(active around 1412 in Paris)

Pierre Salmon: Réponses à Charles VI et Lamentation au Roi sur son état

c. 1412
Manuscript (Ms. français 165), 280 x 205 mm
Bibliothèque Publique et Universitaire, Geneva

The English translation of the full title of the manuscript: "The demands made by King Charles VI on his state and government, with a response by Pierre Le Fruitier."

In 1409 the, otherwise unknown, author Pierre Salmon wrote a political treatise discussing the state of Charles VI of France's government. The manuscript in Paris, commissioned by Charles VI (reigned 1380-1422), contains this text written in the form of a dialog between the ailing king and his counselors. Around three years later, the author republished the treatise with some amendments and omissions. This manuscript is kept in Geneva.

Both manuscripts are richly embellished with illuminations, historiated initials, and decorative marginal illustrations. These were painted in the workshop of the Boucicaut Master.

The miniature on folio 4r depicts King Charles VI sitting on the edge of his magnificent bed, while the author kneels before him and speaks. This scene is witnessed by three high-ranking observers, including the Duc de Berry in the centre.

The scene takes place in the interior of a fairly spacious room, filled with soft light. It is characteristic of the International Gothic style that the painting is crowded with a number of decorative coats of arms and emblems (the golden fleur-de-lis on the bed and the canopy, the so-called "France moderne" emblem on the upper window-pane, the king's necklet, the colours of the garments, of the round border of the bed, etc.) and with meticulously painted realistic details. These latter, such as the bolts on the windows, the fringes of the chairs, seem to include the spectator into the environment. The way naturalistic and heraldic motifs sometimes blend with one another is also characteristic, for example in the case of the border decoration or the two animals of the foreground. While enjoying the representation of the dog's collar or its curling tail or the loving gesture of the monkey, we might wonder what King John the Fearless, who is pointing at them, may be thinking about. (The monkey and the dog were heraldic beasts of the hostile Burgundian and Armagnac parties, thus their endeavour to make friends expresses a hope for the appeasement of the two parties.)

The picture should be regarded thoroughly and as slowly as the written text can be read. The miniature, the characters and the border decoration create an admirable unity. The two green wooden columns and the yellow beam provide a transition between the deep space of the picture and the two-dimensional golden frame, which springs from the initial S as does the vegetation of the border decoration, which shows somewhat more depth at the writing and less at the miniature. The four small points on the left of the initial indicate that the cream-coloured vellum is not only the space for the foliate decoration but is, at the same time, a flat sheet for the letters of the text. The letter "l" of the name "Salmon" offers the possibility for similar illusions: it compels the golden frame to deviate a bit and so, seen from the angle of the miniature, a small convexity is created, onto which the edge of the counterpane curls up.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.