WEYDEN, Rogier van der
(b. 1400, Tournai, d. 1464, Bruxelles)

Chroniques de Hainaut

c. 1448
Manuscript (Ms. 9242-44, 3 volumes), 440 x 312 mm
Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, Brussels

This manuscript contains the history of the duchy of Hainaut (in German Hennegau). Hainaut is a province of Wallonia, one of the three regions of present-day Belgium. Its numerous miniatures, borders and decorated initials were produced in the workshop of Rogier van der Weyden.

The great period of Flemish illumination began around 1445, under the patronage of Duke Philip the Good. Until that time Philip had shown little interest in commissioning manuscripts. He had inherited some 250 books from is forebears, and acquired only a few more during the first 25 years of his reign. However, he now began ordering manuscripts on a large scale. Historical and political texts, legends of saints, religious tracts, scholarly treatises and other works were the texts of these often magnificently bound and illuminated books. On Philip's death, his library amounted to about 1,000 volumes, half of them illustrated, a number that made it the largest in Europe.

The most importants of these manuscripts were connected from the first with specific political ideas and claims. The three-volume Hainault Chronicle, ordered by the duke early in this period, gives an account of the history of Hainault, a region that he had only just acquired. It traces the genealogical tree of the legitimate ruler from the Trojans to Philip's immediate ancestors.

On the page of the Goddess Diana, shown here, the worship in classical antiquity of the goddess of the hunt, Diana, identifiable by her bow and the stag, is depicted in a very contemporary Netherlandish style. The fact that the scene takes place very much earlier is indicated only by a few exotic details such as the headband of the kneeling priest, and the temple itself, a curious mixture of Romanesque and Gothic forms.