History of Alexander the Great

History of Alexander the Great

Belgium / Netherlands — 13th century

Created for King Philip IV of France: 100 grandiose miniatures on the history of Alexander the Great and a highlight of 13th century French book illumination

  1. Made in Brussels, this impressive medieval prose manuscript details the story of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC)

  2. Created for the French King Phillip IV (1268–1314) “The Fair”, its a high point of 13th century French book painting

  3. 100 grandiose miniatures integrated in the text depict subjects ranging from architecture to battle scenes

History of Alexander the Great

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
History of Alexander the Great

Made in Brussels, this manuscript details a novelized story of Alexander the Great and counts as one of the most impressive and important products of Middle Age prose. The codex was finished for the French King Phillip IV “The Fair”. The clear influence of the gorgeous, artistic layout of Old French texts can be seen. Miniatures of the highest quality illustrated the adventurous tales out of the life of Alexander the Great, which are all richly crafted in precious gold and silver. The manuscript, with its wonderful gothic miniatures and wonderful minuscule script, counts as part of the high point of French illumination of the 13th century.

History of Alexander the Great

Made in Brussels, this manuscript details the story of Alexander the Great and counts as one of the most impressive and important products of medieval prose. The codex was created for the French King Phillip IV “The Fair”. The clear influence of the gorgeous, artistic layout of Old French texts can be seen. Miniatures of the highest quality illustrated the adventurous tales out of the life of Alexander the Great, which are all richly crafted in precious gold and silver. The manuscript, with its wonderful gothic miniatures and wonderful minuscule script, counts as part of the high point of French illumination of the 13th century.

One of the Most Important Rulers in History as the Hero of a Novel

Entwining around numerous depictions of Alexander the Great in the special medieval fashion of myths and legends are biographical facts, which are creatively embroidered. The life of Alexander the Great offers enough material for a substantial adventure novel fully in the tradition of medieval enthusiasm for heroes and legends. Given an extensive education, he was upheld as an ideal ruler. Subsequently, Alexander the Great was identified with the ideals of court culture. This concept of a hero from Antiquity found particular expression in France in form of the famous Roman d’Alexandre, the Old French novel on Alexander. It depicted a legendary expansion of the life of Alexander the Great, decorated with rich tales of adventure and travel. The novel was second only to the Bible as the most widely distributed book in Europe. In countless illustrations, the manuscript retains the story of Alexander the Great in book-form, with historical facts peppered in around the illustrations and text.

Wonderful Miniatures and Illustrations of Adventure

Today one of the most gorgeous editions of the tradition is found in the collection of the Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique in Brussels. Originating in the 13th century, the manuscript contains a total of 180 pages of 100 grandiose miniatures, which illustrate the text. The text, which is split between two columns in gothic miniscule, is the Old French edition of the novel. The miniatures are conveniently placed and integrated within the text. Before the magnificent golden background or the finely divided ornament-pages, the artists depicted wonderful architectural representations and splendid scenes of battle. Decorated horses carry valiant knights into the awful din of battle, as whole armies fight with terrifying monsters. Alexander stands ever as the protagonist of the novel and as the center of the historical narrative. The manuscript with its ostentatious miniatures is a true masterpiece of illumination and was commissioned by the King Philip IV “The Fair” (1268–1314). This powerful ruler is known even today for his comprehensive and impactful political reforms for his empire as well as the Kingdom of France. He wanted to own a copy of the influential and famous novel of one of the greatest rulers in history, which was also worthy of a king with respect to its artistic furnishings.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Historia de Alejandro Magno
Geschichte Alexanders des Großen
Histoire d’Alexandre le Grand
Storia di Alessandro Magno
História de Alexandre Magno
Size / Format
180 pages / 24.0 × 18.0 cm
Origin
Belgium
Date
13th century
Style
Language
Script
Gothic minuscule
Illustrations
100 illuminated miniatures on a gold and silver backgrounds
Content
A novelized story of Alexander the Great

Available facsimile editions:
History of Alexander the Great – Ms. 11.040 – Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique (Bruxelles, Belgium)
Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2007
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Detail Picture

History of Alexander the Great

Alexander Jousting

Presented in a gold leaf frame with a splendidly patterned red background, Alexander is shown unseating his opponent, whose lance has broken. Identifiable throughout the text by the escutcheon of three gold crowns on a field of blue, Alexander has his heels dug into his stirrups with his lance firmly couched under his arm. Some odd details in the miniature include Alexander’s horned horse and the escutcheons of his opponent, likely the Persian Emperor Darius III, which have been rubbed off.

Historia de Alejandro Magno
Single Page

History of Alexander the Great

Alexander's Battle with Giants

In Alexandrian romances, the hero not only fights the armies of various nations, but also leads his warriors against hosts of beasts and monsters as he goes beyond the boundaries of the known world. This bas-de-page miniature features a gold leaf background and is set within a subtly patterned frame of blue and red.

The race of giants is depicted as being taller than Alexander’s men are on horseback, tall as trees in fact, and their oversized feet exceed the limits of the frame. Armed with clubs and dressed in crude garments, they are depicted as oafish and bearded with unkempt hair. Tales of Alexander fighting giants are probably rooted in his historic battles with the Celts, who were indeed tall compared to the Greeks, but not giants.

Historia de Alejandro Magno
Facsimile Editions

#1 Historia de Alejandro Magno

Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2007
History of Alexander the Great – Ms. 11.040 – Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique (Bruxelles, Belgium)
History of Alexander the Great – Ms. 11.040 – Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique (Bruxelles, Belgium) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2007
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Binding: Leather covered wooden book covers with bronze fittings and clasps
Commentary: 1 volume (106 pages) by Angelica Rieger, Marta Luque, and Brigitte Klein
Languages: Spanish, English, German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€€ (7,000€ - 10,000€)
Edition available
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