« De fin or et d’azur » : les commanditaires de livres et le métier de l’enluminure à Tournai à la fin du Moyen Âge
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This book presents the results of a documentary study on manuscripts and illuminated books produced in Tournai in the late Middle Ages. It aims to reassess the concept of the « Tournai school of illumination » which gradually emerged in the 19th century. The study is largely devoted to the analysis of archival records and intends to define a framework which may be used as a starting point for further research. The first part examines how the concept of « Tournai school of illumination » was shaped within two very distinct circles of connoisseurs – local antiquarians, on the one hand, and international scholars specialized in book illumination on the other. Whereas the former artificially inflated the scope and mythologized the significance of the phenomenon – they fostered the concept of a school led by prominent illuminators and painters such as Jean Tavernier, Simon Marmion and Roger Van der Weyden – the latter, using broad stylistic categories, neglected the abundant archival evidence and came up with a patchwork of information which was altogether unsatisfactory and depreciatory. A cross-examination of these conflicting views underlines their fundamental inadequacy and demonstrates the need for a fresh examination of the still extant documentary and visual evidence. Archival records are analyzed in the second part of the book. A detailed study of these documents reveals the existence of a significant book market in Tournai, where skilled and organized craftsmen were able to satisfy the needs of a demanding clientele. First of all, there was obviously a large demand for illuminated codices, especially in the rising class of the bourgeoisie and the urban patricians. Wills and accounts – our principal sources of information – give us a wide sample of the books favoured by these patrons. They show a preponderance of paraliturgical books and a fairly widespread diffusion of vernacular works such as the Romance of the Rose or Guillaume de Digulleville’s Pilgrimages. It is particularly clear however that documents give only a very partial idea of Tournaisian book collections. Moreover, existing descriptions can in turn prove to be extremely incomplete. A way to compensate for this lack of information is to take into account the possibility that certain categories of manuscripts – such as Books of Hours – were in most cases illuminated, even though no decoration is explicitely mentioned in the records. Similarly, it is easy to establish the existence of substantial supply, thanks to two exceptional and complementary documents : the Recueil d’ordonnances granted in 1480 to the painters’ métier and the Register of enrolment in the Tournai Guild of Saint Luke, started in 1423. It appears from the records that the craft of illuminator was organized in a strictly regulated corporate structure affiliated to the painters’ guild. The Recueil d’ordonnances shows that illuminators occupied a subordinate position within the profession, but also that the statutes applicable to them, unlike those concerning the painters, remained relatively flexible until the end of the 15th century. Prosopographic research, based on transcriptions from the Register of enrolment in the Guild of Saint Luke suggests that, in the 15th century, Tournai played a significant role in the production of decorated and illustrated manuscripts : more than eighty « bookmakers » – scribes, illuminators, parchment makers and bookbinders – are documented. They supplied not only a local clientele but also patrons from neighbouring cities. A confrontation of the corporate norm defined by the Recueil d’ordonnances and the individual biographies, which give us a clear idea of the actual practice of the craft, show that the statutes were but loosely enforced or that in many cases they were just a useful « cover » for less admissible aims, like the preservation of the existing corporate hierarchy and of the masters’ interests. I further suggest that the existing regulations did not rule out a form of organized production within small units of labour, working on a fixed or occasional basis, which more or less correspond to Delaissé’s concept of « workshop ». Between these two poles of supply and demand, a certain « flux » probably circulated, the intensity of which still has to be determined by a careful examination of the manuscripts themselves (which I call the « monumental source »). Indeed, the codicological and art historical study of illustrated books should allow us to ascertain to what extent the manuscripts match the evidence presented by archival documents and how they can correct and at the same time complement this theoretical model. The study presents in appendix the complete body of documents where manuscripts are mentioned, as well as the text of the 1480 Ordinances and an extensive biographical list of book producers in Tournai, from the 13th to the 16th century. My aim in presenting these « raw materials » to the reader is to lay the foundations of a systematic study of Tournai book illumination.
Dominique Vanwijnsberghe, « De fin or et d’azur » : les commanditaires de livres et le métier de l’enluminure à Tournai à la fin du Moyen Âge (Louvain, 2001).