Enough text is easily legible on the back of one of the miniatures to identify it as a passage from the description of the Dove (see Li Bestiaires d’amours di maistre Richart de Fornival, p.97 lines 5–8 and footnote). The surviving text on the back of the Hoopoe miniature ends ‘Car certes bele …’, as printed in the footnote cited above, where it continues for a further fifteen lines, and is known from only a single witness, siglum 'L', i.e. London, BL, Harley MS 273. The London manuscript is 14th-century, but the present miniatures date from within the author's lifetime (he died c.1260) or the following decades. The present cuttings therefore apparently come from a particularly rare and early recension of the text, and careful removal of the paste and paper from the backs of the two cuttings may reveal more of textual interest.
The text is thus on the verso, and the image on the recto represents one of the preceding birds, the Hoopoe (la huppe) with its distinctive crest of feathers on its head: Fournival relates that when a mother Hoopoe is in poor plumage, her chicks pull out her old feathers and look after her until new ones grow. If the other miniature was cut from the same leaf, as is likely, the black and white wading-birds can be identified as storks.
Twenty-three manuscripts of the text are known, all in European institutional collections, except one in the Comites Latentes collection in Geneva and one offered in our rooms, with good summary of the text and its importance, 3 December 2002, lot 2. If the present cuttings are, like the latter manuscript, of about the third quarter of the 13th century, as they appear to be, they are one of the earliest surviving fragments of the work. The text has been edited several times, most recently by Gabriel Bianciotto in 2009, and there are modern translations into English, French, and Italian (manuscripts and editions are listed on the ARLIMA website).
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