Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Fiore dei Liberi and his treatises Fior di Battaglia/Flos Duellatorum c.1410.
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Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby Sean M » 30 Jun 2012 15:30

I posted this on SFI (link) but didn't get a reply, so thought to post it here. I hope some of the medievalists here can help.

Flipping through some notes from 2010, I noticed a question that I had forgotten to ask. As I was flipping through photos of a snazzy Italian manuscript from the 1380s (an Arthurian romance), I noticed several illuminations with a crowned figure wearing a white or gold garter at their knees. This reminded me of Fiore's choice to use gold crowns and garters as visual markers in his manuscripts. Does anyone know if gold or silver knee garters were common in northern Italian art at that time, and what they usually signified? I'm no art historian, and only an amateur medievalist who can read Latin but not any 14th century vernacular.

Its MS Francais 343 in the Bibliotheque Nationale du France (go to http://mandragore.bnf.fr/jsp/rechercheExperte.jsp, paste "Français 343" under "Cote" and click "Chercher".). Under the first result (“queste del saint graal ”) see p. 4v (Top illumination, the man with hose of two different colours) and p. 8v (the crowned figures in both halves of the illumination). My thanks to the kind people at the BNF who put this online. I've seen some pictures from this manuscript in print, but not these ones.
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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby Michael Chidester » 30 Jun 2012 16:19

It won't load the images for me, says "Le document n'existe pas ou n'a pas encore été migré."
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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby Sean M » 30 Jun 2012 16:31

Are you able to reach the purple Visalizeur page with small images you can expand, or are you stuck on the white search page? Have you tried different browsers or enabling JavaScript? It works for me on Firefox 13 with no Flash, AdBlock Plus, and Better Privacy.
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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby Michael Chidester » 30 Jun 2012 16:57

Yes, I can even load the thumbs, but when I try to pull up the individual images I get a broken image, and when I try to open the image itself in a separate tab, I get that error. It happens on both Chrome and Firefox.
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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby Sean M » 30 Jun 2012 23:17

I am having trouble loading the enlarged images today as well. I can't find a copyright statement, so here is one of the images (folio 4r). I assume its copyright BNF circa 2012, and believe this is research fair dealing under the Canadian Copyright Act and that they intend to make these images available to the public.

Francais_343_4r.jpg
BNF Manuscript Francais 343 folio 4 recto from Mandragore
Francais_343_4r.jpg (116.98 KiB) Viewed 3331 times


The crowned men are probably kings or princes of somewhere, but I can't interpret the garters. My Literature (Medieval Arthurian) skill is embarrassingly low. The BNF gloss is "Galaad retirant l'épée du perron" (probably "Galahad takes off Perron's sword" unless retirer has a special meaning in this context)
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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby admin » 01 Jul 2012 12:32

One of those is King Arthur - this is the episode where Galahad draws a sword from a stone (the 'Perron') in a river near Camelot (the legend said that only the best knight could draw it).

I have not noticed the presence of crowns and garters in association like this before - I think it probably relates to the 14thC tradition of rulers creating knightly orders with an associated symbol - in England the most famous one of course was the Order of the Garter, so the gilded garter became the symbol of the King, his sons and his closest lords. Edward III, who started it, also created a 'Round Table' of course. I'm guessing this alludes to that.
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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby Sean M » 02 Jul 2012 16:08

I didn't know that the English royal family was associated with gilded garters in particular! The Order of the Garter (founded c. 1350 if I remember correctly?) was the only 14th century garter symbolism could think of, and I wondered if that was too Anglofrancocentric for Lombardy. I'd imagine that Italian nobles had their own Arthurian LARPs to play ...
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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby admin » 03 Jul 2012 10:44

Well, despite some modern writers portraying England as some kind of backwater at this time, it really wasn't - this is one good example. The Arthurian legend was popular all over Europe and can be found in art from many areas, especially France. Edward III was trying to recreate the court of Arthur to an extent (as Henry VIII later tried again) - it's highly likely that his Order or the Garter gained some Arthurian association, though I don't know that for sure.
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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby Reinier » 05 Jul 2012 07:14

Off on a tangent, but what makes you say this is an Italian manuscript?

It looks like French to me, and the code of the manuscript (MS Francais) would also suggest that.
…en A alſoo liggende kan aen B, ſonder eenigh beletſel, met de zijde van ſijn hooft, op het aengeſicht van B, ſoo veel ſtoten als hy begeert. – Nicolaes Petter, 1674.

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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby admin » 05 Jul 2012 10:17

It's in the manuscript description on Madragore:

Auteur/Titre : queste del saint graal
Titre d'usage :
Nom de pays : italie
Origine : pavie ou milan
Siècle : 14ème siècle
Date : vers 1380-1385
Artiste :

It's from Pavia or Milan, pretty specific (not sure how they know that - presumably the art style). I'll be honest, I am not very good at telling the different between Italian and French art at this period - I suspect lots of Italian artists went to the French court anyway.
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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby Reinier » 05 Jul 2012 11:18

Ah, thanks :) I didn't notice that.


I can't tell the difference between Italian and French images at all, but I thought to see that the text was in French. On my screen here via the forum, though, it is not that clear (and I probably don't have access to the library directly here at work).
…en A alſoo liggende kan aen B, ſonder eenigh beletſel, met de zijde van ſijn hooft, op het aengeſicht van B, ſoo veel ſtoten als hy begeert. – Nicolaes Petter, 1674.

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Re: Crowns and Garters (cross-post from SFI)

Postby admin » 05 Jul 2012 12:11

Yes, the text definitely seems to be French - they must have a pretty strong opinion on why it was illustrated in Italy then. :?
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