A doctor with two amputees miniature from an early copy off Bartholomaeus Anglicanus, Le Livre des proprieties des choses in the French translation of Jean Corbechon, illuminated manuscript on parchment. Northern France (Paris).
Square cutting with a clean shaven physician in white robes standing before two amputees on crotches holding an ointment pot, a carved wooden stool behind him and a shelf with other pots above him tessellated background formed from gold hairline strokes open yellow wash all within Finn gold frame 18 lines of fine vernacular French hand on rebirth scarf and damage to reverse probably showing that miniature once laid down in album or on cod the white of the face is oxidised in places and small amount of washing out of drapery small chips cut edges of miniature with slight Gloucester upper left corner of frame but overall in good and presentable condition 100 by 88 enfolding card mount.
This miniature is from an early and important copy of the French translation Bartholomaeus Anglicanus, Le Livre des proprieties des choses . It is in the hand of the artist Perrin Remiet who was documented in Paris from 1386 to 1428. He and an associate Jean de Nizieres produced other copies of the text for members of the French nobility in the years up to and around 1400 and complete copies survive in in that sold as part of the arcana collection Christie’s 7 July 2010 lot 31, for £950,000 hammer (compare the notably similar composition of the same scene reproduced on p. 57 of that manuscript in Sotheby’s catalogue of 23 June 1998, lot 52) Bibliotheque de Ste-Genevieve MS 1028 (owned by Charles d’Orleans in 1396) and Paris BnF MF fr. 216.
The author Bartholomaeus Anglicanus was a Franciscan who taught in Paris from 1224 – 31 and then in Magdeburg. Around 1245 he completed this text and it rose quickly in prominence to become one of the greatest secular unscientific texts of the Middle Ages. It aimed to encompass all knowledge on the heavens and its beings with the present miniature once standing at the head of the book on the human body and its illnesses. The French translation was made for Charles V 1338 – 1380 but his copy does not survive and the chief importance of the earliest manuscripts including this one is as witnesses to the cycle of illustration designed for him. Two other miniatures on cuttings from the same parent manuscript as this one appeared in Christie’s online sale of 29 November – 8 December 2017.
The subject of the miniature here is a rare one in mediaeval art that points to a specific moment in French history. The doctor is a rare enough figure in mediaeval art usually identified by his attribute of the urine jar but here holding a similar pot of ointment (one suspects this was a potential treatment that might prove somewhat unsatisfactory to two amputees). The amputees are far rarer and probably point to the high frequency of such injuries in contemporary France as a result of the 100 Years’ War.