Manuscript Leaf with Scenes from the Life of Saint Francis of Assisi


Not on view

Scenes from the story of Saint Francis of Assisi, as articulated in The Golden Legend—a compilation of the lives of the saints that was widely diffused in the Middle Ages—appear in the quadrants of this manuscript leaf. At the upper left the nimbed and tonsured saint is shown wearing the characteristic garb of the Franciscan order: a hooded brown robe, secured at the waist by a knotted cord, and sandals. The stigmata are visible on his feet and outstretched hands. He addresses a group of birds and two timid animals, whose whiskered muzzles and paws alone can be discerned. Depicted at the upper right is the death of Saint Francis, who is surrounded by his followers. At the lower left the saint appears through a window to revive a dead woman so that she may make her last confession. At the lower right he leads a debtor out of prison.

This leaf is part of a celebrated manuscript, already dispersed by the seventeenth century, now divided among the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Lat. 8541), the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York (M 360), the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. The legend of Saint Francis originally comprised five leaves, but the whereabouts of two of them presently are unknown. The rich gilding and lavish decoration of the profusely illustrated ensemble indicate that the manuscript was a royal commission, and the combination of scenes from the lives of the Angevin prince and Franciscan Saint Louis of Toulouse with those of the Hungarian king László, and Stanislaw, the sainted bishop of Kraków in Poland, suggests that its patrons were the Avigevin king Charles II of Hungary and his wife, Elizabeth, a Polish princess.

Manuscript Leaf with Scenes from the Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, Tempera and gold on parchment, Italian

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