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Sounding legends - the 'Romans Arthuriens'

Among battlefields and love stories, the cycle of King Arthur’s legends written down in this 800-folio ‘Romans Arthuriens’ (c.a 1270-1290), is decorated with humorous legends of animals, monsters and angels with musical instruments.

With a predilection for bagpipes, trumpets, harps, fiddles, gitterns and few portative organs, the artist of this French manuscript (possible from St-Omer) uses recurrent imagery: the figures blend-in with the marginal ornamentation and many of the musicians are half human, half creature. Not having an overly delicate hand, the artist(s) still tries to convey plasticity and movement in these figures… a portative organ player dances on one foot (or perhaps is even running away from the legendary scene he is decorating), a fiddle player looks over the shoulder while we are only allowed to see the backside of his instrument, a bagpipe player balances on the fragile marginal frame while other entertainers balance on stilts.

BNF, Français 95, Romans arthuriens, French, Nord, St-Omer?, 1270-1290

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