Sunday, February 23, 2014

An Early Modern Child's Drawing, in Melusine

by KARL STEEL

While looking for a suitable illustration to help teach Geoffrey of Auxerre's version of the Melusine story (n35 here for more), I ran across this, in Jean d'Arras' prose Roman de Melusine, BnF fr. 1485:


That's GREAT. I'm pretty sure this drawing's escaped (for now) the attention of Erik Kwakkel, that indefatigable emissary for medieval manuscripts, though he has blogged on doodles, and even children's doodles

Please let me know if you've seen this before, and where. Google searches for child drawing Melusine or l'enfant dessin Melusine get me nothing useful. For now, we'll just observe that this drawing, dating from, I guess, the late 16th or early 17th century, is all too appropriate in a story so concerned with lineage. 

And, uh, dinosaurs and maces.

(parenthetically, because I'm far outside my expertise here, but I've been asked to explain why I think this is a child's drawing. My stupid response is just that it looks like one. More considered, and even less expertly, I'd say that the elongation of limbs coupled with the enlargement of areas to accommodate detail (in this case, in clothing) that can't be rendered finely with a child's typically gross motor skills coupled (tripled?) with the complete indifference to the image's interaction with the text just says child to me. But it could be Paul Klee too! If this touches on your field, hazard a guess in comments, please.)



8 comments:

Karl Steel said...

The manuscript seems to have been pretty badly used. Here's another (early modern?) scrawl, in a lower margin, which maybe says 'J'acquis blonde'

Karl Steel said...

and more here, available for anyone whose facility in reading an early modern French hand is better than mine.

Ms. Grinberg said...

Karl, the second example (and more here) is IMHO another (more mature) hand. It is difficult to tell because the image is black and white. A visit to BNF is in order to see the manuscript with more detail.

Karl Steel said...

AG - I agree. I like to imagine that the same doodler is growing up with the mss, occasionally scrawling things in it as he gets older. A visit to the BnF would certainly not be unwelcome.

One commentator on FB observes that what I misidentified as a "mace" is actually a sword with a basket handle, which, of course, makes a LOT more sense.

Lydia Zeldenrust said...

I looked at the same ms for my research a while back - there are also doodles of chickens (see screen 129). I have been collecting the weird drawings, thinking I could one day present a paper on 'Mélusine, or, Why I Love Chickens'.

Karl Steel said...

! so there is. direct link. I'd LOVE to hear that paper.

Gabriel Liston said...

Okay. The mace is in the margin, the sword is by the cavalier's head. The artist does take the text into account - note the salamander's position in the indent, but of course the cavalier's legs had to go where they had to go.

The pantaloons are not enlarged to accommodate detail, it is just the style of the time. Nor are the limbs elongated much. The chest is quite constricted. Very few adults can draw like this (Klee being one).

The artist was right to add the illustrations as the text indentation seemed to be done with that in mind.

Maybe it's a dragon or a dinosaur, not a salamander, but why not?

Jamie Staples said...

I noticed that the second example features the last line of the verso page and the first line of the recto page… Are these merely catchwords? This would, of course, suggest that the catchwords were written in by someone other than the scribe--maybe whoever bound the manuscript together?