48-lucretiaLucretia, the wife of Collatinus

I agreed to participate in the Famous Women Project, because it sounded really fun. I’m on tap to do Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus.  The reason I chose that illumination is that it had some aspects of the dress that I believe can help inform later period dress construction.

There are some other dresses of the similar style in the manuscript, which can help with the dress design.

29-argiaArgia – Wife of Polynices, Daughter of King Andrastus

42-didoDido – Queen of Carthage

The text of the manuscript, De Mulieribus Claris, is by Giovanni Boccaccio, first published in 1374, but like many medieval texts, was recopied repeatedly. Indeed, there are over 100 manuscript versions extant.  Robinet Testard, the illuminator whose works we are recreating, whose work flourished 1470-1531.

The manuscript is at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, called Français 599.  In my experience, linking to the descriptive pages at the BnF is tough, because they use dynamic links, so your link is based on your search, and will expire quickly. Because of this, and the fact that the “English” pages don’t have everything that is available in French, I tend to use the search page Mandragore – While it is in French, you are better off using it this way. Select “Recherche”. At the next screen, you are going to click on “index” next to the “cote” and will find both “Français” as one of the pop-up options, then all the manuscript numbers will pop-up as options, and select 599. “Chercher” is search.

Mandragore help version

While the BnF does not identify this as by Robinet Testard, using the “Origine” search term, we find 6 other results that also have “Cognac” as a location, ALL of which have Testard as the or one of the illuminators.

  • Français 143 – dated between 1496-1498 – évrard de conty, échecs amoureux & jacques legrand, archiloge sophie – Quite a few good images,
  • Français 231 – dated 1475-1500 – boccace, de casibus (trad. laurent de premierfait) – only male figures, in a single scribal scene.
  • Français 252 – dated 15th-16th C – raoul lefèvre, histoires de troyes – a few group scenes that show some details.
  • Français 599 – our focus manuscript, is dated 15th-16th C.
  • Français 875 – dated between 1496-1498 – ovidius, heroides (trad. octovien de saint-gelais) – A number of good close ups of women, including the “virgin mary” dress with stuffed pleats. Nearly every page as someone writing, so a great resource for scribal tools.
  • Français 2824 – dated about 1475-1500 – the 2nd part of guillaume de tyr, historia (et continuation) – a large battle scene with equestrians & archers.
  • Français 22971 – dated about 1480-1485 – secrets de l’histoire naturelle – wide scenes, not close ups, but many of the same styles. Can’t see any of my chosen dress however.

Using the artist’s name, one additional manuscript appears.

  • Français 2609 – dated 1471 – grandes chroniques de france – Images theoretically over the history of France, this has a lot of battle scenes, and some group scenes, but all use the same garment style, apropriate for the late 15th C.

These other examples of Testard’s work can also be used to help us understand the images he produced. The more often we see a garment type, and the more different angles, the greater the likelihood that the garment was actually seen in the medieval world, and is not purely allegorical.

I’m going to have to look further afield for my chosen garment style, in other collections, and by other artists.