Leaf from a Manuscript of Valerius Maximus

Artist: Workshop of Pierre Remiet (documented 1368–1396)

Date: ca. 1380–90

Geography: Made in Paris, France

Culture: French

Medium: Tempera, ink, and gold on parchment

Dimensions: Overall: 15 3/16 x 11 3/4 in. (38.6 x 29.8 cm)
Study mat: 19 3/16 x 14 3/16 in. (48.8 x 36.1 cm)

Classification: Manuscripts and Illuminations

Credit Line: Bequest of Gwynne M. Andrews, 1930

Accession Number: 31.134.8


Charles V, king of France from 1364 to 1380, actively encouraged the study of classical texts. Shortly before his death in 1380, the French translation that he had commissioned of the writings of Valerius Maximus was completed. Full of lessons to be learned from lively tales of Roman life, the text was soon copied for other patrons. This is the opening page of one such manuscript, created in the atelier of an illuminator known to have worked for the Duke of Orleans.

The two lower panels illustrate episodes in the text, anecdotes about Roman religion. On the left, a young priestess kneels before an altar of Ceres, the Roman goddess of the grain, in an image that resembles scenes of Christian faithful kneeling before the Virgin Mary. In the lower right panel, where a Roman priest loses his cap and then his office, the cap is shaped like a bishop's miter, and the temple in the background has the distinctive architecture of a Gothic church. In the upper two panels, the ancient past and medieval present are brought into closer comparison. On the left, the translator Simon de Hesdin presents his text to the seated Charles V. On the right, the seated figure is the Latin author Valerius Maximus, and the standing figure before him the Roman emperor Tiberius, to whom the Latin text is dedicated.