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Les Vies des femmes celebres: Antoine Dufour, Jean Pichore, and a manuscript's debt to an Italian printed book.

The ornate manuscript presented to Anne of Brittany by Antoine Dufour, Les Vies des femmes celebres (Nantes, Musee Dobree, ms. XVII), has been the object of extended study. (1) Written in 1504, (2) the manuscript was then illuminated by Jean Pichore, Parisian artist, by 1506. (3) We unfortunately do not know of any documents describing the production of this work: Dufour states in his prologue that Anne commissioned it, (4) but beyond this detail, the role that the queen played in the production of the manuscript remains unknown. We are unable to ascertain, for example, if Anne specified how Dufour was to represent the women in his text or which women he was to include. We do not know if the writer then communicated with the Parisian illuminator in order to convey his wishes concerning the iconography contained in the manuscript. However, a careful examination of both the text and the images of Les Vies des femmes celebres shows that author and artist coordinated their work in some manner and that the individuals involved in the codex's production translated and adapted multiple sources, including an Italian incunabulum, in constructing their manuscript for the queen.

Dufour's Text: A Translation via Compilation of Two Latin Sources from Italy

Antoine Dufour relied on at least two Latin texts in composing his Vies des femmes celebres: Boccaccio's De mulieribus Claris (ca. 1362) and Jacopo Filippo Foresti da Bergamo's Deplurimis claris selectisque mulieribus, a Latin adaptation of Boccaccio's work, published in Ferrara in 1497, and again in 1521. (5) Writing in France in the first decade of the sixteenth century, Dufour wove these two sources together, creating his own unique tapestry distinct from and yet reliant on the threads of both Italian authors. (6)

Around 1362, Giovanni Boccaccio dedicated his De mulieribus claris to Andrea Aciaiuoli, Countess of Altavilla. (7) Consisting of 104 biographies of famous women from antiquity and the Old Testament, this was the first collection of biographies in Western literature to present only women. (8) De mulieribus claris enjoyed enormous success both in its original Latin and in translation in numerous languages throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. (9) Jacopo Filippo Foresti da Bergamo's De plurimis claris selectisque mulieris was compiled primarily from De mulieribus claris, the Bible, and Sabadino degli Arienti's Gynevera de le clare donne (ca. 1489-1490 and 1492). (10) According to Steven Kolsky, De plurimis emerged in a sociopolitical context in late-fifteenth-century Italy, in which noblewomen saw De mulieribus's presentation of powerful women as an opportunity to follow the example of female political action set forth in Boccaccio's work. (11)

While Boccaccio created an opposition between good and bad women in his Preface, specifying that he would not treat Christian women, Foresti borrowed Boccaccio's rhetoric but delineated two camps of women: on the one hand, pagans such as Semiramis, Medea, Athalia, Olympia, and Cleopatra, and on the other, Christian women such as Sarah, Judith, and Esther. As Kolsky writes, "the compiler methodically juxtaposes the Boccaccian women with his own additions in order to define the De Plurimis as a Christian work." (12)

Antoine Dufour's text carefully compiles and adapts Boccaccio's and Foresti's works, creating a "translation" that responds to rather than reproduces its sources. (13) Les Vies des femmes celebres is comprised of ninety-one biographies, sixty-four of which also appear in De mulieribus claris, and all of which appear in Foresti's De plurimis. Many of these ninety-one biographies follow Boccaccio's text so closely that there is little doubt as to the French translator's utilization of the Latin source. The remaining twenty-seven biographies draw certain details from a variety of texts, but all of the women described in Dufour's work appear in Foresti's compendium, and the French author's biographies mirror almost exactly the order of those in the De plurimis. (14)

An examination of Semiramis's biography in each work helps us understand how Dufour compiled his version from both Foresti's and Boccaccio's texts. Foresti placed his biography of Sarah, a heroine absent from Boccaccio's compendium, directly before that of Semiramis in his text, pointing out in the second woman's case how dissimilar she was from her biblical contemporary--a parallel that Dufour takes up in his text as well. (15) Although Foresti's biography of Semiramis is very similar to that of Boccaccio's, as he employs the same Latin word for word in the majority of the text, Foresti's inclusion of Sarah in his compendium departs from his Latin source, as does the parallel between the two heroines established by the Italian author cited above. The comparison between Sarah and Semiramis is then taken up by Dufour, strongly suggesting the French author's familiarity with the De plurimis. (16)

At the end of Semiramis's biography, Foresti includes a description of the inscription on her tomb and King Darius's opening of the tomb, (17) an anecdote retained by Dufour (18) but not found in Boccaccio's text. (19) However, Dufour adds an additional sentence to the end of her biography, reminding the reader that Semiramis was killed by her son--a detail also recounted by Boccaccio at the end of his biography but omitted by Foresti. (20) The narrative of Semiramis's story thus demonstrates how Dufour combines or compiles translated passages from both Latin sources.

Although Dufour specifically included the anecdote recounting Semiramis's death, we also see textual instances where the French translator has, by contrast, omitted descriptions related to violent acts, as in the case of Joanna of Naples's biography. Joanna of Naples (1326-1382) ascended to the Neapolitan throne at the age of seventeen. As Elizabeth Casteen notes, Joanna was a subject of some controversy as a female ruler, and "her queen-ship thus became the background for discussions about royal succession, hereditary principle, and the nature and definition of sovereignty." (21)

Seen in this light, the fact that Dufour chose (via Foresti) to include Joanna in his compendium of famous women is in itself significant: dedicating his collection of famous women's biographies to the current French queen, the translator inserts himself into contemporary debates surrounding conceptions of sovereignty and in particular female rule. Jeanneau notes that Joanna of Naples is idealized in the sixteenth-century French text, since Dufour significantly does not mention the fact that she was rumored to have murdered her first husband. (22) By idealizing Joanna, Dufour is able to draw parallels between her and Anne of Brittany as both virtuous and politically active women. (23)

Yet the choice of Joanna of Naples also underlines Dufour's adaptation of two Latin texts from Italy into a biography that is more relevant to readers in sixteenth-century France. Both Boccaccio's and Foresti's texts glorify not onlyjoanna but also Italy, its people, and its land, whereas Dufour shifts focus back onto Joanna and her accomplishments. Additionally, where the Latin texts devote much time discussing Joanna's strength (the trials she withstood, the people she disciplined), the French version discusses at greater length Joanna's charity, her "consolation, comfort, and aid for widows, the poor, the sick, and orphans" ("consolation, confort et ayde des vefves, povres, malades et orphelins") (24) and the fact that she "nourished strangers and indigent people as much as others, built and financed monasteries and hospitals, and received in magnificence and liberally treated clerics and lettered men" ("estrangiers et indigens autant que aultres substantoit; monasteres, hospitaulx ediffioit et nourrissoit, clercz, lectrez et vertueux magnificquement recevoit et liberalement tractoit"). (25)

While Dufour may indeed have emphasized these traits in Joanna in order to draw parallels between herself and his patroness, Anne of Brittany, he also surely did so in order to make this famous woman more understandable for his female readers (the queen and her female entourage). They would have been able to see in Joanna a figure to admire as similar not only to themselves but also more generally to their own cultural and historical framework. Rather than a shining example of the strength of Italy, as Joanna was heralded to be in Boccaccio's and Foresti's texts, Joanna emerges in Anne of Brittany's manuscript as an example of female piety, charity, and power.

Images as Translated Presentations of Women

While it is certainly clear that Dufour adapted at least two Latin textual sources, we may also observe that ms. XVII's illuminator, Jean Pichore, also utilized both visual and verbal models, perhaps even those found in the first edition of De plurimis, in constructing the miniatures contained within Les Vies des femmes celebres. Jean Pichore ran a very large workshop in Paris, where he worked as an illuminator and bookmaker from 1502 to 1521. (26) He and his workshop artists illuminated a number of codices for Louise of Savoy (27) and two other manuscripts treating famous women. (28) Caroline Zohl attests to Pichore's Italian source materials, (29) which were effected in part by his collaboration with artists for Cardinal Georges of Amboise. (30)

Pichore also worked extensively for Louis XII and/or Anne of Brittany. He illuminated an ornate copy of the Remedes de l'une et l'autrefortune (BnF fr. 225; ca. 1503) (31) and a French translation of Petrarch's Triomphes (BnF fr. 594) for Louis XII. (32) Additionally, Zohl attributes a copy of Plutarch's Discours sur le manage de Pollion et d'Eurydice, commemorating the marriage of Anne and Louis around 1499 (Saint Petersburg, Russian National Library, Fr.Q.v.III,3), to the Parisian artist. (33) Finally, Pichore and his workshop contributed five miniatures to a volume made upon the queen's death, Relation des obseques d'Anne de Bretagne (Paris, Petit Palais, Dutuit 665). (34)

As Zohl's work shows extensively, Jean Pichore's contacts and oeuvre can underline for us the varying iconographical traditions that he drew upon (Italian and French, classical and Gothic), his patrons (Georges of Amboise, Louise of Savoy, Louis XII, and Anne of Brittany), and his collaboration with other artists from a wide geographical area and media (manuscript and print). It is this range of artistic development that emerges in Pichore's illuminations of Les Vies des femmes celebres, underlining further the manuscript's existence as a compilation of multiple sources, both visual and textual.

It is clear that Pichore took great care in aligning his depiction of at least some of the famous women with those described in Dufour's text. As an example of the intertwined roles of text and image in the manuscript, we may cite Zenobia, a woman warrior whom Dufour describes as carrying a "standard whose motto was the honor of ladies" ("estandart, qui estoit l'honneur des dames pour sa devise"). (35) Although the inscription painted by Pichore in his representation of her banner is difficult to decipher--because the first word, "Lonneur" (= 1'honneur [the honor]) is not properly abbreviated--it reads "Lone des dames." Sophie Cassagnes-Brouquet is thus correct in describing the motto as "une inscription en l'honneur des dames." (36) Pichore's miniature, integrating the detail of the inscription on Zenobia's flag from Dufour's text, indicates the illuminator's engagement with the manuscript's verbal narrative.

In Pichore's portrait of Medea in Les Vies des femmes celebres, the female protagonist sits at a table covered by a cloth, pen in hand (Fig. 1). Instead of writing on the letter before her, however, she plunges her pen into the heart of her dead infant. To my knowledge, only Dufour's text describes this detail in the heroine's biography: "to reach the summit of her cruelty, Medea wrote villainous letters to Jason with blood from the heart of her dead infant" ("pour achever le comble de sa cruaulte, du sang du cueur de son filz, fist a Jason villaines lettres"). (37) Including an important feature from Dufour's biography of Medea, Pichore thus utilizes this verbal source in his miniature. It is impossible to know, without some sort of documentation, exactly why Pichore decided to paint Medea writing a letter in her infant's blood. Nonetheless, the inclusion of this very dramatic characteristic in the manuscript's iconographical program suggests that the artist had access in some manner to Dufour's text.

Yet Pichore also, I posit, combines Dufour's text with contemporary iconographical sources in sculpting his portrait of Medea. In particular, the Parisian illuminator's familiarity with the many portrayals of women in the process of writing found in numerous manuscripts at the end of the fifteenth century (38) highlights the importance of Medea's pose as writer here. While the image of a woman writing is found only three times in Les Vies des femmes celebres, this representation of the learned female appears to have become a prevalent tradition in the late fifteenth century--a tradition into which Pichore also inserted himself in his miniatures of Nicostrata (fol. 21) and Blesillia (fol. 6l).

The case of Medea in Les Vies des femmes celebres, however, distinguishes itself through Pichore's and Dufour's depiction of the heroine's bloody letter-writing. I have found one other textual and iconographical depiction of a woman writing a letter in blood, and a roughly contemporary one at that. InBnF fr. 874(ca. 1502), (39) a manuscript version of the XXI Epistres d'Ovide to whose iconographical program Pichore contributed, (40) the scribe includes rubrics introducing each of Ovid's translated letters. The preface to Hypermnestra's epistle explains that as punishment for disobeying her father, she is to be put in jail and each day will have a part cut off from her body until the day she dies. The rubric, unique to this manuscript exemplar, indicates that Hypermnestra composes an epistle to her husband using the blood of her severed leg. (41) This textual detail, present only in BnF fr. 874, is taken up by the manuscript's illuminator, whether Pichore himself or another artist with whom he collaborated in its production. The elaborate illumination of Hypermnestra found in BnF fr. 874 (Fig. 2) is the only visual reference to a heroine writing a letter in blood, other than Pichore's depiction of Medea in the Vies des femmes celebres manuscript, that I have found so far. Whether or not Pichore--and/or his collaborators--consciously refers to the BnF fr. 874 rubric in this depiction of Hypermnestra, the miniature in Anne's manuscript certainly appears to combine the traditional depiction of women writing letters found in the XXI Epistres with an important feature from Dufour's biography of Medea--that of her writing in her child's blood--translating both verbal and visual sources in creating something of his own innovation.


One final source for Pichore's iconographical program, or at least that of the manuscript's rubricator, may be proposed, as the placement and format of the illuminations in Anne of Brittany's copy of Les Vies des femmes celebres mirrors closely that of Foresti's original incunabulum. The 1497 edition of Deplurimis begins with a title page (fol. 1r), and then a full-page illustration of Foresti presenting his work to its female dedicatee, Beatrice of Aragon (fol. 1v), the author's prologue (fol. 2r-3v), a table of contents (fol. 4r-5r), and finally a full-page illustration containing eight square religious scenes related to Mary and Christ (fol. 5v). After multiple folios recounting Mary's biography, each biography begins with a square historiated initial and a rubric announcing the heroine to follow. Many but not all biographies include a small illustration inserted into the text at the beginning of the scenario just below the rubric.

Queen Anne's commissioned book presents significant similarities in its formatting, especially with regard to the placement and size of its miniatures. Pichore's iconography, like the Italian printed edition, contains two full-page miniatures that visually mirror those included by Foresti, one showing Dufour's presentation to Anne of Brittany (fol. 1r), and the other containing six square scenes depicting Mary and Christ (fol. 2r). As in the printed edition, these two miniatures visually bracket the translator's Prologue (fol. 1v). Thereafter, each biography begins with a square historiated initial, and where accompanied by a miniature, a square-shaped image of the woman in question that lines up with the first line of her biography. The example of Medea (Figs. 1 and 3) reveals the similarities between the mise-en-page found in Foresti's printed edition and that of the later manuscript: both include square historiated initials, miniatures surrounded by a simple square border, and a single column of text into which the miniatures are inserted flush with the first line. While Foresti's printed edition does preface each biography with a rubric, these rubrics are not printed in a separate color and indeed are sometimes set apart from the body of the biography by a blank space between them and first line of text, thus serving much the same function as the simple space between biographies that the manuscript makers incorporated into the page layout.



Whether Jean Pichore himself drew from Foresti's printed edition remains unclear. There do seem to be certain compositional similarities between the two presentation scenes (Figs. 4 and 5)--namely, the presence of two religious figures, one at the back with his arms folded, and the inclusion of the Annunciation scene prefacing Mary's biography (Figs. 6 and 7). In addition, certain details found in Pichore's miniatures could have been drawn from the printed illustrations. For example, the small figures painted by Pichore to decorate Medea's writing desk (Fig. 1), in particular the one holding a sticklike object over his shoulder, display the same sort of childish violence found in the lower margins of the 1497 edition's presentation scene (Fig. 5); Joan of Arc (Dufour, fol. 76v) wears the same armor in both versions, and her horse has the same bridle and saddle as a soldier in those same margins of Foresti's printed book (Fig. 5). However, these details are not conclusive enough to say with any surety whether the Parisian illuminator, although known for his usage of Italian source materials and his ability to draw upon multiple sources, employed this particular Italian printed edition as a model or inspiration for his work in Queen Anne's manuscript.

What is clear, however, is that this 1497 printed edition from Italy was used by Antoine Dufour as model for both the content and the ordering of his ninety-one biographies of famous women, and that whoever formatted the manuscript itself chose to follow the Italian source's layout for the two full-page miniatures and the smaller ones accompanying the women's biographies. Although further inquiry is required as to Jean Pichore's potential reliance upon the printed materials used by the manuscript's author, the likely presence of a copy of Foresti's printed edition in the hands of Antoine Dufour and the individual responsible for the manuscript's formatting point to interesting implications for scholarship surrounding the transition from manuscript to print, namely, that especially in Paris around 1500, the two forms of reproduction existed in tandem and even in cooperation with each other, each tradition drawing from, adapting, and mirroring the other. Although much work has been carried out on the usage of manuscript sources in constructing printed editions, Les Vies des femmes celebres provides an example of the reverse also being true: that manuscript makers drew upon printed sources as well. (42)





This study of one particular manuscript can be added to a growing list of scholarship within the last few decades that has revealed the movement of printed editions from Italy to Paris in the last years of the fifteenth century. Kathrin Giogoli and John Block Friedman show that Robinet Testard adapted elements from the so-called Mantegna tarot cards in a number of his works, and in particular a French translation of Boccaccio's De mulieribus claris, BnF fr. 599; (43) most recently, Sonja Drimmer reveals the trajectory of a humanist from Italy, to Paris, and then to England in 1507 (44) and the very portability of the print resources that he brought with him on his journey and whose graphics are imitated in his manuscripts. (45) The study of these iconographical and human trajectories is revealing not only for literary and art-historical scholars but also for researchers interested in constructing a broader history of cultural exchange between Italy and France at the end of the Middle Ages and in examining questions of manuscript and printed book production at the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth. Ultimately, this brief article sheds light on the fluid nature of exchange between manuscript and print in Parisian workshops around 1500 and the role that Italian books played in bringing the Renaissance to France.

Bucknell University


I would like to thank Cynthia Brown, James Conrad, and Edward English for their review and suggestions.


(1.) See Cynthia J. Brown, The Queen's Library: Image-Making at the Court of Anne of Brittany, 1477-1514 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 144-166; and Cynthia J. Brown, "The 'Famous-Women' Topos in Early Sixteenth-Century France: Echoes of Christine de Pizan," in "Riens ne m'est seur que la chose incertaine": Etudes sur l'art d'ecrire au Moyen Age offertes a Eric Hicks parses eleves, coll'egues, amies et amis, ed. J.-Cl. Miihlethaler and D. Billotte (Geneva: Editions Slatkine, 2001), 149-160; Sophie Cassagnes-Brouquet, Un manuscrit d'Anne de Bretagne. Les Vies des femmes celebres d'Antoine Dufour (Rennes, France: Editions Ouest-France, 2007); and Michelle Szkilnik, "Antoine Dufour's Vies des femmes celebres," in The Cultural and Political Legacy of Anne de Bretagne: Negotiating Convention in Books and Documents, ed. Cynthia J. Brown (Cambridge, UK: D.S. Brewer, 2010), 65-80.

(2.) Dufour dates his text in the Prologue. See Antoine Dufour, Les Vies des femmes celebres, ed. G. Jeanneau (Geneva: Librairie Droz S.A., 1970), 1. All citations of Dufour's text are taken from this edition; all translations from the Middle French are my own.

(3.) See Claire Aptel, Nathalie Biotteau, Marie Richard, and Jacques Santrot, eds., Thomas Dobree 1800-1895: Un homme, un musee (Nantes and Paris: Musee Thomas Dobree and Somogy Editions d'Art, 1997), 167-168. For the attribution of the miniatures to Jean Pichore, see Francois Avril and Nicole Reynaud, Les Manuscrits a peintures en France, 1440-1520 (Paris: Flammarion, 1993), 415.

(4.) Dufour writes, "knowing the depth and the height of the virtues of the elevated, powerful and excellent princess my lady Anne of Brittany, queen of France and duchess of Brittany, I ..., by the commandment of this lady, ... wanted to translate the present book into mother tongue" ("congnoissant l'abisme et le comble de vertus estre en treshaulte, trespuissante et tres excellente dame et princesse ma dame Anne de Bretaigne, royne de France et duchesse de Bretaigne, je ..., par le commandement d'icelle, ... ay bien voulu translater ce present livre en maternel langage,"); Dufour, Vies des femmes, 1.

(5.) The 1497 edition of De plurimis was published by Lorenzo de'Rossi in Ferrara; in 1521, Johannes Ravisius Textor inserted it into his anthology, the De memorabilibus et claris mulieribus aliquot diversorum scriptorum opera, printed in Paris. For further information on how and why this adaptation was written, see Stephen D. Kolsky, The Ghost of Boccaccio: Writings on Famous Women in Renaissance Italy (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2005), 117-147. All references to Foresti's text are from Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute (81693). In referencing the work, I use two separate foliations. For the paratextual material, I refer to the actual foliation of the incunabulum, counting from 1 to 5; for the remainder of the printed book, I refer to the printed foliation as appears in roman numerals in the top right corner of each recto folio. As Dufour wrote his text ca. 1504, it was this edition rather than the 1521 version of Foresti's work that the author of the Vies des femmes celebres must have consulted.

(6.) Other scholars have debated Dufour's utilization of these two Latin texts in composing his Vies des femmes celebres. Peter F. Sands, "Antoine Dufour, Jacques Philippe and 'le racheter deshommes,'" Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance 39 (1977): 81-87, asserts that Dufour indeed relied heavily on Foresti's work. G.Jeanneau responds to Sands's claim in G. Jeanneau, "Dufour et son modele," Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance 39 (1977): 89-90, with an analysis of the French author's divergence from Foresti's 1497 adaptation of Boccaccio.

(7.) Giovanni Boccaccio, Famous Women, ed. Virginia Brown (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), xx. All citations from Boccaccio's text are taken from this edition.

(8.) Ibid., xi.

(9.) For a brief summary of these translations and editions, see ibid., xx-xxii. See also "Chronologies of Querelle des femmes Texts," and "Lists of Manuscripts, Incunables, and Early Printed Editions," in Helen J. Swift, Gender, Writing, and Performance: Men Defending Women in Late Medieval France (1440-1535) (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 247-250 and 251-254.

(10.) Kolsky, Ghost of Boccaccio, 5.

(11.) Ibid., 7-8 and 111-116.

(12.) Ibid., 123.

(13.) Dufour writes that he wished to "translate the present book into mother tongue" ("translater ce present livre en maternal langage") (l), but also states that he does so in order to "restrain the tongues of those who have only seen or heard inventions and lies" ("brider la langue de ceulx qui ne ont veu ny leu que fables et mensonges"); Dufour, Vies des femmes, 1-2. In other words, although he claims to have translated an unidentified source, he also complains that he has been unable to find a source that speaks well of women and thus has decided to provide one himself.

(14.) Dufour combines certain biographies--e.g., Foresti's "Mamea Egyptiorum regina" and "Mamea Alexandri Augusti parente" (Foresti, De plurimis, fol. 103v) are both discussed by Dufour in one biography, "Mammee" (Dufour, Vies des femmes, 128-130)--but otherwise remains faithful to the order of Foresti's biographies with one exception: Foresti's work lists Proba (Foresti, De plurimis, fol. 115v-116r) before Galla Placidia (Foresti, De plurimis, fol. 118r-120r), whereas Dufour includes both these women in his text but places Galla Placidia (Dufour, Vies des femmes, 139) before Proba (Dufour, Vies des femmes, 142).

(15.) Foresti writes, "Semiramis, the eminent queen of Assyria in the times of the aforementioned Sara, with military discipline disguised her sex, committed many great and egregious sins, which indeed (although they were regarded so differently from the deeds of Sara) nevertheless recall to our memory that very famous woman." The Latin reads, "Semiramis insignis Assyriorum Regina temporibus Sare predicte militari disciplina sexum mentita suum grandia plurima et egregia facinora gessit que quidem (etsi dissimila Sare facinoribus sint habita) illam tamen clarissimam plurimum reddunt." (Foresti, De plurimis, fol. 14v); Dufour writes that Semiramis was a "woman as lascivious and vicious as Sara was prudent and virtuous" ("femme aussi lubrique et vicieuse que Sarra fut prudente et vertueuse"); Dufour, Vies desfemmes, 23.

(16.) Swift, Gender, Writing, 203, notes the "temporal contextualization" surrounding Semiramis and Sarah employed by Foresti and Dufour. I point out that Foresti compares not only the temporal era of the two female protagonists but also the worth of their deeds.

(17.) Foresti writes of Semiramis's tomb, "As Plutarch reports, she constructed a tomb for herself, in which she wrote these things down in writings: 'whatever king might need money, after this monument is opened, take what you want!' And so Darius King of the Persias, when the stone had been raised, discovered no money, but he did find other writings that said 'if you weren't such a bad man and insatiable for coin, you would not have disturbed the grave of these corpses.'" The Latin reads, "Ut plutarchus refert sibi sepulchrum extruxit inquo hec litteris scripsit: 'Quicumque rexpecuniis indiguerit, patefacto hoc monumento que volveris accipito.' Itaque darius persarum rex lapide sublato pecuniarum nihil invenuit, sed alias litteras reperit que hec dicerent ni malus vir esses, ac numis insaciabilis cadaverum loculus non moveres"; Foresti, De plurimis, fol. 17r.

(18.) "Before her death, [Semiramis] had a tomb built and had written on it, 'Whoever opens this tomb will find countless treasures.' A long time afterwards, Darius, king of Persia, had the tomb opened, and, expecting to find this treasure, found an inscription of this sort: 'If it were not for your avarice, you would not have smelled the stench of the dead.'" ("Devant sa mort, [Semiramis] fist construire ung sepulchre et fist mettre dessus: 'Quiconques ouvrira ce sepulchre trouvera innumerables tresors.' Darius, roy de Perse, long temps apres, le fist ouvrir et, cuidant trouver ce tresor, trouva ung escripteau de ceste sorte: 'Si n'eust este ton avarice, tu n'eusses pas sentu la puanteur des mors'"); Dufour, Vies des femmes, 24.

(19.) Boccaccio, Famous Women, 24.

(20.) Dufour writes, "And thus as she lived wickedly, she died wickedly, for she was killed by her own son" ("Et, ainsi qu'elle avoit meschamment vescu, meschamment elle mourut, car de son filz elle fut tuee"); Dufour, Vies des femmes, 24; Boccaccio, Famous Women, 24.

(21.) Elizabeth Casteen, "Sex and Politics in Naples: The Regnant Queenship of Johanna I," Journal of the Historical Society 11 (2011): 183-210.

(22.) Dufour, Vies des Femmes, 160.

(23.) Ibid., LII. Corroborating Jeanneau's argument are the similarities between the presentation miniature depicting Anne receiving the book (fol. 1r) and that of Joanna (fol. 75v): both women, seated on a throne, wear a red dress and a black headscarf. Brown, Queen's Library, 150-159, discusses in more detail a number of female figures, including Joanna, who are verbally and visually associated with Anne de Bretagne. Casteen, "Sex and Politics," 185, notes that "Johanna and her supporters sought to identify her with commonly accepted positive attributes of aristocratic femininity, such as piety and compassion." In taking up Joanna's image a century later, then, Dufour associates his patroness with these virtues as well.

(24.) Dufour, Vies des femmes, 160.

(25.) Ibid., 161.

(26.) Caroline Zohl, "Ovide, Les Heroides," in France 1500: entre Moyen Age et Renaissance, ed. Genevieve Bresc-Bautier, Thierry Crepin-Leblond, Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye, and Martha Wolfl (Paris: Editions de la Reunion des musees nationaux, 2010), 126.

(27.) Pichore illuminated several manuscripts for Louise of Savoy, such as the Chants royaux du Puy de Notre-Dame d'Amiens (BnF fr. 145), a copy of the Remedes de l'une et l'autre fortune (BnF fr. 224), and BnF fr. 421, Trespassement de Saint Jerome (Zohl, "Ovide," 126-127). Additionally, a manuscript version of the XXI Epistres d'Ovide painted by Pichore contains Louise's emblems: BnF fr. 873 (ibid., 126). See also Caroline Zohl, Jean Pichore: Buchmaler, Graphiker und Verleger in Paris um 1500 (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2005), 189.

(28.) Zohl, "Ovide," 125-126, attributes to Pichore four manuscript versions of the XXI Epistres d'Ovide: BnF fr. 873, BnF fr. 874, Bibliotheque de l'Assemblee nationale, ms. 1466, and Vienna, ONB, cod. 2624. Zohl attributes the decoration of BnF fr. 874 to Pichore in collaboration with other Parisian painters.

(29.) Concerning ms. 1466 (XXI Epistres d'Ovide), which she dates between 1505 and 1510, now housed at the Bibliotheque de l'Assemblee nationale, Zohl argues that "the monumental figures, the antique costumes decorated with motifs in vogue at the time, the architecture, and the frames clearly show the imprint of Italian models" ("les figures monumentales, les costumes antiques ornes de motifs alors en vogue, l'architecture et les cadres portent resolument l'empreinte des modeles italiens"); ibid., 125. Zohl explains that Pichore had access to these models from printed works and manuscripts from Italy as well as those that Georges of Amboise acquired in 1501 from Frederick III of Aragon.

(30.) Georges of Amboise bought 108 volumes from Frederick III of Aragon sometime between 1502 and 1503; see Gennaro Toscano, "Le cardinal Georges d'Amboise (1460-1510) collectionneur et bibliophile," in Les Cardinaux de la Renaissance et la modernite artistique, ed. Frederique Lemerle, Yves Pauwels, and Gennaro Toscano (Villeneuve d'Ascq, France: IRHiS--Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion, 2009), paragraph 44, available at These volumes are listed in Leopold Delisle, Cabinet des manuscrits de la bibliotheque imperiale (Paris: Imprimerie Imperiale, 1868), 233-238. Pichore illustrated a number of manuscripts for the cardinal between 1502 and 1503. As Toscano notes, "the collection of Italian manuscripts, acquired by the Cardinal of Amboise and present in Normandy since the beginning of the sixteenth century, held great importance in the diffusion and knowledge of the decorative repertoires of the Italian Renaissance" ("la collection de manuscrits italiens, acquise par le cardinal d'Amboise et presente en Normandie des le debut du XVIe siecle, eut une grande importance pour la diffusion et la connaissance des repertoires decoratifs de la Renaissance italienne"); Toscano, "Cardinal," paragraph 74.

(31.) Zohl, Jean Pichore, 19.

(32.) Toscano, "Cardinal," paragraph 68, asserts that these manuscripts were "more than likely" ("sans doute") commissioned by Georges of Amboise. See also Zohl, Jean Pichore, 189-190.

(33.) Zohl, Jean Pichore, 22 and 193.

(34.) Ibid., 191. This manuscript is also referred to as Le trepas de l'Hertnine regrettee. For an edition of its text, see Cynthia J. Brown and Elizabeth A. R Brown, "Le trespas de l'hermine regrettee: A Critical Edition," in "Qu'il mecte ma povre ame en celeste lumiere." Les funerailles d'une reine: Anne de Bretagne (1514), textes, images et manuscrits, ed. Jean Luc Deuffic (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2014). For more on the manuscript's illuminations, see Pierre-Gilles Girault, "Le trepas de l'hermine regrettee. Un recit des funerailles d'Anne de Bretagne enlumine par Jean Pichore," Art de l'Enluminure 48 (2014): 46-61.

(35.) Du four, Vies des femmes, 119.

(36.) Cassagnes-Brouquet, Manuscrit d'Anne de Bretagne, 79.

(37.) Dufour, Vies des femmes, 40.

(38.) In particular, Pichore's own illuminations in manuscript exemplars of the XXI Epistres d'Ovide (BnF fr. 873 and 874, Paris, Chambre des Deputes, ms. 1466, and Vienna, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, codex 2624) can point to the artist's familiarity with this visual topos.

(39.) On fol. 1r of this manuscript, a prologue unique to this exemplar reads, "Here begin the Letters of Ovid that were translated by the late gentleman the bishop of Angouleme named Octovien of Saint Gelais" ("Cy commence les epistres d'Ovide lesquelles ont este translatees par feu monsieur Levesque d'Angoulesme nomme Octovien de Saint Gelais"; my transcription and translation. I have added all punctuation, the accent aigu to masculine past participles, the accent grave to distinguish "a" from "a," and capitalization in the case of proper nouns and the first letter of sentences). This rubric thus indicates that the manuscript, or at least this folio, whose hand is the same as one found throughout the codex, was confected after 1502, the year of its translator's death.

(40.) See note 28.

(41.) The French rubric reads: "The father, wanting to know if his daughters had carried out his order, came to count the number of dead and found that the youngest daughter, named Hypermnestra, had not killed her husband. For this reason, he had her taken and imprisoned, and condemned her to have one body part cut oft each day until she died. And the first day, he had her leg cut off. Using the blood that flowed from this wound, she wrote to Lynus her husband the letter that follows." ("Le pere, voulant scavoir se ses filles avoyent fait son commandement, vint compter le nombre des mors et trouva que la plus jeune nommee Ypermestra n'avoit pas tue son mary. Par quoy la fist prendre et emprisonner et la condempna a avoir chascun jour ung membre coupe jusques a tant qu'elle fust morte. Et le premier jour luy fist couper une jambe dont du sang qui en sailloit elle escripvit a Lynus son mary l'espitre qui s'ensuit"); fol. 169r; my transcription and translation.

(42.) Sandra Hindman, "The Illustrations," in The Danse Macabre of Women: Ms. fr. 995 of the Bibliotheque Nationale, ed. Anne Tukey Harrison (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1994), argues that a manuscript's illuminations originate in and modify, or upgrade, earlier woodcuts. Hindman further shows how this modified program of illustration envisages a royal female audience, perhaps Anne of Brittany or Margaret of Austria, in its transformation of a pictorial cycle mocking the female sex into one of praise. For a more general study, see Sandra Hindman and James Douglas Farquhar, Pen to Press: Illustrated Manuscripts and Printed Books in the First Century of Printing (Baltimore, MD: Art Department, University of Maryland, 1977).

(43.) Kathrin Giogoli and John Block Friedman, "Robinet Testard, Court Illuminator: His Manuscripts and His Debt to the Graphic Arts," Journal of the Early Book Society 8 (2005): 143-88.

(44.) Drimmer writes, "in 1507 the Mantuan friar Filippo Alberici journeyed to England, via Paris, in search of a literary patron"; Sonja Drimmer, "111: Filippo Alberici (?), Hieroglyphica and Emblematic Inscriptions, British Library, Royal 12 C. iii," in Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, ed. Scot McKendrick, John Lowden, and Kathleen Doyle (London: British Library, 2011), 330.

(45.) Sonja Drimmer, "From Egypt to England, via Manuscript and Print: An Illustrated Hieroglyphica," paper presented to the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the Early Book Society, St. Andrews, Scotland, Jan. 1, 2013. See also Drimmer, "111: Filippo Alberici(?)."


Primary Sources

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Ovid, Heroides, translated by Octovien de Saint-Gelais: Paris, Bibiliotheque nationale de France, manuscript francais 873. Paris, Bibiliotheque nationale de France, manuscript francais 874. Paris, Chambre des Deputes, manuscript 1466. Vienna, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, codex 2624.

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Brown, Cynthia Jane. "The 'Famous-Women' Topos in Early Sixteenth-Century France: Echoes of Christine De Pizan." In "Riens ne m'estseur que la chose incertaine": Etudes sur l'art d'ecrire au Moyen Age offertes a Eric Hicks parses eleves, collegues, amies et amis, edited by J.-Cl. Muhlethaler and D. Billotte, 149-160. Geneva: Editions Slatkine, 2001.

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Toscano, Gennaro. "Le cardinal Georges d'Amboise (1460-1510) collectionneur et bibliophile." In Les Cardinaux de la Renaissance et la modernite artistique, edited by Frederique Lemerle, Yves Pauwels, and Gennaro Toscano. Villeneuve d'Ascq, France: IRHiS--Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion, 2009.

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--. "Ovide, Les Heroides." In France 1500: entre Moyen Age et Renaissance, edited by Genevieve Bresc-Bautier, Thierry Crepin-Leblond, Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye, and Martha Wolff, 125-126. Paris: Editions de la Reunion des Musees Nationaux, 2010.
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Author:Renck, Anneliese Pollock
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
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Date:Jan 1, 2015
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