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Chapter 4 - A Note on the Decoration of C and its Artistic Context

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2022

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Summary

The decoration of Messine chansonnier C is relatively modest when compared with the Arras trouvère books A and a, or the Chansonnier du roi, M (and the troubadour manuscripts in which author portraits are a significant part of the presentation of the songs). In contrast, C belongs to a category where decoration is limited to pen-flourished initials, this in further contrast to the earlier Messine chansonnier U, whose decoration is limited to red capitals without flourishing. In C the range of such initials is especially interesting, since they are arranged in alphabetical order from A to U, each letter beginning with a large capital, three staves and lines of text high, and continuing with small capitals, one stave and text line high, for the rest of each letter (see Figure 4.1). The purpose of this chapter is to confirm the provenance of manuscript C in Metz and establish its likely date, in so far as that can be achieved. (For a summary table of the closest related Messine manuscripts to C, see appendix 4.1.)

The pen-flourished decoration in C has specific characteristics. Both large and small initials are accompanied by extensive flourishing extending into the margins. The small initials are in red or blue and flourished in the other colour, alternating. In addition to the usual ‘frog-spawn’ motifs placed alongside the left initial bar, the small initials also have rows of tiny circles (‘o’s) arranged vertically or horizontally, and the tall flourishes begin with J shapes in the opposite colour to the initials, often ending in narrow loops and tight curlicues at the top and in large loops at the bottom, generally containing a single ‘o’ motif. The infill inside the initials is generally based on spirals enclosing frogspawn, but there are also symmetrical clusters or heart-shaped motifs. Not every initial is identical, and one or another of these features may or may not be present. Overall, however, these initials are remarkably consistent in design and execution, making it likely they are the work of a single flourisher who also executed the large initials.

The large initials all have party-bars (often called puzzles), with a variety of curvilinear and rectilinear motifs in red and blue, divided by white lines left reserved, and flourishing in red with blue dots against blue flourished backgrounds – except for S, which has half blue-based and half red-based spirals inside the letter.

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A Medieval Songbook
Trouvère MS C
, pp. 52 - 74
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2022

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