Tempera and gold on vellum
Sheet: 13 x 9.1 cm (5 1/8 x 3 9/16 in.)
Gift from J. H. Wade 1924.1015
Medusa is shown here with her attendants before she was turned into the gorgon, a fierce frightening monster.
This miniature comes from the French translation of a book by the Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375). A compilation of biographies of famous women, Boccaccio’s work remained popular in France throughout the 1400s, especially with aristocratic bibliophiles, and was usually beautifully illustrated in the form of a deluxe manuscript. Shown here is the miniature introducing the chapter dealing with the legend of Queen Medusa. Surrounded by her courtiers, Medusa instructs the reader on the disadvantages of possessing wealth, which brings fear and superstition as well as loss of sleep, security, and peace of mind.
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