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8) Three excursions; syntagmatic, paradigmatic and structural


One of the finer aspects of the continental doctoral thesis is the tradition of the excursus - a section which, while perhaps not central to the major theme, is nonetheless interesting and useful in its own right - too much so to relegate it to an appendix. The three parts of this chapter are each somewhere between a case-study and an excursus. They aim to explore aspects of narrative art which are certainly worth exploring in their own right - but they are also intended to reinforce the various principles and theories described in the preceding chapters.

In my introduction I suggested that a study of visual narratology could be tackled from any of three distinct approaches; the syntagmatic (i.e. the various physical contexts in which narrative images appear, seen as discrete components in the structured assemblage that constituted the complete visual narrative structure to which a particular community was exposed), the paradigmatic (the different subjects for narrative images - the interchangeable elements that can fit into the spaces in the syntagma) and the structural (the general underlying characteristics of narratives and narrative art).  The following three excursuses are included as demonstrations of these different approaches. Section 8.a addresses the visual narratives associated with a particular type of object (in this case, Limoges enamel reliquary chests), 8.b addresses the visualisations of a particular narrative subject (Genesis chapter 40), while 8.c concerns the visualisations of a particular narrative structure (the topos of losing, and finding but not recognising).  One should not read too much into the specific choices here. Limoges enamels were chosen to demonstrate the syntagmatic axis (rather than say, portal sculpture or stained glass), partly because they constitute a manageably discrete but diverse group of objects and also because they have been the subject of a handful of recent papers discussing their narrative imagery. Genesis chapter 40 was chosen for the paradigmatic axis partly because it appears in a wide range of media but mainly because it offers a chance to revisit the subjects addressed in chapter 5 and demonstrate diegetic embedding in action.  

So although these excurses can be read as brief studies of (hopefully) interesting narrative themes, they are offered primarily as models of how the three main components of a Summa narratologica (i.e. the syntagmatic, the paradigmatic and the structural axes) might be constructed.


8.a) syntagmatic excursus - the narratives of Limoges enamel

8.a.1) Background

The champlevé enamel objects associated with the Limoges region of central France constitute a type whose production was limited to a relatively small geographical area and chronological range but which, through processes that included diplomatic gifting, trade, furta sacra and simple looting, quickly found their way into churches and monasteries all over Europe (and later into private collections and museums). They are therefore invaluable as a neatly focused case-study for narrative development and transmission in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.

The art of enamelling is a surprisingly old one. The cloisonné technique originated in the Eastern Mediterranean around the fifteenth century BC while champlevé enamels were widely used by the tribes of north-west Europe to adorn horse trappings as early as the third century BC.  Around the start of the eleventh century AD, a number of centres which were already associated with metalworking, such as the Meuse and lower Rhine valleys, began branching out into enamel-work. By the middle of the twelfth century, the area of Aquitaine centred on Limoges had also developed its own enamel industry, manufacturing a range of liturgical and secular objects, both for local consumption and for export. The full catalogue of products attributed to the Limoges workshops includes such items as crosiers, cruets, cups, (particularly the paired cups known as gemellions), censers, mirror cases, pyxes, processional crosses, altar frontals, tomb plaques, sword pommels and many other things besides. I shall however focus the bulk of this discussion on reliquary chests, partly for reasons of economy, partly because of their relatively good survival rates but mostly because these were the enamelled objects most typically embellished with narrative scenes.

The favoured technique in the Limousin was champlevé enamelling, where shallow cells are gouged out of a metal sheet, filled with powdered frit, fired, and finally smoothed and polished with an abrasive paste. 1  Unlike the gold-ground cloisonné method which had dominated enamel production in the classical and Byzantine worlds, champlevé enamelling  was done on thick plaques of copper or bronze. It was therefore relatively robust, resistant to the torsional forces that cause enamels to flake away and (equally important in terms of historical survivability) far less likely to have been melted down for its precious metal content. As a result, survival rates for such objects are relatively good and there are plenty of extant examples to study, even if in some cases the enamel plaques have been separated from their original substrates.

[190] The golden age of Limoges enamel chests, at least in terms of quality, was roughly 1160-1190. This was the period when works such as the St Valerie chests in the British Museum and Hermitage collections and the St Stephen (Gimel) and St Martial (Louvre) chests  were produced (see Fig. 8.01, Fig 8.02 and Fig. 8.03). Works from this period are characterised by rich vermiculé engraved backgrounds and by lively figures with Romanesque draperies, acting out scenes in polyscenic narratives. In the thirteenth century, however much one might wish to avoid anachronistic value judgements, the quality of Limoges enamelled chests rather gave way to quantity. In particular, from the second quarter of the thirteenth century onwards one finds a large number of chests with much simplified narratives, usually restricted to one side or just one plaque and with increasingly stylised figures. By the start of the fourteenth century, enamel production in the Limousin was in decline though it dragged on until 1370, when Edward the Black Prince sacked Limoges in a particularly bloody fashion, temporarily killing off the enamel industry, along with much else besides.

In passing, it is worth mentioning that doubts have periodically been raised about the proportion of works described as Opus lemovicensis¸ or ‘Limoges enamel’ that were actually made in the historical province of the Limousin, let alone within the town walls of Limoges itself.2   However, whilst some champlevé enamel items were undoubtedly manufactured in Catalonia or Roussillon or elsewhere, these generally follow the forms and decorative vocabulary of Limoges enamels proper. For this reason I will use ‘Limoges enamel’ as a convenient term for all the ‘southern’ (as distinct from Mosan) enamel production.

8.a.2) Historiography

One of the challenges in presenting any survey of the narratives of Limoges enamels remains (at least for the present)  the relative paucity of published material. There is the usual nineteenth century Magnum liber, in the form of Ernest Rupin’s 1890 study l’Oeuvre de Limoges, with its 650 or so pages and more than 500 line drawings and photogravures, covering the full gamut of southern champlevé production. Despite a certain chauvinism and the inevitable omission of some key objects then unknown, Rupin’s book remains the most useful general survey. As with many other ‘minority interest’ art-forms, the presence of such an authoritative tome, even one limited to a print-run of only two hundred copies, may have discouraged later writers from tackling the subject anew. During the twentieth century there were a few more specialised contributions  from  authors  working on particular collections.3 W. L. Hildburgh’s [191] Medieval Spanish Enamels and their Relation to the Origin and the Development of Copper Champlevé Enamels of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (Oxford, 1936) was a bold but largely unsuccessful attempt to challenge the traditional view of Limoges as both cradle and powerhouse of southern enamel production and redirect part of that honour towards Spanish workshops. W. F. Stohlman’s Gli Smalti del Museo Sacro Vaticano (Vatican City, 1939), based on his experiences of cataloguing the Vatican’s collections attempted something similar, but favouring thirteenth century Italian champlevé enamel production. The long view has not greatly favoured either of these attempts to rewrite the history of champlevé enamels. By far the most influential twentieth century author on Limoges enamels was Marie-Madeleine Gauthier, who not only published several invaluable books and articles herself but was also the instigator and driving force behind the hugely ambitious plan for a comprehensive multi-volume catalogue of all known specimens of Limoges enamel - the Corpus des Emaux méridionaux.  The project stalled somewhat after Gauthier’s death in 1998 and although work continued, at the time of writing only the first volume has made it into publication. 4

Although any museum with the least pretensions to a ‘Medieval Europe’ section is likely to have some examples of Limoges enamel on display, there are few major specialist collections and works are widely dispersed. One of the last significant private holdings of Limoges enamels, the Keir Collection, was sold off in a notoriously disappointing auction at Sotheby’s New York in November 1997, having previously been exhibited at the British Museum and elsewhere. 5 The failure of the Keir Collection sale was all the more surprising given that it followed hot on the heels of a major exhibition of Limoges enamels staged in Paris and New York (at the Louvre and Metropolitan Museums) from 23rd October 1995 to 16th June 1996 - an exhibition which was, as the Burlington’s reviewer pointed out, the very first of its kind in a mere 106 years since the publication of Rupin’s book.6   The Louvre/Met exhibition brought together a large number of items which had rarely been exposed to the critical gaze of the art-historical community, either individually or as a group. This exhibition and its excellent, richly illustrated catalogue (printed both in French and English editions)  subsequently inspired others to write about Limoges enamels from a less medium-centric view. 7


8.a.3) Physical appearance

The enamel reliquary chests on which this chapter will focus are remarkably consistent in their physical form. They were generally constructed around a sturdy wooden core, onto which individual plaques of enamelled copper were attached using round-headed nails. Some later models dispensed with the wooden core and are made of thick plates which lock together with tenons and pegs - but the general format remains the same. The basic shape in nearly all cases is that of a simple building with flat sides and ends and a double-pitched roof, usually with a pierced decorated ridge along the top (see Figure 6). This form has obvious prototypes in a primitive building type (or perhaps more relevantly, in the Etruscan and then Roman sarcophagi which were themselves emulating early houses or temples) and had been used for at least one important Merovingian reliquary chest, though it did not become a standard design until the twelfth century.8 Traditionally, relic containers adopted forms like the Carolingian ‘purse reliquary’ or the Byzantine flask-type reliquary, both of which pragmatically reflect the conventional shapes of containers for valuable commodities, solid or liquid. Alternatively they would emulate the shape of the object or body part they purported to contain - arm or head reliquaries for bones or skull-fragments, crosses for the True Cross, crowns for spines from the Crown of Thorns, etc. Finally, there was the rich strand of ‘microarchitectural’ reliquaries, emulating buildings in a range of styles from Byzantinising to rayonnant. Given such variation elsewhere it is perhaps surprising how consistent and unchanging the Limoges reliquary’s design remained, once it was adopted in the first half of the twelfth century. Perhaps the earliest surviving example from Limoges is the Bellac Châsse, dated to c.1120-40 and apart from a few mid thirteenth century chests which added a simple transept to this basic form, plus the occasional oddity like the Ambazac Châsse, the simple pitched-roof coffer form remained the standard for Limoges reliquaries right up until the end. 9  Though such formal conservatism may strike modern audiences as lack of imagination, as with the topic structure of saintly vitae, the repetition of the same basic form must have helped accentuate what all these chests had in common: Just as all saints partake of their common sanctity, so do all Limoges chests, by emphasising their similarity, construct a common identity and a shared mode of reception.

From the viewpoint of an artist seeking to decorate a chest with narrative or other scenes, the pitched-roof format provides six distinct planar fields (two long sides, the two ‘roof’ slopes and [193] the two gabled ends).  Typically each of these surfaces was made from a separate sheet of metal, which raises the possibility that an individual chest may contain plaques by more than one hand, either because of workshop practice (the presence of assembling marks on the backs of some thirteenth century plaques, corresponding to similar marks on the wooden core, seems indexical of some form of production-line workshop practice) or as a result of later interventions. 10  For convenience, when describing the images on chests I will follow the Corpus des Émaux méridionaux and refer to these areas as A-F, as shown in Figure 6. 11 To distinguish individual narrative scenes depicted on a single plaque, I will use A1, A2, A3 etc, always counting from left to right.

Figure 6 - General form of a chest showing labelling of the six image field

Figure 6 - General form of a chest showing labelling of the six image fields

Thus A and B are the flank and roof of the obverse, C and D likewise on the reverse, while E and F are the left and right gabled ends. Generally it is rare to find narrative scenes on all six surfaces. In the majority of examples, the gabled end plates each contain a single standing iconic figure of a saint or apostle, and while in some early examples we find narrative images [194] stretching along both of the long sides, it is more common to find the story restricted to the body and roof surfaces of just one side, with the reverse decorated with geometric motifs.

Since the nominal raison d’etre for a chest is to contain precious things, it comes as no surprise that there was normally provision for accessing (and controlling access to) the internal space. Sometimes this was achieved through a flap in the base of the chest, or by having either one face or the whole roof hinged, though more often there was a lockable door in one or other of the gable ends (E or F in Figure 6). Since, as mentioned, these hinged end plaques normally contained the single figure of a standing saint or apostle, it comes as no surprise that there are a great many chests where the physical keyhole is immediately adjacent to a set of keys held by St Peter. This multilayered visual pun not only emphasises the function of the hole but also sets up an equivalence between the locked door of the reliquary and the locked gates of heaven as twin guardians of the sacred. It thereby serves as another reminder of the very real link between the corporeal relics inside the box and their original owners, now amongst the Church Triumphant, thus helping to valorise the box and its contents, and emphasise the efficacy of both as a conduit for intercessory prayers.

8.a.4) Functions and Patterns of Usage

One of the main challenges when seeking to construct a reception model for the narratives on reliquary chests is our ignorance of how they were originally stored and the manner in which they were displayed in public.  Although there is no direct evidence for this, it is possible to speculate on the basis of circumstantial and pragmatic factors.

Cynthia Hahn has claimed that

Rather than viewing the chasses as static art objects, twelfth- and thirteenth-century spectators would have had a chance to compare reliquaries in action during the processions and relic meetings for which Limoges is famous.12

Limoges does indeed have a long tradition of relic processions.  In fact the Ostensions Limousin date back to November 994, when Aquitaine, like much of Europe, was in the grip of a plague known as the Mal des Ardents (most likely an epidemic of ergotism caused by infected rye). 13 According to the chronicler at the Abbey of St Martial in Limoges, Abbot Geoffrey responded to this disaster by calling upon their saintly founder for aid; the whole city fasted for three days, after which St Martial’s body was taken from its tomb, as were the bodies of St Valerie and St Leobon, and the three saints were carried in procession around the walls of the town, followed [195] by the local populace and all the main prelates of Aquitaine. Once the ceremonies were completed, the epidemic ceased and those who had been sick gradually recovered. A resurgence of the epidemic exactly 100 years later was treated in the same way whilst the chronicles of St Martial also record several other eleventh century processions of the saints’ bodies. As well as outbreaks of disease, these ostensions were prompted by acts of war (in 1183, relics were carried around walls of Limoges during a siege by Henry Plantagenet) and for defence against floods and storms. In November 1211, the chronicler of the Abbey of St Martial, Bernard Ithier, recorded that he had been charged with showing (monstrare) the relics of the saints to omni populo Lemovicensi on an annual basis.14 Unfortunately, nothing in the chronicles tells us exactly how, or in what kind of containers, the relics were processed or displayed and one must be careful to avoid anachronistic assumptions about the role of our familiar Limoges enamel chests in such events. Accounts of the earliest relic processions suggest that the entire body was carried, which would have required a large catafalque, rather than a small casket (although of course this may account for the standard shape later adopted for Limoges relic chests).

At end of the eleventh century, the head of St Martial (most important of the Limousin saints) was separated from the rest of his body. In 1130 it was placed in a gold chest beneath the great altar of the church of Saint-Sauveur, where many miracles were attributed to it, and from where it was carried in procession every Easter Monday. By 1130 it is certainly possible that this chest could have taken the familiar pitched-roof form, though this is far from being a practical shape for a skull-reliquary and at this date it is unlikely to have been historiated with narrative scenes.  By 1211 however, it is almost certain that some of the relics which Bernard Ithier was obliged to show to ‘all the people of Limoges’ were contained in reliquaries of the pitched-roof chest type, and it is even possible (though of course there is no evidence for this) that some of the chests shown in the Louvre/Metropolitan Museum exhibition may have been used in those ostensions. In practice however, the spaces inside most of these chests would have been far too small for major bodily relics like a whole skull.  In the case of the St Martial chest shown in Fig. 8.02, allowing for the thickness of the wooden panels, the internal space cannot measure much more than about 12x8x4 cm. For purely practical reasons, it seems more likely that these smaller chests were intended for housing fragments of bone or other small relics for distribution to institutions other than the abbey or church possessing the bulk of the saint’s remains.

This brings us back to the question of how the reliquary chests were displayed. It is tempting to imagine them being carried in the Ostensions Limousins as Hahn suggests,through a crowd of adoring locals who would diligently read the narrative images on each side as they passed by. Such an view does not however stand up to close scrutiny. Firstly, Ithier’s comment in the 1211 chronicle [196] simply notes that he is to ‘show’ the relics to the people of Limoges - there is no mention of them being processed on an annual basis in the way that was done in response to the forces majeurs of 994, 1094 and 1183 or in the more modern festivals. This ‘showing’ might simply have involved opening the cupboard in which the relics were kept and allowing the laity to view from afar. More importantly, there is once again the practical issue of size. Of the three twelfth century chests that featured in the Louvre/Metropolitan Museum exhibitions (and in Cynthia Hahn’s discussion of their ‘interpictoriality’)  two are slightly smaller than an A4 sheet of paper while the other is less than half that size. The narrative scenes, split into two horizontal registers within that limited space, are far too small to have been legible to anyone standing more than a few yards away from the procession (the largest figures in the narrative scenes on the largest chest are about 7cm high), while the suggestion that viewers might have been able to move around the chest to follow the story on the other side does not tally with any real experience of attending crowded and bustling religious festivals. Finally, there is the issue of ‘sidedness’ - only a tiny handful of chests have narrative scenes on both the long sides.  The great majority (and the proportion increases as the medium develops) have narrative scenes on just one side, with purely decorative enamels or occasionally iconic figures on the other. This one-sidedness of reliquary chests might lead one to visualise them sitting on an altar or else in the kind of heavy wooden storage cupboards that were used in cathedral treasuries. It would also have been ideal for concealing or revealing the saint’s narrative according to the liturgical calendar by simply turning it around. It is not however a format optimised for viewing in the round during a procession through a crowded city.

Instead, I would argue that every aspect of the Limoges enamel reliquary chest is designed for a more intimate and contemplative mode of reception. On a purely aesthetic level, the colour palette of Limoges enamels works best in subdued lighting, where the vermiculé grounds would have sparkled and shimmered in candlelight. The scale of the objects, their apparent preciousness and the amount of narrative detail all encourage a close physical relationship between object and viewer. This physical proximity would have been all the more charged when the viewer, reading the events of a saint’s life depicted on the side of the chest, reflected that the subject of those narratives was physically present, just an inch or two the other side of the enamelled plaque. In gazing at the saint’s vita and reflecting on the sacrifices therein portrayed, they were also gazing at the point of contact between that saint’s bodily remains and the earthly realm of the viewer.

8.a.5) Limoges enamel reliquary chests; Subject Matter

Given the prominence of the Passion in most other contexts of relic display, it perhaps surprising how few Limoges-style chests (in purely relative terms) are dedicated to Christological narratives in general and to Passion scenes in particular.  The Crucifixion appears [197] on a number of chests of course, particularly in the late twelfth century, though generally these follow a format that emphasises the symbolic at the expense of the narrative; typically a rather hieratic crucified Christ, flanked by Mary and John, often with personifications of the sun and moon above the arms of the Cross (e.g. Fig. 8.09B or panel A2 on the Mozac Châsse shown in Fig. 8.07). In almost all cases the emphasis is very much on the triumphant, rather than the suffering Christ. Other scenes from the life of Christ appear in one or two isolated examples, though generally without any clear pattern.15

The only chest featuring anything like a conventional passion cycle is the Nantouillet Châsse, a relatively large chest (28x19x12 cm) now in the Musée municipal in Meaux, dating from around 1180-85 (See Fig 8.10A). 16 Although the central scene is a Descent from the Cross, the emphasis is clearly on the Resurrection and particularly on the Magdalen’s role as witness, which has led Marie-Madeleine Gauthier to suggest that the chest may originally have housed relics of her namesake. The scenes included (See plan - Fig 8.10A) are  The Descent into Limbo (A1), Descent from the Cross (A2), Meeting on the Road to Emmaus (A3), the Visitatio Sepulchri (B1), the Noli me Tangere (B2) and  the Annunciation to the Apostles (B3).  Most of the scenes are quite conventional, except for the Visitatio Sepulchri, which shows Mary Magdalen kneeling down inside the tomb and peering under the shroud. 17 In his obsessive search for iconographical details that could conceivably be connected to liturgical drama, Emile Mâle convinced himself that this detail of Mary lifting the shroud was a direct response to the version of the Visitatio Sepulchri found in the Regularis Concordia.  In this acted-out trope prepended to the Easter Sunday mass,  three monks dressed as the Holy Women took the shroud from the empty tomb and hold it up before the congregation as they all sang ‘The Lord is Risen...’. 18  However Mâle overlooked the fact that this was in a distinctly English troper, demanding far more ‘dramatic re-enactment’ than was normal in continental monasteries. In particular it is very different from the version of the Visitatio Sepulchri found in the service book of the monastery of St Martial in Limoges, which lacks any kind of dramatic rubrics whatsoever, something that led Karl Young to conclude that their version of the trope ‘was intended merely as a liturgical embellishment of the preceding responsory, and was not performed as a play’. 19 Hence the Magdalen’s actions on the Nantouillet Châsse, rather than being a visual record of some non-existent proto-theatricals, served simply to emphasise [198] Christ’s physical absence from the tomb (an action that would have a particular resonance if this reliquary had once housed a relic of Christ himself, or perhaps a fragment of the shroud). This emphasis on the resurrection is also marked by a deliberate twist in the  narrative sequence; the episodes follow a simple bottom-left to top-right pattern except that the two first scenes (A1 & A2) are transposed. This is clearly done to keep the all-important Cross in the central position, but it also means that in scene B1, where Mary Magdalen is reaching into the empty tomb, she is positioned directly above A1, where Christ is in a similar pose reaching into Hell to pluck out Adam. Quite apart from the postural echo, this also creates the (slightly anachronistic) suggestion that Christ is not there to be found in scene B1 because He has descended into the scene below.

Turning to other Christological narratives, the one event from Christ’s life that appears on a disproportionately large number of Limoges chests is the Adoration of the Magi, known from at least 30 surviving examples.  The translation of the relics of the Magi from vanquished Milan to up-and-coming Cologne in 1164 (Frederick Barbarossa’s gift to his chancellor, Archbishop Rainald of Dassel, for the latter’s aid in the struggle between Holy Roman Empire and Rome) was to make Cologne one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in medieval Europe.  The interest in the Three Magi inspired by that translation is evident in the increasing popularity of depictions of their story in various media from the late twelfth century onwards and in the elaboration of the details of their identities and the events of their journey (for example in Petrus Comestor’s  Historia Scholastica). As Mâle put it,  ‘These mysterious and vaguely defined figures excited such lively interest that legend supplied what St Matthew had omitted’. 20 Although Nicholas of Verdun’s great Dreikönigenschrein (perhaps the most famous product of all the Mosan metalworking and enamelling workshops), is the most obvious manifestation of this new devotion, at least in terms of reliquaries, many Limoges chests  featuring the Adoration of the Magi were in circulation well before the unveiling of the new shrine in 1220. It seems unlikely that Archbishop Rainald and his successors would have started breaking up the Magi’s relics before they had even been re-housed. It is quite possible however that this sudden profusion of Magi reliquaries around the end of the twelfth century is because they were made to house fragments of the original tomb in Milan, sanctified by long contact with their saintly bodies.21 The Three Magi were of course the very first pilgrims in Christian history and therefore ideal objects for pilgrimage-related iconography.  Of all the 30 or so surviving Epiphany chests (most of which are remarkably similar), one that really stands out is a late example, probably from around 1270, now in the Musée des Beaux Arts at Guéret (Fig. 8.10D). The flank (plaque A) of this small chest shows a perfectly conventional scene of the three Magi presenting [199] their gifts to the enthroned Madonna and Child while their horses wait patiently on the left. The scene on the lid (plaque B), by contrast, is quite possibly unique among reliquary chests (and rare enough in any context) in that it seems to show a scene of pilgrimage in action. In the central third of the panel are three arches covering what appear to be three tombs (the visible masonry and absence of liturgical paraphernalia mitigates against their being altars). Hanging over the middle one is a small rectangular icon of the Madonna and Child - possibly the only depiction of a devotional painting within a medieval enamel image. To the left of this scene are three female figures approaching with covered heads, while approaching from the right are three male pilgrims - complete with pilgrim hats, satchels and staves.  The fictive architecture here is interesting; the central three arches are lower and have heavy capitals, perhaps suggesting a crypt setting. Furthermore, the three women on the left are shown beneath an arcade, whilst the male pilgrims approaching from the right are not - could this perhaps indicate that the shrine is within a female monastic setting? Exactly what is depicted in this scene remains frustratingly uncertain.22 At the very least, an image on the side of a reliquary showing pilgrims visiting a shrine, presumably to see a reliquary is an example of self-reflexivity that seems calculated to help the viewer situate him- or her-self in relation to the relic within and also in relation to the ongoing narrative of Christian pilgrimage that began with the Epiphany scene on the side panel.

8.a.6) The St Valerie Chests; a case of narrative condensation?

There are around 20 surviving Limoges chests depicting scenes from the martyrdom of St Valerie, making it the third most popular narrative subject for the medium (after the martyrdom of Thomas Becket and the Epiphany).  Although in the Middle Ages she became a widely known and much revered figure in her own right, Valerie is one of those saints who developed out of an imagined or peripheral character in some other saint’s vita - in this case that of St Martial, the ‘Apostle of Aquitaine’. Neither Valerie nor her mother, Susanna, appear in any of the early texts - Valerie herself merits just three lines in a ninth century sermon on St Martial, in which she is simply mentioned as a local virgin who suffers martyrdom after being converted by the saint.  The expanded version of their story emerges in a second, much longer vita of St Martial, falsely attributed to his successor, Bishop Aurelian, but probably composed around the middle of the tenth century.23 According to this, Valerie was the daughter of a Roman governor [200] of Aquitaine, who had recently been killed in the Germanic wars, and Susanna, a Gallo-Roman noblewoman.  She was engaged to her father’s successor, a young duke named as Julius Silanus. While her fiancé was away on an expedition, St Martial arrived in Limoges on his apostolic mission to convert the Gauls and was received by Valerie and her mother. He performed several miracles, including healing one of Susanna’s servants, who was possessed by a demon (this is the scene on the left of Plaque A on the chest shown in Fig. 8.02). Valerie and her mother converted to the Faith and gave St Martial all their property. Valerie then obtained the saint’s permission to break off her engagement, consecrate her virginity to Christ and give her entire dowry to the church. When the Duke returned to Limoges, he learnt that his erstwhile fiancée was now betrothed to another and in his fury he condemned her to death. His squire, Hostarius led Valerie out of the town to the place of execution but on the way she told him that he too would die before nightfall. On reaching the appointed place, Hostarius sliced off Valerie’s head - but she deftly caught it in her hands and remained standing defiantly upright, her firmly planted feet leaving a permanent impression in the marble slab. The astonished crowd of onlookers watched her soul rising to heaven in a fiery ball carried by singing angels, and many were converted on the spot. Meanwhile, Valerie carried her head to the cathedral and placed it into the hands of St Martial, who had been preparing to celebrate the Mass. The executioner, Hostarius, who witnessed all that has happened rushed to tell the Duke, but was then struck down by a bolt of lightning and killed, just as Valerie had predicted. The legend of St Martial then goes on to tell how the Duke begged the bishop to revive his servant, which he did. The Duke himself then converted, was baptised as Stephen (‘Tève le Duc’) and devoted the rest of his life and wealth to serving Christ, building a hospital in his former fiancée’s honour and erecting the Church of Saint-Pierre-du-Sépulcre on the spot where St Martial had buried her remains.

In 985 Valerie’s relics were translated from Saint-Pierre-du-Sépulcre to Chambon-sur-Vouieze. At around the same time, an anonymous author composed an independent account of the Life and Miracles of St Valerie, thereby liberating her from being a bit-part in St Martial’s narrative.24 Some of her relics were subsequently taken back to Limoges Cathedral and distributed near and far, presumably in an effort to promote and spread her cult.  We know for example that some time between 1160 and 1165, with the agreement of the cathedral chapter, the Abbot of St Martial, Pierre II du Bari, gave part of the relics of St Martial and St Valerie to three canons sent from England by the Bishop of Lincoln.25 That the ivory chest in which the English canons carried their treasure home was the gift of a local bishop from Crozant points [201] towards a policy in the region during the second half of the twelfth century of actively promoting the saints of Limoges, perhaps adding weight to the argument that some of the spectacular Limoges enamel chests of this period (such as the ones shown in Fig. 8.01 etc) were also made for such gifts, rather than for use locally.

Comparing the story detailed above with the known depictions on reliquary chests, we can distinguish six episodes, or {chronotopic} frames (see chapter 3.a) which find their way into one or more of the visual discourses. Table 11 contains a list of those episodes, together with the form their visualisations take (where appropriate the {chronotopic} frames are broken down into the distinct moments which can be shown in an image). Table 12 then lists the twelve St Valerie chests for which I have been able to find information (out of the twenty which are known to exist), together with details of which of the visual elements listed in Table 11 are present on each plaque.

Table 11 - Martyrdom of St Valerie; Narrative Functions and their visualisations

Chronotopic frame

Distinct moments which could be depicted

1) The Duke orders Valerie’s execution

1.1 - Seated Duke giving the order
1.2 - Executioner (Hostarius) leading Valerie away

2)  Valerie is decapitated

2.1 - pre-decapitation; sword raised
2.2 - pre-decapitation; sword on Valerie’s neck
2.3 - post-decapitation; Valerie holding severed head in her hands

3)  Valerie carries her head back towards the Cathedral

3 - Valerie carrying her head

4) Valerie presents her head to St Martial, who is celebrating mass

4 - Valerie presents her head to St Martial

5) Hostarius reports events to the Duke and is struck dead by lightning

5.1 - The Duke seated on his throne receives the news
5.2 - Hostarius is struck dead

6) Valerie’s funeral

6.1 - Placing of Valerie’s body in the tomb
6.2 - Valerie’s soul carried up to heaven26



optional extras (these are elements which may appear in the visualisation of one or more scene):

a - hand of God
b - lightning bolt
c - presence of witnesses (other than Hostarius)
d - an angel supporting Valerie by the shoulders

The chests for which information was available are listed in Table 12. The numbers refer back to the ‘Narrative details’ column of Table 11 and list those elements which are present [202] in the image, working from left to right across the plaque. A ‘+’ sign indicates that both elements appear in the same part of the image. The ‘/’ indicates a break in the image field, marked by a caesura or frame boundary. Lower case letters after the ‘Narrative details’ number indicate the ‘optional extras’ which appear in some of the images. These items are a mix of informants and internal indices, which don’t modify the story but which add information - see the last row of Table 11 for details. As an example, the description of Plaque B on the Hermitage chest is; ‘5.1+5.2b / 3d / 4d’ - in other words, on the left of the roof panel is the Duke hearing the news (5.1) and his servant being struck down (5.2) by a lightning bolt (optional extra - b), to the right of this is Valerie carrying her head (3), supported by an angel (d), then finally further still to the right, Valerie is shown giving her head to St Martial (4), still supported by the angel (d).

Table 12 - Summary of narrative details (see Table 11 ) of various St Valerie chests

Chest 27



Plaque A

Plaque B

British Museum



1.1+1.2 / 2.3ac

5.1+5.2b / 3d / 4d




1.1+1.2 / 2.3ac

5.1+5.2b / 3d / 4d

Ex Keir (Sotheby’s 1997)



5.1+5.2b / 4d

1.1+1.2 / 1.2 / 2.1




5.2b / 4a

1.1 / 2.2 / 3




5.2b / 4a

1.1 / 2.1




5.2b / 4

2.2? / 1.1

Louvre (ex. Corroyer)



5.2 / 4a


Ex. Dormeuil








1 / 4ad


















The British Museum and Hermitage chests (Fig. 8.03) are almost identical, though the former is slightly longer and less high. Cynthia Hahn was convinced that the Hermitage chest (which featured in the 1996 Metropolitan Museum exhibition) is the original and the British Museum [203] chest (which did not) is a copy, although she gave no evidence to justify this reversal of the usual dating. I follow Gauthier in regarding the British Museum chest as the prototype.28

The chest that was until recently in the Dormeuil collection (sold Sotheby’s Paris, 19/11/2007, lot 12 - see Fig. 8.05A) is an aberrant form in two respects; in plaque B there is an additional executioner figure to the right who serves no narrative purpose but does help to balance the composition, while in plaque A, (based on the Munich model) the hand of God appears twice, once over St Valerie and once over the altar.

Plaque A of the Minden chest (Fig. 8.04C) contains a marvellously  economical telling of episodes 1, 2 & 3. The Duke is shown seated left, giving the order, then we see the executioner marching right with his sword over his shoulder but with his head turned, facing back towards his master. Next is Valerie, assisted by an angel, kneeling to present her head to St Martial. Thus the executioner is a hinge function (see chapter 3.e) linking together the severely slimmed-down episodes of the issuing and the execution of Valerie’s death sentence, whilst also standing in as witness to her cephalophory.

As should be clear from Table 12  and the accompanying plates, in narratological terms we can distinguish three distinct groups of chests depicting the story of St Valerie. 29  The two late twelfth century examples  now in the British Museum and Hermitage collections, which tell the story of Valerie’s sentence, martyrdom and cephalophory in several scenes, belong to the first group. The curious chest of around 1280 (formerly in the Keir collection - Fig. 8.05A) with scenes from the lives of St Valerie and St Martial also follows this form, at least for the scenes on its obverse, even though the ordering of the scenes is different. The second group are the Meilhac-type chests, dating from the second quarter of the thirteenth century, which show a condensed version of the martyrdom on the roof (plaque B) with the subsequent miracles [204] (presentation of Valerie’s head to St Martial and the death of her executioner) on plaque A. Thirdly we have the broadly contemporary  Minden/Munich type, with an even more condensed version of the narrative restricted to plaque A, leaving plaque B free for a standardised entombment scene (a visual topos which appears in an almost identical format on myriad other chests from this period, including all of the Thomas Becket chests shown in Fig. 8.06).

All of these chests are too small to have contained a major bodily relic such Valerie’s skull and were presumably intended instead for  fragments of bone or scraps of clothing, such as might be given to an important church within the See of Limoges, or perhaps sent to some more distant religious house, in an effort to promote and spread the cult (as the 1160’s gift to the Bishop Lincoln would suggest was already happening).

Thus our St Valerie reliquaries begin in the 1170’s with two high-quality and relatively large chests featuring five or six distinct narrative stages, each complete with detailed settings and props (informants) such as the buildings and the Dukes throne.30 Some forty or fifty years or so later when, as Bernard Ithier tells us, interest in the Limoges saints was being fed by annual ‘showings’ of their core relics, two more groups of St Valerie reliquary chests are made.  One group (Eslohe, Meilhac, etc) feature much simplified narratives, showing her martyrdom and cephalophory in two highly condensed scenes, with no extraneous detail, while a third group (Munich, Minden, Eisenach, etc) reduce the distinctive parts of the narrative yet further to occupy only plaque A, with the lid instead showing the kind of entombment or elevation of the soul that could (and did) apply to almost any saint - see for example the various Becket chests in Fig. 8.06, or the scenes with the entombments of Saint Calminius and Namadia on the Mozac Châsse (Fig. 8.07 panels D1 and D2).  This reduction of the overall narrativity can be seen as a process of narrative condensation, in which the hero’s ‘back-story’ is gradually elided in order to focus on the central, almost epitomic, topoi of martyrdom and entombment.



8.b) paradigmatic excursus - visualising Genesis 40

The paradigmatic axis is often described by linguists as the ‘axis of substitution’. If the syntagmatic axis in speech is concerned with the ordered structure of verbal functions or slots within a sentence (“article - noun - verb - preposition - article - noun”, for example), the paradigmatic axis concerns the range of verbal tokens that can occupy those slots (“The/A - man/dog/mat - sat/stood/hid - on/under/behind - the/a - man/dog/mat”, and so on). If one considers a cathedral as a syntagma, it can also be seen as an ordered structure of parts, several of which could contain narrative images; portals, facades, screens, windows, painted walls, stalls, etc (most of which are themselves composed of ordered structures of subsidiary parts - for example valves, jambs, capitals, lintels, tympana, archivolts in the case of a portal).31 These syntagmatic and paradigmatic axes are theoretically independent of each other (they are supposed to be orthogonal) - a particular noun-slot in a sentence can in theory have any noun substituted for it and remain a valid sentence, whilst a cathedral tympanum can in theory have any Christian scene depicted in it without disturbing the validity of the portal of which it is a part. 32 Similarly, a particular verb can appear in the verb-slot of any valid sentence, whilst a biblical or hagiographic  narrative can appear in any physical setting. Looking at the actual sentences or physical settings in which a verb or narrative really does appear is the role of paradigmatic analysis. The purpose of the following excursus therefore is to take one particular Christian narrative (chapter 40 of the Book of Genesis), to consider its narratological characteristics, and then to look at how it is visualised in a range of different settings.

The Bible abounds with oneiric content (i.e. dreams and visions), as do the lives of the saints, and inevitably many such episodes were chosen as subject matter for medieval artists. As we saw with the Charlemagne legend (chapter 4), dreams are very useful narrative devices; a convenient Deus ex machina for initiating quests or resolving uncertainties - but also bearers of moral and theological meanings of their own. 33  Amidst the panoply of Christian narratives, the story of Joseph the Patriarch stands out for its rich oneiric content, featuring in one story no less than six separate dreams plus their interpretations.

I will begin by quoting Genesis 40 in full:34 [206]

1After this, it came to pass, that two eunuchs, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, offended their lord. 2And Pharaoh being angry with them (now the one was chief butler, the other chief baker) 3He sent them to the prison of the commander of the soldiers, in which Joseph also was prisoner, 4But the keeper of the prison delivered them to Joseph, and he served them. Some little time passed, and they were kept in custody. 5And they both dreamed a dream the same night, according to the interpretation agreeing to themselves: 6And when Joseph was come in to them in the morning, and saw them sad, 7He asked them, saying: Why is your countenance sadder today than usual? 8They answered: We have dreamed a dream, and there is nobody to interpret it to us. And Joseph said to them: Doth not interpretation belong to God? Tell me what you have dreamed.

9The chief butler first told his dream: I saw before me a vine, 10On which were three branches, which by little and little sent out buds, and after the blossoms brought forth ripe grapes : 11And the cup of Pharaoh was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into the cup which I held, and I gave the cup to Pharaoh. 12Joseph answered: This is the interpretation of the dream: The three branches are yet three days: 13After which Pharaoh will remember thy service, and will restore thee to thy former place: and thou shalt present him the cup according to thy office, as before thou wast wont to do. 14Only remember me, when it shall be well with thee, and do me this kindness: to put Pharaoh in mind to take me out of this prison: 15For I was stolen away out of the land I of the Hebrews, and here without any fault was cast into the dungeon.

16The chief baker seeing that he had wisely interpreted the dream, said: I also dreamed a dream, That I bed three baskets of meal upon my heed: 17And that in one basket which was uppermost, I carried all meats that are made by the art of baking, and that the birds ate out of it. 18Joseph answered: This is the interpretation of the dream: The three baskets are yet three days: 19After which Pharaoh will take thy hand from thee, and hang thee on a cross, and the birds shall tear thy flesh.

20The third day after this was the birthday of Pharaoh: and he made a great feast for his servants, and at the banquet remembered the chief butler, and the chief baker. 21And he restored the one to his place to present him the cup: 22The other he hanged on a gibbet, that the truth of the interpreter might be shewn. 23But the chief butler, when things prospered with him, forgot his interpreter.


The events in Genesis 40 serve two primary functions within the broader narrative; to emphasise Joseph’s powers of prophecy and to set-up the subsequent role of the butler in bringing Joseph and Pharaoh together. 35 The chapter (ignoring the brief analeptic interlude in 40:15 where Joseph explains his own presence in the prison), can be broken down into a series of numbered fragments, each consisting of one nucleus and each representing the minimum possible ‘action’ that would require a separate image in order to visualise the story in full. These fragments are listed in Table 13 below. The ‘Time reference’ column extracts the various time-deixis clues in the text to ascertain the offset, in days, from the night of the dreams (T0) - so for example, T+3 would be three days later. [207]



Time reference




Some time earlier

Baker and butler imprisoned



‘one night’ (T0)

Baker has a dream.



Butler has a dream.



Next morning (T+1)

Joseph offers to interpret the dreams.



Butler tells Joseph his dream



Joseph prophesies the butler will be released



Baker tells Joseph his dream



Joseph prophesies that the baker will be hanged



‘on the third day’ (T+3)

Pharaoh restores the butler to his former post



Pharaoh has the baker hanged


Table 13 - List of distinct narrative fragments in Genesis 40

Note that in the biblical text, the dreams are actually described in flashback. At Genesis 40:5, the text merely says that ‘both dreamed’ - the contents of the dreams are not revealed until the dreamers describe them to Joseph the following morning. This analeptic mode of disclosure is also used for Joseph’s earlier dreams, whose contents are only revealed when he describes them to his family (Gen. 37:5-11). Contrast this with Pharaoh’s dreams where the content of the dream is described at length twice; once within the description of his act of dreaming (Gen. 41:1-7) and again when he describes his dreams to Joseph (Gen. 41:17-24).

Within the fragments listed in Table 13, one can identify four main divisions of story-time and two distinct diegetic levels, summarised in Table 14



Extradiegetic events

Intradiegetic events


Imprisonment [0]



Baker has his dream [1]
Butler has his dream [2]



Joseph’s offer to interpret [3]
Butler recounting dream [4a]
Joseph prophesying to butler [5a]
Baker recounting dream [6a]
Joseph prophesying to baker [7a]

Content of butler’s dream [4b]
Content of Joseph’s prophecy to butler [5b]
Content of baker’s dream [6b]
Content of Joseph’s prophecy to baker [7b]


Prophecy to butler fulfilled [8]
Prophecy to baker fulfilled [9]


Table 14 - Events in Genesis 40 ordered by time stages and diegetic levels (the numbers of the fragments from the table 13 are shown in square brackets).

The key thing to note here, and the reason fragments 4-7 have been split into ‘a’ and ‘b’, is that the act of recounting a dream, or of telling a prophecy, has two distinct aspects, each of which [208] could potentially be depicted in a visualisation of the narrative. There is the extradiegetic illocutionary act of telling (fragments 4a, 5a, 6a and 7a) and the intradiegetic content of that telling (fragments 4b, 5b, 6b and 7b). For example fragment 4 - ‘the butler tells Joseph about his dream’ could be depicted in one of two ways. It could be shown through an image of one man talking to another (fragment 4a - the extradiegetic action of illocution) of by an image of a man squeezing grapes into a cup (fragment 4b - the intradiegetic content of that illocution). Turning to how this complexity is reflected in some of the many medieval depictions of Genesis 40, one finds a range of different approaches. In the rest of this section I will describe nine different visualisations of this story, in stained glass, portal sculpture and manuscript illuminations. This choice of examples was based on nothing more than the availability of suitable images but as it turned out, provided a good range of different approaches to the visual narrative.

8.b.1 - Bourges Cathedral, stained glass window, bay 24, panel 07 (c.1215)

The scene of Joseph in prison appears in one of three small roundels that occupy spaces in the central axis between much larger quatrefoil groupings (Fig. 8.11A). Although it currently occupies position 07 within the window, it has clearly been switched with the panel at position 13 during restorations.36 Therefore it would originally have been positioned between scenes of the calumny of Potiphar’s wife’s (panel 12) and the dream of Pharaoh (panel 14).

The episode is told rather economically, as befits the limited space available. On the right of the panel is the gaoler, holding a club and observing events in his prison. The prison itself is denoted by a crenellated wall and turret in the foreground, with arcading behind. Three figures are visible within the prison; to the right of this group is Joseph (identifiable by the circlet which he wears in all of the panels of this window following his arrival in Egypt), whose hand gestures suggest he is explaining something. The figure standing beside him and listening to Joseph is holding a covered cup, indicating that he is Pharaoh’s butler. Another figure is asleep far left, his head propped on his right hand.

In terms of the narrative fragments identified in Table 14 above, the central pair of figures clearly correspond to fragment 5a - the illocutionary act of Joseph prophesying to the butler. However, the presence of the cup in the butler’s hands is also a reference to the contents of his dream (fragment 4b). The sleeping figure on the left is ambiguous and could represent either the dreaming baker or else a repeated figure of the butler in the process of having his dream (fragments 1 and 2 respectively). In either case, the image is still complementary (in Wickhoff’s sense) since in Genesis 40:5, fragments 1 and 2 are specified  as occurring  ‘one night’ (T0), while 5a happens the next morning (T+1). Clearly then, regardless of whether the sleeping figure [209] is the baker or the butler, multiple {chronotopic} frames have been condensed into a single {picture} frame. Although the artist has included a pointer to the content of the butler’s dream in the form of the cup, he has made the reference very subtle and one could easily mistake this relatively naturalistic scene as occupying a single diegetic level.

8.b.2 - Chartres Cathedral, stained glass window, bay 41, panel 16 (c.1215)

The artist at Chartres allowed himself a considerably larger panel for illustrating this scene than did his colleague at Bourges, and has also omitted the gaoler, instead filling the whole panel with the prison (Fig. 8.11B). Inside this elaborate fictive architectural space (the walls of which are liberally garnished with crenellations), we find three male figures. To the left is the butler, who holds a bunch of grapes in his left hand and appears to be squeezing them into the open cup held in his right (the artist has carefully drawn two wavy lines inside the cup to signify that it is full). This corresponds closely to the content of the butler’s dream - fragment 4b, although we do not see the extradiegetic detail of the butler asleep, in the process of having this dream. In the centre of the composition stands Joseph, identified by a titulus seemingly carved into a fictive lintel above him (‘IOSEPH’ followed by pen-flourish rinceaux), who now looks at the cup held out by the butler but points away to the right, towards the baker. Unfortunately any consideration of the interplay of gazes in this scene is hampered by the fact that the heads of Joseph  and the butler are both rather ill-fitting later replacements.

To the right of the panel the baker is shown asleep, resting his head on his hand and with eyes closed. Directly above him is a wicker basket piled high with round loaves of bread. Such canistra, are seen frequently in the imagery at Chartres, both in glass and in sculpture, though usually in happier contexts.37   Where this particular canistrum differs from others at Chartres is that a large bird is perched over it, pecking at the bread. We thus have both diegetic levels - the baker dreaming (extradiegetic fragment 1) and the content of his dream (intradiegetic fragment 6b). Joseph’s hand gesture - pointing towards the bread basket - may also suggest that he is engaged in the act of interpreting the baker’s dream (fragment 7a). Clearly this scene has far more narrativity than the panel at Bourges, which it has achieved by sacrificing much of that example’s naturalism in favour of a richly complementary image.


8.b.3 - Poitiers Cathedral, stained glass window, bay 111a, panels 16, 18 & 15 (c.1210-15)

This little studied window in the north transept of Poitiers Cathedral is one of a pair (with 111b) telling the story of Joseph.38   The events of Genesis 40 are split over three separate panels in the same register (see Fig. 8.12A), starting with panel 16 on the left (the remaining roundel on the right of this register shows Pharaoh dreaming).  On the far right hand edge of this roundel, outside the door of the prison, is a grape vine laden with fruit, clambering over the end of a horizontal pole to which I will return shortly. The rest of panel 16 is filled with an encircling crenellated wall and tall doorway, denoting the prison. Inside this fictive architecture are several figures. On the right side are two sleeping prisoners, shown with eyes closed and propping each other up as they sleep. Hovering above this pair is a bird. To the left of the sleepers are two more figures, this time sitting upright and facing left, where they are clearly in discussion with another seated figure who faces them (despite some damage to the glass, one can still see that all three figures are gesticulating).

This remarkable and complex complementary image requires careful unpicking. The grapevine and the bird are somewhat abbreviated visualisations of fragments 4b (content of butler’s dream) and 6b (content of baker’s dream). The two sleepers are of course representations of fragments 1 and 2 (the two men in the act of having their dreams), while the trio engaged in conversation to the left of the panel could encompass any,  or quite possibly all (given the gesticulating) of the illocutions in fragments 3, 4a, 5a, 6a and 7a (i.e. the various tellings of dreams and prophesies).

To the right of panel 16, on the window’s central axis, are two slightly trilobate half-ovoid panels. The upper one (panel 18) shows a man presenting a golden cup to his lord, who is seated behind a dining table with two other guests. This could be either fragment 5b (the content of Joseph’s prophecy to the butler) or fragment 8 (this prophecy fulfilled three days later) but the way the scene is isolated and presented in a separate panel might suggest the latter.  Below this scene, in panel 15, is a rather ghoulish image of a blindfolded man being hanged by the neck [211] from a gibbet, his hands tied behind his back.39 To either side of the gibbet, a pair of executioners pull down on the loose ends of the rope. Clearly this is the sad end of the unfortunate baker. Again it could potentially be either the content of Joseph’s prophecy (fragment 7b - i.e. the subject matter of the illocution we see on the far left of panel 16), or the actual fulfilment of that prophecy, three days later (fragment 9). Again though, the separate treatment of the scene suggest that this panel, like the one above it, represents the fulfilments of the prophecy three days later. Seemingly then, the artist at Poitiers has incorporated nearly all of the fragments identified in Table 14  into these three panels. Given the richness of narrative detail, it is all the more unfortunate that the high position of the window make it is almost impossible to see any of this from ground level. In a particularly clever twist, to which I will return in chapter 9, the artist responsible for this window, has extended the cross-bar from the gibbet in panel 15 all the way back across the border and into the right side of panel 16, where it serves as a support for the clambering grape-vine. In disrupting the conventional autonomy of the frame he has thereby linked together the scenes of prophecy and fulfilment.

8.b.4 - Auxerre Cathedral, west façade, central portal, left hand dado, panel 15 (c.1270)

The dado frieze at Auxerre offers what is, for portal sculpture at least, an unusually detailed and lengthy telling of the first half of Joseph’s story, running from his first dream in Genesis 37:7  to his appointment as Pharaoh’s overseer in Genesis 41:45. The story is told over some twenty-four panels in two registers, reading right to left along the top row then right to left again along the bottom (see chapter 6.e for more on the narratological characteristics of this frieze). The events of  Genesis 40 appear in panel 15, near the start of the second register (see Fig. 8.12B). The elaborate cusped quatrefoil panel is almost filled with a splendidly detailed prison, complete with crenellations, towers and fictive masonry joints. Although some detail has been lost to weathering, three heads are still visible within the prison. Two of these are tilted back, suggesting sleep, while the third, set further back, appears to be awake and looking at the figure to his left. On the lower right only of the panel, at the base of the prison wall and not extending into the sub-scene on the left, is the suggestion of a cloud-frill. This detail is not to be confused with the representations of the ground in various other panels - those have tighter curls and where they do appear they always stretch the full width of the scene. Similar cloud-frills to this one also appear in the two panels where dream contents are visualised more explicitly; panel 01 (Joseph’s dream) and panels 17-18 (Pharaoh’s dream). The right hand side of the panel can therefore be recognised as fragments 1 and 2 - the butler and the baker dreaming, although the [212] contents of their dreams have been elided. To the left of the panel is a tall, bearded figure in a skull-cap, who is leading another man out of the open portal behind him. This bearded man also appears in a preceding panel at Joseph’s trial and can therefore be identified as the gaoler (the ‘commander of the army’ mentioned in Gen. 40.3). Clearly then this left-hand side of the panel relates to fragment 8 - the fulfilment of Joseph’s prophecy that the butler will be freed.

Generally the presentation of Genesis 40 at Auxerre is muted and naturalistic, with none of the intradiegetic fragments appearing at all. This reluctance to show multiple diegetic levels within a single image is however restricted to this panel - the other dreaming scenes (panels 01 and 17-18) follow the normal pattern of juxtaposing extradiegetic dreamer and intradiegetic dream-content, separated by the standard ontological punctuation mark that is the cloud-frill.

8.b.5 - The Morgan Picture Bible (c.1240-50)

This lavish bible (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Ms M. 638) has already been mentioned in relation both to its highly gendered imagery and its imaginative use of frames. Genesis 40 appears on  f.5r. Here it is reduced to a single scene, which has to share its quarter-page frame with the scene of Joseph losing his cloak to Potiphar’s wife (Fig. 8.13). Although the resulting image is rather crowded, the fact that he thereby shown escaping from her clutches straight into the prison cell provides a nice summary of cause and effect.

The prison scene itself is set within a circular tower, with a crenellated wall along the front and a sturdy bolted door below. Within the prison are three figures, all of whom have shackles around their necks.40 On the right a man is shown sleeping; his head rests on his left hand while in his right he carries a cup. Clearly this is the butler dreaming (fragment 1) together with the content of his dream (4b). At the left, the baker sleeps with his arm resting on the parapet, a basket full of round white loaves resting on his shoulder. A black bird is pecking at the loaves, while another flies off to the upper-centre of the frame, a pilfered loaf visible in its beak. Again, this is the extradiegetic dreamer (fragment 2) shown together with the intradiegetic content of that dream (6b). Standing between the two figures is Joseph, who is awake, turning towards and addressing (right hand raised) the butler positioned on his left - thus representing the extradiegetic fragment 5a (Joseph prophesying to the butler). No attempt has been made to show the fulfilment of the prophesies.


8.b.6 - The Vienna 2554 Bible moralisée, (c.1220’s)

Of the three Bibles moralisées considered here, Vienna, Österreische Nationalbibliothek Codex Vindobonensis 2554 (hereafter Vienna 2554), is the earliest, dating probably to the 1220’s. 41 The narrative and moralising image pairs in this manuscript are arranged eight medallions to a page, reading from left to right, then top to bottom (see Fig 8.14 for arrangement of medallions - for the sake of consistency I will use the same coordinates system for all the Bibles moralisées, using A and B for the left and right columns then numbering the rows 1-4 from top to bottom - so with Vienna 2554, the order of the narrative scenes on each pages is A1, B1, A3, B3 with the corresponding moralisations in A2, B2, A4 and B4). Genesis 40 is shown in three images - the last narrative scene (B3) on f.10r and the first two (A1, B1) on f.10v. Instead of quotations from the Vulgate, Vienna 2554 features short descriptive texts in French alongside the images, adding an extra dimension to the interpretive process, though as we will see, the texts describing the narrative scenes often owe more to the associated moralisations than they do to the details of the image.

The first image shows the prison as a typical fictive architectural assemblage, a vaguely octagonal crenellated wall offering us with a view down into the cell. The diamond net pattern presumably denotes an iron grill, though the figures are painted over the top of it (a solecism not repeated by the later Toledo/OPL artists, whose grill is more sensibly drawn over the prisoners - see Fig. 8.15). In the middle of the prison scene stands Joseph, flanked by two seeping figures. Joseph places his palm on his chin and inclines his head and his gaze towards the figure on his left.  Lest there be any doubt about who’s who, the scribe has helpfully explained all in the accompanying text:

Here Joseph is in prison, and the baker and a butler with him, the butler on [his] right and the baker on [his] left.42

The reason for the unusual degree of specificity (both in the image and the text) regarding who is on Joseph’s left and right hand becomes clear when one reads the moralisation, which draws on related left/right themes from the Crucifixion (impenitent/penitent thieves) and from Last Judgement imagery:

Joseph, who was in prison, signifies Jesus Christ, who was in the world. The butler, who was on the right, signifies those who live in good works to the right. The baker, who was on the left, signifies those who dwell in wicked works to the left.

[214] In terms of narrative fragments, the first image clearly depicts the extradiegetic having of the two dreams (fragments 1 and 2). Equally clearly however, the specifics of that first scene (in terms of who stands where) are as much determined by the needs of the moralisation as they are by the needs of the narrative.

The next scene appears in the top-left medallion of f.10v (Fig. 8.14B). On the left is a richly-attired man (note the ermine-trimmed cloak) carrying a wicker basket in each arm, with a third balanced on his head, from which three black birds are eating (two of them fluttering in the decorative margin above the {picture} frame). To the right is our familiar rustic gibbet, from which hangs a man stripped to the waist with his hands tied behind him. The accompanying text rather abruptly declares that:

The baker dreams that he is carrying three baskets, the one full of flour, the other full of dough and the third full of meat, and he tells this to Joseph, and Joseph tells him that he will be hanged, and it was so.

Again, the text for the accompanying moralisation is revealing:

[...] The dough, which is sticky, signifies covetousness. The flour, which is flat, signifies pride. The meat signifies lust. The birds, which pick, signify those who dwell in these three sins, and devils ensnare them and drag them to hell.

These interpretations of the contents of the baker’s basket deserve unpicking. For Genesis 40:16-17 the Vulgate has:

16videns pistorum magister quod prudenter somnium dissolvisset ait et ego vidi somnium quod haberem tria canistra farinae super caput meum 17et in uno canistro quod erat excelsius portare me omnes cibos qui fiunt arte pistoria avesque comedere ex eo.

Thus the farinae (flour) and omnes cibos qui fiunt arte pistoria (lit. all the foods of the baker’s art) have been separated out into dough, flour and meat in order to provide food for the moraliser, even though they are only of tangential interest to the narrative.  Again the narrative fragments visualised in the medallion are clear; on the left is the intradiegetic fragment 6b (content of baker’s dream), while on the right is either 7b or 9 (intradiegetic content of Joseph’s prophecy, or the extradiegetic fulfilment of that prophecy).

In a similar vein, the top right medallion of f.10v is split into two parts (Fig. 8.14C). On the left is a vine with three heavy bunches of grapes (in gold) hanging from it. To the left of the vine is a man who squeezes one of these bunches over an ornate gold cup. The right of the frame shows this same man kneeling and presenting the cup to a crowned figure seated on a faldstool, who reaches out and receives the cup from him. The text for this image reads:

Here the butler dreams that he was in a vineyard and found three vines, and he put them in a cup and took them to his lord to drink, and his lord, the Pharaoh, received him and he [215] gave them to him to drink, and he tells Joseph his dream and Joseph tells him that he will be delivered.

The structure here is clearly exactly the same as the preceding medallion; contents of the dream (fragment 4b) on the left and on the right, either the intradiegetic content of Joseph’s prophecy or else its fulfilment (5b or 8) - though the accompanying text suggests the former.

Note that the descriptive texts accompanying both the medallions on the top of f.10v include the formulae ‘Here [X] dreams that [Y] ... and he tells Joseph his dream and Joseph tells him [Z]’, even though the acts of dreaming and the illocutionary acts (telling Joseph and Joseph telling) are not shown - we only see the content of the dreams and the content of ‘Joseph’s tellings’.

Generally then, although Vienna 2554 does not include as many distinct fragments as the Poitiers window, their logical structure has been laid out in a much clearer, almost analytical fashion - one image to set the scene of the dreaming, then two images to show the content and consequences of the two dreams.

8.b.7 - The Toledo and ‘Oxford-Paris-London’ Bibles moralisées(both c.1235)

The images contained in the two Bibles moralisées discussed in this section are almost identical - ‘visual twins’ as John Lowden has described them, whose under-drawings appear to be pressure-traced copies.43 This consanguinity does not however extend to the brief texts accompanying the images, as I will discuss shortly.

The first of these gargantuan manuscripts is in Toledo Cathedral; Tesoro de la Catedral, Biblia de San Luis (hereafter Toledo), which features Genesis 40 in three medallions on page 20. The other manuscript is now divided between Oxford, Paris and London;  Volume I is Oxford, MS Bodley 270b, Volume II is Paris, BNF MS lat. 11560, and Volume III is London, BL MSS Harley 1525 & 1527 -  collectively referred to hereafter as OPL. The page depicting Genesis 40 is Oxford Bodley 270b f.26r. For practical reasons, I have only included the Toledo images in the accompanying illustrations (see Fig. 8.15), however, in the discussion that follows the images can be regarded as identical, except where specified. 44

As with Vienna 2554, the narrative scenes and moralisations are arranged eight medallions to a page in two columns, but this time reading from top to bottom in the left column, then top to bottom in the right column, with narrative scenes and their moralisations alternating. Numbered [216] in this sequence, the narrative sequence on each page is A1, A3, B1, B3 (see Fig 8.15 for arrangement of medallions). Genesis 40 is shown in three images, occupying medallions A1, A3 and B1 (the remaining narrative scene in medallion 7 continues the dream-theme with Pharaoh’s dream of the kine). As we will see, in each of these three panels the artists have employed the same visual syntax, depicting an (extradiegetic) illocutionary act in the right half of the medallion and the (intradiegetic) content of that illocution on the left.

Medallion A1 (Fig. 8.15A) clearly relates to the butler’s dream. To the left, the butler kneels and presents a chalice to Pharaoh, who accepts it with his right hand, while holding the butler’s forehead with his left hand. 45 Behind the kneeling butler is a flourishing grape vine. Clearly then, the left half of this panel depicts fragment 4b - the content of the butler’s dream. To the right of the frame is a typical representation of the prison. Behind the bars are two men conversing; the butler on the left, Joseph on the right. Both men have one hand raised to indicate speech, suggesting that this represents both of the illocutionary fragments simultaneously; 4a (butler recounting his dream) and 5a (Joseph prophesying).

In medallion A3 (Fig. 8.15B), the baker appears on the left, with three baskets balanced on his head (diligently following the text of Gen. 40:17, the artist as distinguished between their contents - reddish objects in the central, topmost basket, whitish bread loaves in the other two). Three black birds are shown pecking at their contents. Again, this is the depiction of the dream contents - fragment 6b. In the prison scene to the right, the artist has shown three figures; one sleeping in the left foreground, another behind him with hand raised to denote speaking, and on the right, Joseph, whose pose and gestures (head inclined, right palm against cheek) suggest that he is listening with concern. It seems likely that the two figures shown with Joseph both represent the baker - a complementary image that shows him asleep, having the dream (fragment 1) and awake, explaining it to Joseph (4a).

Finally, medallion B1 shows the baker’s fate. In the left half of the picture he is hanging by a rope from the rustic gibbet, blindfolded and hands tied in front of him. In the only notable difference between the two manuscripts for these three medallions, the artists of Toledo have shown three birds tearing the flesh from his chest - a detail which fits Gen. 40:19 perfectly but is missing from OPL. Clearly then this is fragment 7b - the content of Joseph’s prophecy. Meanwhile, the act of delivering of that prophecy (fragment 7a) is shown in the right half of the [217] medallion, where the gestures of the previous image have been reversed - Joseph speaking while the baker listens and looks understandably worried.

As with Vienna 2554, the texts alongside the images shed additional light on what is depicted but without always matching it precisely. For the first medallion, the Toledo and OPL texts are very different. Toledo simply describes what is depicted in a précis of the Vulgate text;

The butler had a dream, and told his dream to Joseph, saying that he saw a vine, which had three branches, which sprouted and after flowering, the grapes ripened and he pressed them into a cup and handed it to Pharaoh, and Joseph said that his office would be restored to him.46

By contrast OPL ignores what is depicted in this panel and instead summarises the circumstances leading up to it:

Fallen into disgrace, two servants of Pharaoh, one his butler and the other his baker, were imprisoned by the angry Pharaoh in the prison of his commander of the guard, in which Joseph was also a prisoner.

This paraphrase of Genesis 40:1-3 is a description of the extradiegetic fragment 0 (imprisonment of the two servants), which happened ‘some days’ before the dream depicted in the accompanying image (effectively a textual analepsis to fill in an earlier episode elided from the visual narrative). Clearly it was felt that the space for the text alongside medallion 1 was not enough to explain both the imprisonment of the baker and butler and the details of the butler’s dream so something had to be left out; Toledo omits a textual explanation of  this former while OPL omits the latter.

The captions for the second and third images are roughly the same in both manuscripts. For the second:

The baker dreamt that he had three baskets of cakes on his head and in one basket, which was uppermost, were carried all the foods which be produced by the art of baking - and the birds ate from them.

While the third image is explained thus:

Joseph interpreted the baker’s dream saying that he would be hanged and the birds of the air would tear at his body.

In terms of visual narratology, perhaps the most interesting feature of the OPL/Toledo depiction of Genesis 40 is the way the artists have split the three medallions in half, in each case showing the intradiegetic fragments (content) on the left and the extradiegetic ones (illocution) on the right. This is effectively another example of an {interpretive} frame - perhaps a rather localised one but one which can be used nevertheless to help unpick the different levels of diegetic [218] embedding in these three panels just as it may once have assisted the book’s designer in planning them.

8.b.8 - The Saint Louis Psalter (c.1260)

Louis IX’s ‘personal prayerbook’ (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS lat. 10525) devotes three scenes over one and a half pages to Genesis 40 (see Fig. 8.16).47 The first scene, occupying the left half of f.20r, is set against a blue diaper field within a circular crenellated and turreted wall. On the left, the butler is shown asleep but acting out the events of his dream - he leans against a grape vine and squeezes grapes into a chalice. On the right is the baker wearing a close-fitting coif, also asleep. Behind him are three baskets of identical round white loafs which are being pecked by three black birds. Behind the baskets is the head of a third man - not asleep but actively watching the events. This third head must be Joseph observing the contents of the other two men’s dreams. Thus the artist has packed a remarkable amount into this one image; the two servants asleep whilst having their dreams (fragments 1 and 2), the contents of their dreams (fragments 4b and 6b) and also, implicit in his presence as an observer, the recounting of those dreams to Joseph (fragments 4a and 6a).

The second scene (right half of f.20r) is set in the same space and shows Joseph standing on the left, with his right forefinger pressed against his left palm, as he counts off the points of his explanation. The butler and baker sit to the right, both actively paying heed to Joseph - this can therefore be read as fragments 5a and 7a - Joseph’s prophesying to his two cellmates. The fulfilments of those prophesies (fragments 8 and 9) are then shown in the third panel, occupying the left half of f.21v. On the left of this panel is the butler, holding a chalice before Pharaoh, who reaches out to take it with his right hand. To the right of the panel is the baker, again stripped to the waist and hanging from the gibbet blindfolded and with his hands tied behind him.

Unlike the two variations in the Bibles moralisées, which arranged their scenes into logical groupings emphasising cause and effect, the designers of the St Louis Psalter, despite packing in a great deal of story detail, have kept the chronological phases of the story quite distinct and in the correct order, favouring narrative coherence over interpretation.


8.b.9 - Rouen Cathedral south transept portal (c.1280)

The south transept of Rouen Cathedral boasts what is certainly the longest and probably also the dullest of all programmes of narrative portal sculpture to be found anywhere in the medieval world. Without any of the babewynery and grotesques of the Portail des Libraires on the north transept, the Portail de la Calende drags its way through an interminable series of Old Testament and hagiographic narratives arranged in no less than 230 almost identical cusped quatrefoils that wrap themselves around the faces and returns of the buttresses and pilasters of the south transept portal. Viewed unfolded, these quatrefoils would form a grid of forty columns of five panels each (plus two of fifteen each), with only the trefoil in the pinnacle of each column providing any ‘marginal relief’. Viewed not as a grid but as they actually are, the narratives are extremely hard to follow - although the dominant visual axis is the vertical, the stories read horizontally, from left to right and then top to bottom, which means one has to turn repeatedly through ninety degrees to follow its meanderings. The story of Joseph occupies a total of fifty-five quatrefoils arranged in eleven vertical groups to the right of the doorway (Fig. 8.17A), where the inconvenience of following the narrative to the end of each row is further aggravated by the position of the steps. One could not imagine a greater contrast between the lively, inventive and absorbing story-telling at Auxerre and this plodding effort which almost seems calculated to ‘disengage’ the recipient.

The events of Genesis 40 are told in four panels in the right half of the second row (panels B5 to B8 in Louise Pillion’s numbering).48 The first panel (Fig. 8.17B) unusually shows a side view of the prison, decorated with fictive masonry and crenellations, in which three large windows offer a view of the interior. In the first of these windows the baker is shown asleep (fragment 1). Above him is a basket from which a bird is eating (content of dream - fragment 6b). In the second window is the butler - his hands apparently clasped together in prayer, apparently conversing with Joseph, while a chalice appears to float above him (slimmed down reference to the telling of the dream - 4a - and/or the contents of the dream - 4b). Finally, in the third window is Joseph, facing back towards the butler, with his hand raised in a gesture denoting exposition (his prophesying to the butler - 5a).

The second panel shows the butler being released from prison (Fig. 8.17C). The right half of the panel shows a similar side view of the building to the one in the first panel, but now we also see the doorway from which the butler emerges. Although badly eroded, it appears that the man on the left of the panel is handing him a cup and a key - his badges of office. The detail of the butler being released (corresponding to fragment 8 - Joseph’s prophecy to him fulfilled) was [220] also shown at Auxerre but there it was just a subsidiary detail in a larger scene. Here the moment is given a panel to itself - all of which is slightly redundant if one looks at the third panel (Fig. 8.18A), where we see the butler kneeling before Pharaoh and presenting him with his cup. This scene is simply another depiction of fragment 8. As such the panel is a narrative catalysis which continues the story and takes up space but adds no new narrative detail to the discourse. The final panel (Fig. 8.18B) is the familiar image of the baker hanging from a gibbet, marking the fulfilment of Joseph’s prophecy to him (fragment 9). Hanging alongside him from the gibbet is his bread basket (now badly eroded) - perhaps as a slightly superfluous analeptic index to remind the viewer who is hanging there.

8.b.10 - Conclusions regarding the visualisation of different diegetic levels in Genesis 40

The nine visualisations of Genesis 40 examined here can be summarised thus:






1 - Bourges

2 - Chartres

3 - Poitiers

4 - Auxerre

5 - Morgan

6 - Vienna

7  - Toledo/OPL

8 - St Louis Psalter

9 - Rouen Cathedral

0   - Imprisonment










1   - Baker dreaming










2   - Butler dreaming










3   - Joseph offers to interpret










4a - Butler recounting dream










4b - Content of butler’s dream










5a - Joseph prophesying to butler










5b - Content of prophecy to butler










6a - Baker recounting dream










6b - Content of baker’s dream










7a - Joseph prophesying to baker










7b - Content of prophecy to baker










8   - Prophecy to butler fulfilled










9   - Prophecy to baker fulfilled










Table 15 - Summary of the fragments shown in the various visualisations of Genesis 40
(X= definitely present, x=present but more than one interpretation possibile. Shaded rows indicate the intradiegetic fragments)


At an iconographical level, the popularity of the butler’s dream fragment can probably be explained by its Eucharistic symbolism (something that was commented on in the moralisations in the Bibles moralisées). Table 15 is also revealing in narratological terms. For one thing, the proportion of possible narrative fragments present in an image can be seen as a relative measure of visual narrativity. This is not of course a measure of the ‘quality’ of an image, either as art or as a story-telling agent - it is simply a measure of how much relevant narrative information is contained within the image. Of the examples considered here, the Poitiers window would score highest for narrativity (though it is probably the hardest to decipher for anyone not familiar with the story), whilst the Bourges and Auxerre images would score lowest. More interesting than such arbitrary measurements however is where the designers of these images chose to place their emphasis. The artists at Auxerre and Bourges both restricted themselves to showing just the extradiegetic elements - something which might be considered a more ‘naturalistic’ mode of depiction, since it only includes elements visible at a single diegetic/ontological level (in neither case however is this apparent concern for naturalism present throughout the rest of their respective image cycles, both of which also include intradiegetic dream images).

The Chartres and Morgan Picture Bible artists both adopt very similar strategies, showing one (Chartres) or both (Morgan) of the extradiegetic dreamers, the intradiegetic contents of both dreams and Joseph’s extradiegetic act of interpreting just one of the dreams. Neither attempts to show the telling of the dreams, nor the fulfilment of Joseph’s prophecies. Rouen is something of an oddity, devoting two of its four panels to the release of the butler whilst giving relatively little emphasis to Joseph himself. It must be said though that this segment at Rouen comprises just four panels out of the fifty-five dedicated to the story of Joseph and if one looks at the other parts of this, and other stories on the Portail de la Calende, it does often seem as if the designers were struggling to find material to fill their rather expansive canvas.

The St Louis Psalter managed to squeeze in quite a lot of detail but stuck rigidly to the chronological logic of the story. By contrast, the designer of Vienna 2554 took a more analytical approach. The first image sets the context by showing the two dreamers being watched by Joseph. The baker and butler then get one image each; these images are divided into two halves - dream contents on the left, prophecy fulfilled on the right. Joseph’s role as prophet is entirely omitted and has to be inferred from his attentiveness in the first panel. The designer ofToledo/OPLre-thought this narrative scheme in order to place a much stronger emphasis on Joseph’s role as the interpreter of dreams. Joseph now appears in all three images, either listening to the dream or else delivering his prophecy. Both schemes are imperfect as narratives since they each omit at least one key detail - yet both do an excellent job of picking out the elements that their respective designers thought important. Moreover, in all three of the Bibles moralisées, [222] the images do a better job of telling the story of Genesis 40 than do the rather clumsy texts that accompany them.

Although the distinguishing of different diegetic levels in narrative images is a subtle art, it was clearly an art that the designers of most of these images considered carefully.


8.c) structural excursus - the topoi of ‘losing and finding but not recognising’

Chapter 2.h addressed the nature of the topos, or commonplace, and its place in the medieval narrative mindset. This excursus will look at the place of just one topos, or rather one structured set of topoi - the loss of a valued thing, its recovery and the (initial) failure to recognise it. This particular narrative structure is actually one of the oldest and was a staple of Greek tragedy, perhaps the most obvious example being the Oedipus legend. As with Oedipus, the final twist in many of these stories is the sudden recognition of the true identity of the re-found thing (anagnoresis) and the dramatic reversal of fortune that results (peripeteia) which could be either positive or negative for the hero (Shakespeare used anagnoresis with equal enthusiasm in tragedies and comedies alike).

Of the myriad hagiographic narratives that were either invented or else greatly embellished over the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the story of St Eustace has to be one of the most interesting from the literary viewpoint, combining as it does, countless classical and biblical topoi with elements of the secular romance form that was becoming established across Europe during this period. It is also an ideal example with which to introduce my triple topos.

The story is easily told and best illustrated with some of the key scenes from the Eustace windows at Chartres and elsewhere.49   The story begins with the Roman General Placidus, who sets out one day to hunt deer with his friends. They spot a magnificent stag and set off in hot pursuit (Fig. 8.19A).  After a long chase, in which all of his companions fall behind, Placidus arrives at a grassy knoll, where he sees the stag standing at bay, with a shining vision of the crucified Christ visible between its antlers (Fig. 8.19B). Placidus falls to his knees in wonder and the vision speaks to him, saying [223]:

O Placidus why are you pursuing me?  I am Christ, whom you worship without knowing it. Your good deeds have risen before me and for this reason I have come, that through this deer which you thought you hunted, I myself might hunt you.

The vision then tells Placidus to get himself and his family baptised, which they promptly do, Placidus taking the Baptismal name of Eustace (Fig. 8.20A). Sadly the family’s fortunes then take a drastic turn for the worse. Their crops wither and their animals die of a plague, as do all their servants (a rare image of Eustace tending his sick servants appears in the Eustace window at Sens -see  Fig. 8.20B - although omitted from most other Eustace cycles, this scene may have been included here as an opportunity to illustrate one of the seven acts of corporal mercy).

Taking advantage of their misfortune, robbers ransack their house and Eustace, together with his wife and two infant sons, flees towards Egypt to escape the shame of destitution (Fig. 8.21A). They manage to negotiate passage on a ship but unfortunately, the ship’s captain takes a fancy to Eustace’s wife and after a bit of a struggle the mariners cast Eustace and his sons ashore and sail away keeping his wife as payment for their passage (Fig. 8.21B). Having lost his wife at least Eustace still has his infant sons for company, until that is they come to a river in flood. Seeing the danger of the raging waters, Eustace decides to carry his sons across the river one by one. He gets the first child across safely - but just as he’s in mid-stream returning for the second one, a lion rushes out of the forest and snatches the boy away (Fig. 8.22A). Then, as he turns back to the other bank, he sees his older son being carried off by a wolf (Fig. 8.22B). Unbeknownst to Eustace, both boys are separately saved by people from  nearby villages (you can see a shepherd rescuing one of the boys from the wolf in one of the Chartres panels). The infants are then brought up separately by the villagers, without ever knowing that they were related, and ignorant of their parentage.

Fifteen year pass, during which time Eustace works as a farmer in a nearby village, living the simple life of a pious Christian (Fig. 8.23A). Back in Rome, Emperor Trajan, worried about the deteriorating security situation in the north, sends out some old soldiers to seek Placidus and persuade him to come back and help. Eventually a couple of these envoys make their way to the village where Eustace is tending the fields and unwittingly ask him for directions, not recognising their former General (Fig. 8.23B and C).  Without revealing himself to his old chums, Eustace bids them stay for dinner. While he’s preparing the meal, they suddenly recognise his battle-scars and after a happy reunion they persuade Eustace to return with them.

Realising that the army is under-strength, Eustace now sends recruiting officers out across the Empire. Two of the ablest and most morally upright new recruits turn out to be his own two sons, both of whom are duly attached to his regiment - even though after fifteen years apart, none of the men recognise each other (Fig. 8.24A shows the two new recruits being presented to the General). It is only after a couple of years of campaigning, when the victorious army is [224] preparing to return home after conquering their enemies, that the two young men get to chatting. While discussing their respective life stories, they suddenly realise that they are brothers - something which is depicted with restraint at Chartres, with the contextualising informants of a campaign tent and gaming board at Tours and with a certain naïf enthusiasm by the artist at Le Mans (Fig. 8.24 B, C and D).

Now by another remarkable coincidence, the inn where this conversation takes place is owned by none other than Eustace’s wife, who having escaped the clutches of the seamen with her honour unstained, settled in that area. Having overheard part of the conversation between the two young men, she starts wondering if they might perhaps have been her sons. She therefore leaves her inn to seek out the General and ask his permission to look for them amongst his regiment. However when she meets the general and starts explaining, husband and wife recognise each other - and when the General summons the two brothers the happy reunion is complete (Fig. 8.25A). The family then return to Rome with much joy.  Sadly, they arrive home to find a new Emperor on the throne, one who lacks even Trajan’s limited religious tolerance. He invites his victorious General to join him in sacrificing to the Pagan Gods (Fig. 8.25B) - and when Eustace refuses, he and his family are all thrown into a huge bull-shaped bronze cauldron, where they are roasted to death, thereby achieving what is, in hagiographic terms, the ultimate in happy endings (Fig. 8.26A, B and C).

So much for good old-fashioned iconography - but what of narrative structures? Well, clearly the topoi of losing, finding and not recognising (followed by anagnoresis) correspond to Barthes’ notion of the nucleus, since each one typically opens or concludes an alternative narrative path that is of direct consequence for the subsequent story. As Barthes put it, they each  ‘inaugurate or conclude an uncertainty’.50

If we position these narrative nuclei within a network of all their  possible outcomes, we find there are only six possible story paths that can result (in the diagrams, to save space I have only referred to items being lost or found but for ‘item’ read object OR person): [225]

Figure 7 - Possible narrative paths through the losing - finding - not recognising topoi


Two of these paths, corresponding to stories in which an item is lost and then never found again, or else is found but never recognised, can be regarded as unsatisfactory in narrative terms, since they lack any kind of narrative closure:

Figure 8 - Narrative paths without closure (item not found or else found but never recognised)


Unsurprisingly, story-lines like this are extremely uncommon in pre-modern narratives - as Aristotle explained in the Poetics, audiences generally prefer a little catharsis at the end.

Somewhat richer in narrative terms, are the cases when a lost item is subsequently found but is recognised immediately, either for better or for worse: [226]

Figure 9 - Intermediate paths where the re-found item is recognised straight away

Examples of this abound in hagiography, typically in stories where a lost item is recovered through the intervention of a saint. For example, one of the legends of St Nicholas of Bari tells the story of a couple who are boy who going on pilgrimage to St Nicholas’ shrine with a golden cup as thanks for the saint’s aid in giving them their only child. The father, out of greed has substituted the gold cup for a somewhat cheaper one, intending to keep the original for himself. On the voyage, their only child falls into the sea with the gold cup (an item is lost). When the distraught parents finally arrive at the shrine of St Nicholas, they find their son already there, alive and well under the protection of the saint, and still holding the original cup (item is found again " item is recognised immediately " happy outcome "  narrative closure).

Richest of all the possible story lines however are those in which the item is not initially recognised after being found, but its identity is subsequently revealed (anagnoresis). [227]


Figure 10 - the  richest narrative path; item is found but ony recognised later

The anagnoresis in this type of narrative can lead to a happy outcome, as with the reuniting of Eustace and his family (prior to their appointment with the bovine cauldron). 51  Or it can have a tragic outcome, as with, for example, St Julien the Hospitaller, and St Alexius of Rome. The story of St Julien (see Fig. 8.28) is an interesting one which has much in common with that of St Eustace, both in terms of its content and also in its developing popularity during the thirteenth century. In some ways, it is a Christianised version of the Oedipus legend. Julien is born to honest but poor folk who, unable to feed all their children, place him in the service of a nobleman in a foreign land (an item is lost). The latter takes a shine to Julien, eventually elevating him to the nobility and leaving him all his estates.52 Many years later, his parents, who have spent years searching for him, arrive at his house (an item is found) while Julien is away fighting and his wife installs her honoured guests in their matrimonial bed. Returning home unexpectedly late at night, Julien sees two bodies in his bed and assuming his wife has cuckolded him, draws his sword and slays his the sleeping couple (item is not recognised). Emerging from the bedroom he encounters his wife, who tells him about their guests and Julien realises he has killed his parents (anagnoresis " tragic outcome). If this were Greek tragedy the story would end there. Since it is hagiography however, the remorse-stricken Julien and his wife set off on pilgrimage, found a pilgrim hostel and perform many good deeds before dying peacefully, his sin redeemed.


A rather less dramatic saint, whose story shares the same narrative structure as Julien’s is St Alexis of Rome, whose story is told in the famous ‘Alexis quire’ of the St Albans Psalter.53 Alexis, born into a wealthy family in Rome, fled that city to avoid an arranged marriage, choosing instead to dedicate his life to God. In due course he became a respected holy mendicant, and on returning to Rome was so changed that his own parents didn’t recognise him. They sheltered this holy man for 17 years in their under-stairs cupboard, sadly not discovering his true identity until after his death, when a letter found on the corpse revealed all.

Whether the outcome is happy or tragic, the richness of these two story lines highlighted in Figure 10 compared to all the other possible paths comes quite simply from its having the greatest number of narrative nuclei - that is to say the greater number of  opportunities for the audience to experience suspense as to the possible outcomes. The triadic structure of losing, then ‘finding again but not initially recognising’ followed by anagnoresis establishes a series of expectations on the part of the audience about what will happen next - the loss of an item or person creates the expectation that it will eventually be found, while the non-recognition of the item once found sets up the possibilities that its identity either will, or will not be subsequently revealed, for better or for worse. As well as the macro-structure of the overall narrative, when we start looking for the losing/finding but not recognising topoi in the Eustace legend  we find that they occur in several places both independently and as a set. The hero loses his family members one by one. One by one they find each other without realising it and one by one their identities are revealed. It is in this respect that the story of St Eustace comes closer to contemporary romance epics since the plot has multiple threads, with multiple moments of peripeteia, instead of the simple linear teleology of more conventional hagiographies.

Whilst constructing their vitae, hagiographers routinely drew explicit parallels between episodes in their subjects’ stories and previous hagiographies or biblical precedents. The losing/finding/not-recognising structure provided ample opportunities for this. In the Old Testament for example, we have the story of Joseph. His brothers manage to ‘lose’ him by the simple expedient of selling him to foreign slave traders. Several years later, he is found again but not recognised when those same brothers come to buy grain from him in Egypt and he puts them through various tests before revealing himself and enabling the happy reunion (the narrative path shown in Figure 10 but following the ‘happy outcome’ route).  More importantly, in the New Testament, John 20:21 tells how the resurrected Christ was found but not initially recognised by Mary Magdalen, who mistook him for the gardener, an event popularised in the hortulanus episode found in the Fleury Playbook and elsewhere. Again in Luke 24:14-16, Christ was found but not recognised by His own disciples when they met on the road to Emmaus, the [229] anagnoresis coming only in verse 30 when He breaks bread. In its details too, the story of Eustace abounds with reminders of its Biblical precedents. The words of Christ when he asks ‘O Placidus why are you pursuing me?’  are a reminder of Acts 9:4 ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’. The speaking stag’s precedent in Balaam’s Ass is explicitly mentioned in the Golden Legend account of the story,  as is the similarity of Eustace’s sufferings to those of Job, and the similarity of the bull-shaped brazen vessel in which the family is martyred to the furnace to which Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were placed by Nebuchadnezzar.54

Beyond the all-important function of prompting exegesis, such associations had a dual mnemonic function; reminding the reader of the earlier events whilst also providing a convenient memory-tag on which to hang the new episodes.  At the same time, the practice helped enhance the authority of the hagiographer’s own, potentially unreliable, authorial voice through the invocation of unquestionably reliable biblical authorities.  There was however something even more special about this particular story-line as a narrative structure. What Northrop Frye described as the Bible’s ‘U-shaped mythos of fall into bondage and redemption to freedom’  is itself this same topic structure writ large.55 Looking at the Bible with the binoculars reversed as it were, we see our losing/finding/not-recognising triad as a narrative macro-structure which has a happy outcome for some and a tragic outcome for others; God’s Grace, lost  in the sin of Adam but found again in Christ, whose divinity was not recognised by the Jews but who would later be recognised by the faithful (see Figure 11).

Figure 11 - Losing, finding and not-recognising as the ‘grand narrative’ of Christian theology

However strange and unnatural such analogies may seem to us, the topoi found in the Story of St Eustace would have been like gold-dust for the exegetical mind of a medieval theologian.


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1 For a simple introduction to the history and techniques of enamelling, see the volume on this subject in the V&A’s ever-reliable ‘Introductions to the decorative arts’ series; M. Campbell, An Introduction to Medieval Enamels, London 1983.

2 In this chapter, I will use the term ‘Limousin’ as a general term for the area around Limoges (roughly corresponding to the modern region of that name). The pre-Revolutionary province of Limousin was actually much smaller and centred on Tulle - Limoges itself was in the old province of Haute-Vienne.

3 For a mid-20th century summary of the state of the literature on southern enamels up to that point, see. W. L. Hildeburgh, 'The Literature of Art: Copper Champlevé Enamels', in The Burlington Magazine, 96(612), 1954, pp. 91-92.

4 Volume 1 of the Corpus was published in 1987 as M.-M. Gauthier and G. François, Émaux méridionaux: Catalogue international de l'oeuvre de Limoges - Tome I: Epoque romane, Paris 1987.   Tome II: L’École de Limoges, 1190-1215, was scheduled  for publication in 2008 but has yet to appear (in March 2010 I was advised it was due to appear later in the year).

5 For the catalogue of the British Museum exhibition, see M.-M. Gauthier and G. François, Medieval Enamels: Masterpieces from the Keir Collection,London 1981. Both the New York Times for November 21, 1997 and The Spectator for Dec 20-27, 1997 offer amusing post-mortems of the infamous Sotheby’s New York auction of the Keir enamels, which featured costly and exotic stage designs by Richard Wilson complete with ‘living sculptures’ and seductive lighting effects, all of which inexplicably failed to appeal to buyers of medieval art.

6 R.H. Randall, ‘Review: Limoges Enamels. Paris and New York’, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 138, No. 1118 (May, 1996), pp. 348-349

7 The two editions of the catalogue were published as “L’Oeuvre de Limoges : Emaux limousins du Moyen Age”, Paris, 1995, and “Enamels of Limoges 1100-1350”, New York, 1996.

8 The Merovingian example is the so-called Châsse de Mumma in St-Benoit-sur-Loire. It is a small (11cm high) seventh century reliquary chest, made of repousse copper gilt mounted on a wooden core.

9 For the Bellac Châsse, see J. P. O'Neill and T. Egan, eds., Enamels of Limoges, 1100-1350 (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Yale 1996, pp.87-89.
Originally from the abbey of Grandmont, the Ambazac Châsse  (ibid, Cat.55),  is a particularly large and elaborate chest from the 1180’s, richly encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones and with microarchitectural decorations which are clearly intended to evoke the Celestial City. For some examples of chests with transepts, see the Châsse of St Ursula and the one with the Life of Christ (both c.1240) in ibid, Cat. 114 and 115. Even these extravaganzas are however not significantly different from the standard pitched-roof form.

10 See W. F. Stohlman, 'Quantity Production of Limoges Champlevé Enamels', in Art Bulletin, 17(3), 1935, pp. 390-94, for the evidence of ‘quantity production’ of enamels. Although other forms of evidence are scarce, the very nature of champlevé enamelling, with its multiple production stages punctuated by numerous firings, is naturally conducive to such workshop practices. The Corpus des Émaux méridionaux lists numerous detached/isolated plaques, some of which are 19th century fakes.

11 See M.-M. Gauthier and G. François, Émaux méridionaux: Catalogue international de l'oeuvre de Limoges - Tome I: Epoque romane, Paris 1987.

12 C. Hahn, 'Interpictoriality in the Limoges Chasses of Stephen, Martial, and Valerie ' in  Image and Belief, ed. C. Hourihane, Princeton 1999,  p.110.

13 For a comprehensive account of the Limoges Ostensions, including detailed references to the source texts, see A. Perrier, 'Une manifestation populaire de religiosité en Limousin: les ostensions septennales', in Bulletin de la Societe Archéologique et Historique du Limousin, 101, 1974, pp. 119-56.

14 This became a 7-yearly event in 1519 and the Fête d’Ostension Septennale continues as a major festival to this day (April 2009 being the most recent).

15 E. Rupin, l’Oeuvre de Limoges, Paris 1890, pp.335-72   gives a helpful breakdown by subject.

16 See M.-M. Gauthier and G. François, Émaux méridionaux: Catalogue international de l'oeuvre de Limoges - Tome I: Epoque romane, Paris 1987, Cat.177.

17 For more conventional depictions of the Maries at the tomb see Fig. 8.10C (plaque A) or Fig. 8.08 (plaque B).

18 E. Mâle, Religious art in France: the Twelfth Century, Princeton 1978 [1922], p.134ff.  The Regularis Concordia was written at Winchester 965-75 for the use of all Benedictine houses of England and features numerous dramatic rubrics detailing the actions that are to accompany the sung tropes and responses.

19 For the St Martial service book (Paris Bib Nat., MS Lat. 784, Lib resp. Sancti Martialis Lemovicensis saec.xiii-xiv, fol. 106v) see K. Young, The Drama of the Medieval Church: Vol 1, Oxford 1933, p.271ff.

20 E. Mâle, Religious Art in France: The Thirteenth Century, Princeton 1984 [1898], p.215.

21 The suggestion that the reliquaries were intended to house fragments of the tomb from San Eustorgio was made by Marie-Madeleine Gauthier - see M.-M. Gauthier and G. François, Émaux méridionaux: Catalogue international de l'oeuvre de Limoges - Tome I: Epoque romane, Paris 1987, p.101.

22 Given the unavailability of high-resolution images and the failure of the museum to respond to my enquiries, the matter is likely to remain uncertain until I am able to visit Guéret in person.

23 The earlier version is the aptly named Vita antiquior , known from a manuscript  copied in Reichenau before 846 (Karlsruhe ms.136). This was followed by the Vita prolixior sancti Martialis, around which Limoges’ infamous forger, Adémar de Chabannes, was to weave a web of deceit in his (largely successful) attempt to have Martial recognised as a direct Apostolic appointee. For the background to this forgery  see J. A. Emerson, 'Two Newly Identified Offices for Saints Valeria and Austriclinianus by Adémar de Chabannes (Ms Paris, Bibl. Nat., Latin 909, Fols. 79-85v)', in Speculum, 40(1), 1965, pp. 31-46.

24 J. A. Emerson, 'Two Newly Identified Offices for Saints Valeria and Austriclinianus by Adémar de Chabannes (Ms Paris, Bibl. Nat., Latin 909, Fols. 79-85v)', in Speculum, 40(1), 1965, pp.36-37

25 This was not the relic-obsessed Hugh of Lincoln but a predecessor, Robert de Chesney. See M.-M. Gauthier, 'La legend de sainte Valérie et les émaux champlevés de Limoges', in Bulletin de la Societe Archéologique et Historique du Limousin, 86, 1955, p.78

26 Strictly speaking this element is out of sequence here - the vitae refer to the witnesses seeing Valerie’s soul carried up in a ball of fire immediately after her decapitation. However the visual narratives all ignore this detail and stick to the conventional procedure of showing the elevation of the soul alongside or in place of the entombment. This is one of many examples where a visual topos can override the details of a specific narrative.

27 Details of location, provenance and inventory numbers (where known) are given with the accompanying illustrations. Of the chests not shown there; for Masseret (Corrèze) parish church - see E. Rupin, l’Oeuvre de Limoges, Paris 1890, p.426. For Salins (Cantal) parish church - Ibid. p.405 and Fig.462.

28 See C. Hahn, 'Interpictoriality in the Limoges Chasses of Stephen, Martial, and Valerie ' in Image and Belief, ed. C. Hourihane, Princeton 1999,  p.119 and C. Hahn, 'Valerie's Gift: A Narrative Enamel Chasse from Limoges' in Reading Medieval Images: The Art Historian and the Object, ed. E. Sears and T. K. Thomas, Ann Arbor 2002, p.195. For the more conventional view of the relative chronology, see M.-M. Gauthier and G. François, Émaux méridionaux: Catalogue international de l'oeuvre de Limoges - Tome I: Epoque romane, Paris 1987, cat. 91 and cat. 94.  As an aside, I strongly suspect that the Hermitage chest is actually an amalgam of two similar chests, or alternatively that plaque B was originally intended for a different setting (it is not unusual to find reliquary chests that dealers, or the original owners, have assembled out of disparate plaques). Plaque B has ten nails along its length, instead of the nine used for plaques A, C & D. More significantly, the border pattern used on this plaque (concentric semicircles with spaces left for the nail holes) is very different from the border pattern used consistently on all the other five plaques. Either of these differences in itself would be noteworthy - to find both of them demands an explanation. Finally, there are several clear differences in the figure styles, costumes, drapery and architectural details between plaques A and B - indeed the two plaques on the Hermitage chest are as different from each other as this plaque A is from plaque A on the British Museum chest. Cynthia Hahn, in both of her essays on this chest, drew iconographical significance from these differences between the upper and lower scenes, (particularly the disappearing pteruges on the executioner’s hat) without ever mentioning the possibility that they might have come from different boxes

29 This distinction into three types, as well as the details of most of the chests described, draws on M.-M. Gauthier, 'La legend de sainte Valérie et les émaux champlevés de Limoges', in Bulletin de la Societe Archéologique et Historique du Limousin, 86, 1955, pp. 35-80.

30 C. Hahn, 'Interpictoriality in the Limoges Chasses of Stephen, Martial, and Valerie ' in Image and Belief, ed. C. Hourihane, Princeton 1999, p.114-5

31 For more on the portal as a syntagma, see my MA thesis; S. Whatling (2005). Narrativity in French Gothic Portal Sculpture, University of London (Courtauld Institute of Art).

32 In practice of course not all nouns are substitutable and not all Christian narrative scenes are ‘suitable’ for all architectural or other settings. Exploration of the rules determining substitutability are one of the more interesting aspects of linguistics and art history alike.

33 For a detailed study of medieval attitudes to dreams and their theological significance, see S. F. Kruger, Dreaming in the Middle Ages, Cambridge 1992.

34 As usual I am using the Douay-Rheims (Challoner revision) translation since, though its English is sometimes a little clumsy, it is closest to being a literal translation of the Vulgate text familiar to most medieval clerics.

35 The Vulgate’s pincernas is sometimes translated as ‘cup-bearer’ but I have stuck with the Douay-Rheims translation’s ‘butler’ - partly because it is more convenient but also because the Old French word bouteillier from which the English word ‘butler’ originated also originally referred to the office of ‘cup-bearer’.

36 For more information on this window, including an overview diagram and detailed views of each panels, see (last checked 17/01/2010)

37   Jane Welch Williams has discussed these bread baskets at length - see J. Welch Williams, Bread, Wine and Money: The Windows of the Trades at Chartres Cathedral, Chicago 1993.

38 This was one of the windows attributed to the Bourges ‘Good Samaritan’ workshop on the basis of traditional connoisseurship - see L. Grodecki, 'A stained glass atelier of the thirteenth century: a study of windows in the cathedrals of Bourges, Chartres and Poitiers', in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 2, 1948, pp. 87-111. As I will discuss in chapter 9, this attribution can also be supported on ‘narratological grounds’. At the time of writing there are no proper  monographs on the Poitiers glass, although images of both Joseph windows are available on this author’s website at; (checked 17/01/2010)

39 In the west, the baker is normally shown being hanged by the neck, as here, from a rustic gibbet - a somewhat questionable interpretation of the ‘Y’-shaped yoke, or patibulum, mentioned in the Vulgate. The Byzantine tradition (seen for example in the mosaics of the Basilica di San Marco in Venice) tends to follow the description of Flavius Josephus, who said the baker was crucified (Ant. Jud. II. v.3) - see K. Weitzmann, Studies in Classical and Byzantine Manuscript Illumination, Chicago 1971, p.89.

40 Of the examples examined here, the Morgan Picture Bible is the only one to show the prisoners shackled in this way.

41   Study of Vienna 2554 has been greatly facilitated by the publication of a relatively inexpensive reduced-size facsimile; G. B. Guest, Bible Moralisée: Codex Vindobonensis 2554, Vienna, Österreische Nationalbibliothek London 1995.  For background to the Bibles moralisées generally and particularly for the debates concerning dating, see J. Lowden, The making of the Bibles Moralisées, Pennsylvania 2000.

42 These transcriptions/translations of the narrative and moralising texts are based on G. B. Guest, 1995 (ibid) p.63.

43 See J. Lowden, The making of the Bibles Moralisées, Pennsylvania 2000, pp.139-87 (especially p.183ff) and p.322, n.7.

44 OPL was published (a black and white facsimile) as A. Laborde, La Bible Moralisée conservée a Oxford, Paris et Londres; Reproduction Intégrale du Manuscrit du XIIIe Siècle, Paris 1911. More recently, a luxury limited edition full-colour facsimile of Toledo was published as M. Moleiro, Biblia de San Luis. Biblia Rica de Toledo, Barcelona 1999.

45 This lifting of the butler’s head, which I have not observed in any other visualisation of this episode (and which is even more striking in OPL), is rather tantalising in terms of textual traditions. It corresponds to nothing in the Vulgate’s account of Gen.40:13, which simply talks of the butler being restored to his former position (‘recordabitur Pharao magisterii tui et restituet te in gradum pristinum dabisque ei calicem iuxta officium tuum sicut facere ante consueveras’). However the King James version and the Hebrew Study Bible, both have ‘then shall Pharaoh lift up thine head’. It seems likely therefore that whoever devised these illustrations had access either to a Masoretic Bible or perhaps to a commentary that drew attention to this detail.

46 The rather clumsy translations in this section are mine.

47   As with Vienna 2554, The St Louis Psalter benefits from having been published as a relatively inexpensive facsimile; M. Thomas, Le psautier de Saint Louis: Reproduction des 78 enuminures à pleine page du manuscrit Latin 10525 de la Bibliothèque national de Paris, Graz 1970. It has also recently been the subject of an excellent monograph; H. Stahl, Picturing kingship : history and painting in the Psalter of Saint Louis, Pennsylvania 2007.

48 The only monograph on the Rouen transept portals is L. Pillion, Les Portails Latéraux de la Cathédral de Rouen, Paris 1907.

49 The standard version of the story is found in W. G. Ryan, Jacobus de Voragine's The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, Princeton 1993, Vol II p. 266-71. For further details and bibliography see J. K. Golden, 'Images of Instruction, Marie de Bretagne, and the Life of St. Eustace as Illustrated in British Library Ms. Egerton 745' in Insights and Interpretations: Studies in Celebration of the eighty-fifth anniversary of the Index of Christian Art, ed. C. Hourihane, Princeton 2002, pp. 60-84. I am also indebted to my friend and colleague Geraldine Victoire for her helpful suggestions and feedback regarding both St Eustace and St Julien.

50 R. Barthes, 'Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives', in New Literary History, 6(2), 1975 [1966], p. 248. See chapters 2.d and 2.e above for a reminder of Barthes narrative functions.

51 For the ‘implied readers’ of this story, achieving martyrdom represents the ultimate happy ending.

52 This is the earlier version of the story, as seen in bay 21 at Chartres. The better known version is the one found in the Golden Legend and in the French vernacular verse epic Vie de Saint Julien (BNF Arsenal ms.3516. f.84), in which Julien is of noble birth and a keen huntsman who flees his family home after an animal he has killed curses him and foretells that he will kill his own parents.

53 For the background to both the story and its most famous illustrated version, see K. Gerry, The Alexis Quire in the St Albans Psalter and the monastic community of St Albans (PhD Thesis), Johns Hopkins, 2007. I am indebted to Kate Gerry for introducing me to this remarkable saint.

54 W. G. Ryan, Jacobus de Voragine's The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, Princeton 1993, Vol.II, pp.267-71.

55 N. Frye, 'History & Myth in the Bible' in The literature of fact: selected papers from the English Institute, ed. A. Fletcher, 1976, p.8.


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