Laurent de Premierfait: De Casibus Virorum Illustrium (1400-1410)

(Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cologny, Switzerland)

An illuminated page probably made by the French writer Laurent de Premierfait (1370-1418). This page comes from the book 'De Casibus Virorum Illustrium' (On the Fates of Famous Men). The original was written by the Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) and contains 56 biographies of famous people. from the Bible, Greek and Roman history. The biographies are moralistic stories of how each of them were at the height of happiness and fell to misfortune when they least expected it. The book offers a moral commentary on overcoming misfortune by adhering to virtue through a moral God's world. The page shows small illustrations of the 'pitfalls' described in the following text - in this case Adam and Eve, Nembroth, Saturn, Cadmus, King of Thebes, Jocasta, Queen of Thebes, Thyestes and Atreus, Theseus, King of Athens, Priam, King of Troy, and his wife Hecuba, Agamemnon, King of Mycenae and Samson. The book was very popular and was frequently copied. This is a French copy of the book, made in 1400-1410.