(1) Philippe de Gueldre (1467-1547), Duchess of Lorraine and of Bar, Queen of Sicily and of Jerusalem, with her ownership inscription facing the miniature, “A seur phelippe de gheldres”, apparently written by the same hand as in at least one of her other surviving books, a manuscript of Gregory the Great which was recently sold by Les Enluminures. Philippe was born at Grave in the Netherlands in 1464 as the twin sister of Charles, Duke of Guelders, the only children of Adolf of Egmond, Duke of Guelders (d.1477) and Catherine of Bourbon (d.1469). In 1485 she married René II, Duke of Lorraine, and bore him twelve children before his death in 1508. In 1519 she retired to the convent of Poor Clares at Pont-à-Mousson (about 20 miles south of Metz), and remained there until her own death, gaining a reputation for exceptional piety. For details of her life see G. Michaux, 'Gueldre, Philippe de', Dictionnaire de biographie française, 16, 1985, cols.1430-31, and M.-L. Jacotey, Philippe de Gueldre: princesse à la cour, souveraine, épouse et mère puis religieuse, 1464-1547, 2004. According to Abbé Guillaume ('Notice sur plusieurs éditions de la Vie de Philippe de Gheldres', Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie Lorraine, III, no.1, 1852, pp.373-411, esp.pp.383-4), her books were carefully preserved at Pont-à-Mousson until the Revolution; when the convent was suppressed the last abbess carried off its most precious relics to her family home at Essey-et-Maizerais, ten miles west, including Philippe’s books. They remained carefully preserved in a chest until her death in 1815 or 1816, but her heirs did not recognise the value of the books and they were given to children to play with; some were cut up and others are now lost.
(2) By 1852 the manuscript belonged to M. Le Blanc, lawyer of Woël (10 miles north-west of Essey-et-Maizerais), according to Abbé Guillaume (J.-F. Henry, Philippe de Gueldre: reine, duchesse et pauvre dame, 1947, mentions the present manuscript, whereabouts unknown, at p.95 n.23). It has been in the present owner’s family since at least the mid-20th century.
The prologue begins “Sensuit ung dialogue auquel raison console lame constituee en diverses tentations …” (f.1v), and the main text begins with Reason asking in Latin, and then French, “Quare tristis es anima mea [Psalm 41:12]. O mon ame pour quoy es tu en tristesse”; the Soul responds “La cause est clere et manifeste. Quelle ioye et liesse puis ie avoir. …” (f.2r); their dialogue ends, in French and Latin, “… O mon ame se en n[ost]re dicte collocution ya aucune utilite et prouffit la gloire et honneur en soit a dieu tout puissant. Cui honor et gloria in secula seculorum amen. Deo gratias” (f.99r). There then follow four eight-line stanzas of French verse: “Se tu es en tentation / dinstabilite muable / … / Sans lequel lomme na valeur / Force vertu ne entendement.” (f.99v).
The text is written as a conversation between the Soul and Reason, and gives instruction on meditating on the Passion, death, eternal life, etc., and cites St Bernard, Gerson, St Catherine of Siena, Ovid, and others. The text was first printed in Paris by Philippe Pigouchet for Simon Vostre, in which the prologue states that it was “fait et compose par ung religieux de la reformation de lordre de Fontevrault”. Between the end of the main text and the verses at the end is the date 1499. The text was apparently very popular: there were at least eight more editions printed in the 16th century, including at least one printed by François Regnault, of which Philippe owned a copy (see Guillaume, pp.382-3). As the text was available in print, there was little reason for anyone to commission a manuscript, unless they specifically wished to have a deluxe illuminated copy, such as the present example; we have found a record of only one other possible manuscript copy (sold in Paris in 1889; Schoenberg database no.79973, titled “Dialogue Auquel Raison Console L'Ame”, dated “1550”), and no record of any other illuminated copy. Philippe was renowned for her piety, and it is possible that the present manuscript was commissioned by, or for, her. This seems especially likely in view of the fact that the Master of Philippe de Gueldre illuminated other manuscripts for her, and that she also owned a printed copy of the text.
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