August 26, 2004

Drolleries

Drolleries are decorative thumbnail illustrations which adorn the margins of certain manuscripts, often depicting fanciful or grotesque hybrid creatures. One manuscript in particular features such an abundance of this type of illumination that it has become known as ‘the Book of Drolleries’ (Le Livre des Drôleries).

Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'.
Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'.

The manuscript is an early 16th-Century Book of Hours thought to have been commissioned by a lady connected with the Habsburg-Burgundy court. The book later came into the possession of the Croy family, historically one of Burgundy’s wealthiest, hence its other name, the ‘Croy Hours’ (Les Heures de Croy). Today, the manuscript is in the collection of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna.

Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'.
Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'.

Some of the best-known artists of the Ghent-Bruges school of illumination are thought to have contributed to the Croy Hours, namely Gerard Horenbout and Simon Bening (who was also responsible for the miniatures in the Da Costa Hours, amongst others). The work also apparently shows the supervisory influence of Gerard David.

Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'.
Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'.

My source for the present images was a book by the title of Codices Illustres, a marvellous Taschen publication which reproduces images from dozens of the most famous illuminated manuscripts. Almost every page in this book is ornamented with a single drollery drawn from the Croy Hours, placed next to the page-number. This page, meanwhile, offered the best summary of information about the Croy Hours that I could find.

Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'.
Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'. Thumbnail of a scan of a 'drollery' from the 'Croy Hours' by way of 'Codices Illustres'.

Click on the images to see them enlarged, although note that the originals were so small that these enlargements are necessarily somewhat fuzzy.

Posted by misteraitch at August 26, 2004 03:39 PM | TrackBack
Comments

You must create a set of "drolleries" icons for your most frequently used application. The gargoyle-fish-windbag seems especially apropos for Microsoft Outlook -- which, for your sake, I hope you have never seen.

Posted by: Jack Rusher on August 27, 2004 12:05 AM

have you ever come across any illustrations of hedgehogs in any bestiaries you may have come across? i remember seeing an illustration of a folk superstiton about hedgehogs stealing fruit from orchards by flipping themselves upside down and then stabbing the fruit with their quills, stacking themselves like shishkabobs with their stolen goods. i have never been successful in finding this image since...

do you by chance know what i'm talking about?

Posted by: stacy on August 29, 2004 05:01 AM

Stacy: here’s an illustration from the Aberdeen Bestiary. Also here’s a scan from my copy of an edition of the Bodleian Library Bestiary MS. 764. The text states:

It is quite clever: if it picks a grape off the vine, it rolls on it and spears it with its spines in order to carry it home to its young.

My apologies to 'mutant': I deleted your comment by mistake while cleaning out some comment-spam.

Posted by: misteraitch on August 29, 2004 07:35 AM

Mr H, I've only just discovered your site, but i'm hooked already! It reminds me of a trip I made to Johannesburg from my childhood home in swaziland at the age of 16. I spent almost my savings in a book shop on art books, the 3 best treasures were an Goya's Capricios, small book of Max Ernst reproductions and a book on the 'Great Eccentrics' I've still got it somewhere, and will have to look it out, but as best I can remember it included Blake, Fuselli and Hieronymous Bosch amongst others, I feel exactly the same thrill of discovery of the wierd, and that there are people who see the world like me (only better) which I found in those books on almost every page of your blog. Keep it up.

But, enough gushing and on to the real reason for my posting: In your posting above you tell stacy that there are illustrations from the aberdeen and bodleian bestiaries, which sound intriguing, but I can't see them, can you put them back please?

Posted by: paulm on April 1, 2005 08:57 PM

Paul—thanks for your comment. Clicking on the words ‘Aberdeen Bestiary’ in my comment above will take you to pages at the University of Aberdeen where the whole Bestiary has been scanned, transcribed and annotated.

I only scanned a single image from my copy of a translation of the Bodleian bestiary in response to Stacy’s query: click on the word ‘:scan&~8217; in my previous comment to see it.

Posted by: misteraitch on April 2, 2005 07:10 AM
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