An Illuminated Inspiration

The illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages are a huge source of inspiration to me. I collect every book I can find about them, and take every opportunity to see them in person. There is one little book in my collection that always sits on top of the stack. “The Hunting Book of Gaston Phebus” is different from many other manuscripts in that its topic is not religious. The Comte de Foix, Gaston Phebus, describes absolutely every aspect of hunting in the 14th Century – from the types of prey and the dogs used to hunt them to the training of the huntsmen.  All of this is done with spectacular, meticulously drawn and painted, illuminated pages. The landscapes are stylized and remind me of the Unicorn Tapestries with the addition of the striking, geometric skies that I have remarked on, before.  The beauty of the pages is enough, but in addition, I am totally drawn to the idea of illustrating a passion down to the Nth degree. There are so many levels on which this book inspires that I just have to share a copy with you!

This time I have just one copy to share, but the rules are the same. Just leave a comment, here, or “like” my post on Facebook to let me know you are interested. I will draw a name on Thanksgiving and post the winner. You don’t need to live here to enter! We will be happy to mail the book to you.

Public Experiment 1 Gaston Phebus sky 2



13 Responses to An Illuminated Inspiration

  1. jeanette sclar November 15, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    Are you familiar with Jan Messent’s work? She has done a lot of needlework inspired by old tapestries…and she has written a book about the embroidery in the Bayeux Tapestry.

    • gretchen November 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

      Yes, I am familiar. I have carried many of her books over the years. She is extraordinarily talented. I’m also familiar with the Bayeux Tapestry, although I haven’t yet seen Jan Messent’s book about it. Thank you for mentioning it!! I will find it. Have you seen the the modern day take-offs on the Bayeux Tapestry with topics like 911? I’ll find the links to post. Thanks for writing!!

      • jeanette sclar November 16, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

        Please do post the links if you can find them…would love to see a modern interpretation! The title of Jan’s book is “The Bayeux Tapestry Embroiderers’ Story” and it is chock full of her drawings and even the text is her printing! Utterly unique.

  2. Gretchen November 17, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Here is one link with several examples:

    There are, apparently, some people doing Dr. Who in the style of the Tapestry, as well. Some of the “adaptations” are really funny, others in bad taste. I do love the irony of documenting our lives and important events through embroidery during this digital age!!!

    I’ve ordered the book you recommended on Amazon. Thanks so much for your input!

    • jeanette sclar November 20, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      ROFL! This gives me an idea of an ironic tapestry about Longears!

  3. Sarah November 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    I was just sent a link to your website because I study medieval manuscripts, and I love this entry! Have you seen or heard about the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II’s manual on falconry? It’s the “De art venandi cum avibus,” Bibliotheca Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1071, which has really naturalistic illustrations of birds.

    • gretchen November 20, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

      Sarah, I hadn’t heard of this and am excited to have your recommendation! I jumped onto Amazon and found lots of versions for sale, so I’ll soon have a copy. Thanks so much for taking the time to write! (I am giddy at the notion of studying medieval manuscripts. Would love to hear LOTS more about that!!!)

  4. gretchen November 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Jeanette, That sounds fabulous! I hope you’ll share some photos.

  5. Patri November 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Fabulous information! Another illuminations groupie here! I’ve read Jan Messent’s book on the Bayeaux Tapestry and it’s fascinating. Now I’m off to Amazon to check on the two books listed here – Although I’ll wait to see if by some miracle I win the The Hunting Book of Gaston Phebus”… 🙂


  6. Sharon Ward November 20, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    Dear Gretchen,
    I would love to win the book, but I will buy it if I do not.
    I love non-religious Medieval art work and needlework.
    Happy Thanksgiving,
    Sharon Ward

    • gretchen November 21, 2013 at 12:15 am #

      I think you will really like this one! Thank you for entering and good luck!

  7. gretchen November 28, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Here is another link to some funny, modern-day versions of the Bayeux Tapestry:

  8. Mary Wikert December 2, 2013 at 2:29 am #

    Hi Gretchen,

    I love the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages…the detail, the colors, the composition and the stylization all come together in such breathtaking ways! I was an art educator for 33 years and always enjoyed introducing my students to the world of the Middle Ages through the eyes of the illumination artists. It is amazing how these works have influenced the world of art and the the artists who followed in so many ways. We also studied the Bayeux Tapestry as a prequel to doing mural work or my big stitchery units…my students loved it!

    Thanks for the opportunity to win this book…I have never viewed this particular title!
    Mary Wikert

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