Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Travelling back at home... and playing 'Happy Families'

I've only just got round to editing my photos from last summer's trip in France. It's almost as good as travelling there all over again, looking at the photos (at least the good ones).

But a particularly interesting thing happened when I couldn't quite remember a certain motto, that of the Bishop of Comminges, Jean de Mauleon, who was responsible for the marvellous Renaissance woodwork in the choir of his cathedral, and (I think) the lovely stained glass. Was it amor omnia vincit, or amor omnia tecum, or omnis amor tecum? Something like that...

I typed into Google: jean mauleon omnis amor. And what I got was this:

Glorious Renaissance framing. Lovely fresh colours. And naked ladeez.

Well, it's the story of Bathsheba. King David sees her bathing and one thing leads to another... (I think that may be David leaning out of the window in the white gable end in the background.) So there is Scriptural precedent for this naughty picture, but none the less, Jean de Mauleon was pushing the boundaries with this illumination, I think. Not what we expect of a prelate of the Church.

Right opposite is a page with a lovely floral border, and at the bottom, a monogram OAT - omnis amor tecum - which is why I'd stumbled on this illumination.

The book is in the Walters Art Collection, in Baltimore, Maryland. So if I want to see
 Jean de Mauleon's book, as well as his woodwork, I'll have to think about a trip to the States.

I have actually matched works of art up like this before. For instance, a long time ago I visited the Cloisters art museum in New York. It gets it name from the fact that in the days when you could stroll around Europe buying up pretty much damn well anything, someone decided to buy the cloister of the monastery at Saint Guilhem le Desert and have it shipped to New York. (Four other cloisters also got shipped over, but I haven't tracked down their origins.)

Much, much later I walked the Via Tolosana from Arles to Toulouse, as part of the pilgrim way to Santiago de Compostela, and was thrilled to find I'd arrived at Saint Guilhem le Desert. It's a charming village, full of running water, springs, little streams in paved water channels, and low stone-built houses; the sun was hot, the lady at a roadside stall had given me a few over-ripe apricots as I'd passed that afternoon, and the juice that trickled down my face as I bit into them was nicely warm. It was a lovely place anyway, but my joy was increased by the feeling that I'd finally fit together those two long separated parts of a locket, the church and its lost cloister.

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