Unique illustration cycle in a presentation copy of a very rare treatise on the art of war
24 Berault Stuart (Bernard Stewart), Traité sur l’art de la guerreIlluminated manuscript on vellum. Northern France (probably Paris), second quarter 16th century.
206 x 148 mm. 56 leaves, complete: I4 (1 pasted to front board), II-VII8,VIII4 (4 pasted to back board), first quire ruled and blank, the last six leaves of quire VII and the whole last quire ruled and originally blank, now filled with numerous later additions. – Written space 145 x 92 mm, ruled in red for 22 lines in one single column.Written in brown ink, accomplished Hybrida Libraria Currens, capitals touched in yellow, each section of the text beginning with a three-line lombard ‘Item’. 9 three-line initials in burnished gold on alternate blue and pink grounds with white penwork tracery. 7 full-page miniatures cover the measurements of the written space, meticulously executed in bright colours and liquid gold. – Slightly cockled but in excellent condition. – Light brown calf over pasteboards, 4 bands, head and tail with one wormhole, cover slightly worn.
PROVENANCE: 1. Most probably Robert Stuart (c.1470- 1543), the son-in-law of the author, for presentation to a local nobleman whose arms appear on fol. 6v, perhaps that of Maurice Guenichon or his son Jean Guenichon. 2. In the hands of the Guenichon family since the end of the 3rd quarter of the 16th century; their additions and signatures on ten blank leaves at the end of the text in secretarial hands of the late 16th to 18th century.The manuscript was most likely acquired either by Maurice Guenichon or his son, Jean Guenichon (1541-1616). 3. By descent through the family of Guenichon, in an unbroken line of provenance, to the last owners. 4. Private collection, Europe.
TEXT: Berault Stuart (engl.: Bernard Stewart, c. 1452/3-1508) was a member of the notable Scots family, the Stuarts of Darnley. He came into contact with the French court and held office there as chamberlain and royal counsellor. He occupied various military and diplomatic positions in France, Italy and Scotland. In 1508, at the end of his successful career, he returned to Edinburgh, dictating the present text during the journey to his chaplain Etienne le Jeune of Aubigny (cf. fol. 7, the preface). However, on his way he fell ill and died at Corstorphine, just west of the city. His Traité sur l’art de la guerre is a practical treatise on warfare and statecraft. On the one hand it follows Robert de Balsac’s text (c. 1500) quite closely; on the other it presents Stuart’s own ideas, the applied knowledge of an experienced military general. Original copies are extremely rare, and our manuscript is one of eight surviving examples. The present volume contains both a complete text and a full illumination cycle and is the only known copy still in private hands.The other copies are:Yale, Beinecke, ms. 659; Paris, BN, fr. 20003, fr. 1245, fr. 2070; Madrid, Bib. Naz. ms. 10105; Berlin, Staatsbibl., Hamilton 470; London, BL, Add. 20813. Among these only Yale with a complete text and BN, fr. 20003 contain illumination at all.
fol. 6v: Dedication of a book to the French king – fol. 20v: A commander directing his forces – fol. 24v: A nobleman and his servant receive written orders from a royal clerk in presence of the French king and his courtiers – fol. 31:Two noblemen survey construction work within town walls – fol. 34v: A mounted and armoured nobleman and his forces enter a fortified town – fol. 43v: Several men survey the provision of meat, fish, wheat, milk and wine within the walls of a fortified town – fol. 45v: Front view of a town with castle walls ready for siege, drawbridge raised and armed men standing on top of walls and turrets. Our illuminator emphasized three-dimensional spaces and used his ability to arrange bright colours as a means of leading the viewers’ eyes in and about his ‘illusionistic’ rooms. However, even decades after the laws of perspective in painting had been discovered, the miniaturist preferred those parallel constructions that had been used since the 14th century. The illumination is in the style of the Master of François de Rohan, and is perhaps from the same workshop that produced the copy of La Fleur de Vertu (Paris, c.1530), now Paris, BN, fr. 1877. Our illuminator’s compositions, though, are neither as crowded nor accompanied by heavy architectural frames, although his figures bear a close resemblance to a calendar- leaf, counted by Myra Orth among the works of the Master of François de Rohan-workshop (Toulouse, Musée des Augustins acq. 184.108.40.206; cf.Orth 1998, p. 78, fig. 46). Whereas our manuscript contains at least six miniatures with close reference to the text itself plus a dedicational scene, the Yale cycle (see above) must originally have consisted of only five miniatures, as the first is by a different artist and seems to have been added a little later. Only four out of the whole six in the Yale manuscript relate directly to the text.The two cycles reveal very different iconographic approaches, sharing only three motifs, while four miniatures are unique to our book. Furthermore, whereas the Yale illustration cycle deals with all kinds of martial action, attacks and ransacking, our illuminator depicts the different phases of war as if initiated by noble warlords who had in mind nothing but the benefit of towns and their inhabitants. The pictorial stress on the ‘peacefulness and nobility of war’ suggests that the intended recipient of this manuscript had very different expectations of the treatise from Stuart himself, for whom the more bellicose Yale copy was made. Stylistically, as well as in content, the two illustration cycles differ greatly, indicating that Robert Stuart had his books made at more than one workshop.A speculative theory would be that, despite their differing destinations, Robert Stuart, in commissioning our presentation copy, had a new title-miniature made for his own copy at the same workshop. Stylistic juxtaposition of the figures in the first miniature of the Yale manuscript and ours on fol. 6v and 24v permits such a hypothesis, but only a close textual and pictorial comparison would settle the question. It is interesting to note, however, that the incipit below the title-miniature in the Yale manuscript is mutilated, indicating that both illustration and incipit on this leaf were added after the completion of the book, whereas our manuscript was conceived as an integrated work of art from the very beginning.
LITERATURE: The manuscript is hitherto unpublished. Toynbee 1951; De Comminges 1976; Contamine 1976; sales cat. Sotheby’s, 13 June 1983, lot 35; Orth 1998, figs. 42, 37, pp. 74, 70; Contamine 1999; Lindquist 2004; Sutton 2007.