- A Knight for the Ages: Jacques de Lalaing and the Art of Chivalry ed. by Elizabeth Morrison
This generously proportioned volume (203 × 286 mm) celebrates the acquisition by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, of an illustrated manuscript of the Book of the Deeds of Jacques de Lalaing. The eight essays which form the second half of the volume situate the text in its cultural context and discuss the manuscript’s illustrations, ending with Anne-Marie Legaré’s attempts to identify the original patron of the manuscript and its transmission through generations of a single family. The fact that this family was that of Jacques de Lalaing, the hero of the text, makes this manuscript unique, as Elizabeth Morrison, the museum’s Curator of Manuscripts, points out in her Introduction (p. 4). While contributions by Wim Blockmans, Rosalind Brown-Grant, and Zrinka Stahuljak focus on the cultural questions relating especially to the genre of the text, Morrison’s own contribution deals with the content of the illustrations, as do essays by Hanno Wijsman, Margaret Scott, and Tobias Capwell. Scott’s essay on dress and Capwell’s on armour both [End Page 620] demonstrate that, while the text is a product of the fifteenth century, the illustrations date the production of this particular manuscript to around 1530, based on details of dress and weapons depicted. In this regard, comments on the manuscript’s palaeography might have been useful, since the hand looks more typical of an earlier period than do the illustrations. As this might suggest, the volume is more concerned with the manuscript’s illustrations than with its text. The first part is dedicated to a ‘Plot Summary; Plates and Translations’, and provides an overview of Lalaing’s chivalric biography followed by a reproduction of all the manuscript’s illustrations, each accompanied by a translation of the surrounding text. The decision only to translate the text surrounding the illustrations may serve art historians better than it does textual scholars; but then this manuscript is probably more interesting visually than it is textually. It is only at the end of the volume (p. 165) that we learn that the manuscript is bound out of order and so cannot be read in sequence. By contrast, the illustrations provide a wealth of original detail. There are eighteen in all: a frontispiece by Simon Bening and seventeen by an anonymous artist that this volume names the Master of the Getty Lalaing. These illustrations are commented on in the light of two other manuscripts that share the same programme of illustrations. Not only does this volume reproduce each of the Getty manuscript’s illustrations, but it also provides copious other images to contextualize them. The result is a rich exploration of this manuscript, especially in its visual aspects. This is not to overlook the contributors’ insights on the text of the Book of Deeds and on the fascinating career of Jacques de Lalaing, who, after a glittering career as a knight, died of a wound inflicted by a cannon in an event which Jean Rychner memorably described as being ‘tué dans une rencontre avec son siècle’ (La Littérature et les mœurs chevaleresques à la cour de bourgogne (Neuchâtel: Secrétariat de l’Université, 1950), p. 24).