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The Queen's Library

Image-Making at the Court of Anne of Brittany, 1477-1514

By Cynthia J. Brown

Publication Year: 2011

What do the physical characteristics of the books acquired by elite women in the late medieval and early modern periods tell us about their owners, and what in particular can their illustrations—especially their illustrations of women—reveal? Centered on Anne, duchess of Brittany and twice queen of France, with reference to her contemporaries and successors, The Queen's Library examines the cultural issues surrounding female modes of empowerment and book production. The book aims to uncover the harmonies and conflicts that surfaced in male-authored, male-illustrated works for and about women.

In her interdisciplinary investigation of the cultural and political legacy of Anne of Brittany and her female contemporaries, Cynthia J. Brown argues that the verbal and visual imagery used to represent these women of influence was necessarily complex because of its inherently conflicting portrayal of power and subordination. She contends that it can be understood fully only by drawing on the intersection of pertinent literary, historical, codicological, and art historical sources. In The Queen's Library, Brown examines depictions of women of power in five spheres that tellingly expose this tension: rituals of urban and royal reception; the politics of female personification allegories; the "famous-women" topos; women in mourning; and women mourned.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Material Texts


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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-14

I begin my investigation with a revealing image. The stunning miniature that appears in the lavishly illuminated royal copy of the French translation of Petrarch’s Remèdes de l’une ou l’autre Fortune (BnF ms. ff r. 225) features Anne of Brittany holding her rather adult-looking four-year-old daughter, Claude of France, on her lap, surrounded by ladies of the court (fol. 165r) (Figure 1).1 ...

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Chapter One. Rituals of Entry: Women and Books in Performance

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pp. 15-62

The stunning illustration that opens Anne of Brittany’s copy of Guillaume Fillastre’s Toison d’Or (Figure 3), one of her earliest acquired books, sets the stage for my analysis of female images and power in late medieval and early Renaissance France through an investigation of coronations and entry rituals. The visual drama played out in this liminal miniature contrasts sharply ...

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Chapter Two. Female Patronage and the Politics of Personification Allegory

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pp. 63-107

Expanding upon the historical reconstruction of women in entry performances, which we examined in Chapter 1, this chapter explores the dynamics of female patronage relationships, which involved the praise of a feminine benefactor by male authors and artists, through an analysis of the literary and iconographic reconstruction of women in allegorical works. Anne of ...

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Chapter Three. Women Famous and Infamous: Court Controversies About Female Virtues

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pp. 108-180

This chapter focuses on another form of literary reconstruction, namely the “famous-women” topos, whose wide popularity in fi fteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe was generated to a large degree by the biographies in Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris. Translated into French in the early fifteenth century, Boccaccio’s work also inspired imitations, ...

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Chapter Four. Famous Women in Mourning: Trials and Tribulations

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pp. 181-244

Many of the famous women depicted in word and image in the works of Giovanni Boccaccio, Antoine Dufour, and Jean Marot included women in mourning, widows and females who, grieving at the loss or departure of their loved ones, often withdrew from society or even resorted to suicide. The verbal and visual images of women in mourning in books belonging to Anne ...

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Chapter Five. Women Mourned

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pp. 245-305

As a counterpoint to the focus in Chapter 1 on entries and as an expansion of the discussion of women in mourning in Chapter 4, Chapter 5 treats departures from this world through a study of the rituals of grief and the related transmission of images about deceased women of rank. An examination of texts dealing with the near death of Anne of Brittany in January 1512 launches ...

Appendix. Manuscript and Printed Books Associated with Anne of Brittany

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pp. 307-310

List of Abbreviations

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p. 311


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pp. 313-372


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pp. 373-392


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pp. 393-400

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pp. 401-402

I am grateful to a number of individuals and organizations that have made important contributions to the development of my ideas during my research on this project and have helped usher the book to its completion. This work would not have come to fruition without the numerous research grants I received from the UCSB Faculty Senate over the course of the project. I am ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812204902
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812242829

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 48 illus.
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Material Texts
Series Editor Byline: Series Editors: Roger Chartier, Joseph Farrell, Anthony Grafton, Leah Price, Peter Stallybrass, Michael F. Suarez, S.J. See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794700623
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Queen's Library

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Books and reading -- History -- 16th century.
  • Books and reading -- History -- To 1500.
  • Queens -- Books and reading -- Political aspects.
  • Women -- Books and reading -- Political aspects.
  • Women and literature -- Political aspects.
  • Anne, -- of Brittany, Consort of Louis XII, King of France, 1476-1514 -- Library.
  • Women -- History -- Middle Ages, 500-1500
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