Tavernier's Book of Charlemagne's Conquests

Tavernier's Book of Charlemagne's Conquests
Tavernier's Book of Charlemagne's Conquests

The manuscript book of The Conquests of Charlemagne was illustrated around 1460 by the artist Jean le Tavernier.

However, the most interesting thing about this medieval work is not the scenes representing the historical episodes related to Charlemagne, the Carolingian emperor. A particular illustrated scene is more interesting. It was common in this type of illustration work to be headed by a page in which the image of the author appeared offering the finished book to the nobleman who had commissioned the work. However,Le Taverniermust have found this formula a bit hackneyed and boring, so he complicated the scene a little more, as seen in the image shown here.

Charlemagne book by Jean le Tavernier

Book Charlemagne by Jean le Tavernier

The scene of that delivery of the book places it in a kind of hall, but takes the opportunity to develop all the scenes that could be happening in a typical medieval city at that moment.

Hence, we see a kind of meeting in which the characters could be preparing to go hunting. We know, because one of those figures, which would be the typical fop, carries a falcon in his fist, that is, it would be a day of falconry. And this one is surrounded by other men with more opulent clothing, so they would be we althy bourgeois of the city.

Also in the urban setting that the author poses to us, as in various height strata, you can see several stalls of street merchants, both with food and handicrafts, offering their products to passers-by, some of them who stop in front of the merchandise to observe it and assess its quality and price.

All in all, it's kind of a snapshot of what life would be like in a medieval town in Northern Europe in the middle of the 15th century. You can see a woman weaving, knights on horseback, a couple courting on a balcony, another representative of the common people giving a barrel of wine and beer to his lord. That is to say, a sampling of the society of the time.

This type of representations in which everyday life appears were quite common among northern European painters, unlike what was being done in those same years, for example, in Italian art . It would be a type of social prints that would shortly after reach its peak with the great Belgian painter Peter Brueghel the Elder, who no longer did it in an illustration format, but rather in paintings of considerable size. And he represented both scenes of an urban nature such as The Battle between Don Carnal and Doña Cuaresma, as well as in other performances with a more rural setting such as The Hay Harvest.

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