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The French Renaissance of the Pagan Gods. French manuscript illuminations 1320-1420

Citation: Gay, Lorenza (2020) The French Renaissance of the Pagan Gods. French manuscript illuminations 1320-1420. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.

Lorenza Gay PhD Vols 1 and 2.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

This dissertation outlines and examines the depictions of the Greco-Roman gods in French medieval illuminated manuscripts from 1320 to 1420. The literary works that form the main corpus of sources are: the Chronologia Magna by Paolino Veneto (and its Occitan translation of the same text known as the Abreujamen de las estorias), the Ovide moralisé, the Ovidius moralizatus by Pierre Bersuire, the anonymous French translation of Boccaccio’s De Claris Mulieribus (Des cleres et nobles femmes), Laurent de Premierfait’s translation of Boccaccio’s De Casibus Virorum Illustrium (Des cas des nobles hommes et femmes), the French translations of the Thebais and Achilleis, Raoul de Presles’ translation of the De Civitate Dei, and the Epistre Othea by Christine de Pizan. As most of these literary works present multiple interpretations of the ancient deities - euhemeristic, natural, allegorical and moralising - the results of this investigation will not be presented per text, but rather in chapters that are each dedicated to a particular aspect of the interpretation of the gods and to a subsequent manner of representation. Furthermore, this dissertation will also assess the relationship between the French images and the Italian milieu. This study offers a contribution to our understanding on how and why the Greco-Roman gods were portrayed as they were in the Late Middle Ages. By closely investigating the relationship between text and images and between these images and their pictorial precedents (where available), the thesis argues that the illuminations presented a more positive view of pagan Antiquity than the writings they were made to decorate. Moreover, the dissertation shows that the images of the pagan gods found in French illuminated manuscripts are to be considered an independent iconographic tradition that developed in France, although it benefitted from the circulation of Italian humanist literary texts. Finally, this thesis also argues that a ‘French Renaissance of the Pagan Gods’ took place in the illuminated manuscripts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, before the conventional sixteenth-century French Renaissance.

Creators: Gay, Lorenza and
Subjects: History
Keywords: Manuscripts, illuminations, classical antiquity, reception, iconography
Divisions: Warburg Institute
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • September 2020 (completed)


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