‘Lessons in Law, Lessons in Chivalry: The Roman de Gérard de Nevers Illuminated by the Wavrin Master and Loyset Liédet’
Thursday 5 March, 5.15 pm
Room B216, Buchanan Building, Union Street
Rosalind Brown-Grant, Professor of Late Mediaeval French Literature at the University of Leeds, will give a paper entitled ‘Lessons in Law, Lessons in Chivalry: The Roman de Gérard de Nevers Illuminated by the Wavrin Master and Loyset Liédet.’
Art historians specialising in works produced in the European Middle Ages have recently begun to draw our attention to the important part played by illustrated manuscripts of Roman, canon and customary law texts in the dissemination and teaching of legal precepts among scholars and law practitioners of the period. What has received far less attention from modern commentators is the way in which illumination cycles accompanying works of courtly literature also contributed to the familiarisation with the law of aristocratic lay readers who, as kings, dukes, counts and lords would have been responsible for the exercise of justice in their own lands. This paper will focus on the visualisation of the law and the respective positions of men and women in the legal processes of the day in medieval romance narratives whose plots are dominated by themes of crime and punishment. In particular, it will examine the interaction of text and image in two manuscripts of the mid-fifteenth-century Roman de Gérard de Nevers, a text belonging to the ‘wager cycle’ where judicial proceedings are placed centre-stage, which were illustrated by the artist known as the Wavrin Master and Loyset Liédet, respectively. Whilst Liédet is concerned with evoking a sense of the splendour and ceremony of the chivalric spectacles that the tale recounts, the Wavrin Master both borrows from the iconographical conventions of works of canon and customary law and devises his own means of visual expressions in order to bring out the moral, political and legal implications of the narrative for his courtly audience.
Professor Brown-Grant’s work to date has focused on four main areas: Christine de Pizan’s defence of women, late medieval French romances, historical writing at the court of Valois Burgundy, and text/image relations in medieval manuscripts. She is currently working on a monograph on French romances preserved in manuscripts illuminated by the Burgundian artist known as the “Maître de Wavrin” (fl. 1450s-60s).