(active around 1404-1408 in Paris)

Christine de Pisan: Epistles of Othea

Manuscript (Ms. français 606), 360 x 270 mm
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Christine de Pisan (1365-c. 1430) was born in Venice, and taken to France by his father who was called to serve as astrologer to the French royal court. She married by the age of 15. When her husband died in 1389, leaving her alone with three children, she sought to support herself, and so became one of the most successful writers of her time, a poet who elicited respect and appreciation from the most exalted circles. Writing in the French language, she repeatedly articulated the grievances of women in the Medieval world of men.

The present manuscript in Paris was commissioned by Louis, Duke of Orléans (1372-1407). Afterwards, and throughout the 15th century, this and other works by Christine were published in a number of illuminated manuscripts.

The manuscript contains the Epistles of Othea and other works by Christine de Pisan. In this text, Othea, a goddess invented by Pisan, instructs the young Trojan prince hector, who was probably modelled on the author's son.

On folio 39r, the wheel of fortune illustrates the cautionary tale regarding the vagaries of fortune which the goddess Othea relates to Hector. The image below illustrates the futile search for mortal joy, symbolized by the seduction of love.

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