seneca
f.283v Assassination of Emperor Galba by the Praetorian guard
f.283v Otho crowned emperor, battle with Vitellius and his legions, suicide of Otho and his supporters, death of Vitellius at the hands of Vespasian's supporters
f.284v Vespasian in bed being shown the vernicle by St Veronica, the destruction of Jerusalem in the background
f.285v Pope Cletus dictating papal briefs and surrounded by priests, the virtuous Emperor Titus handing out money