Jean de Montchenu, a nobleman, apostolic protonotary and then bishop of Agen (1477) and later Viviers (1478-1497), commissioned this codex of Spanish, Italian and French medieval love songs, thus honoring his notorious fame.
The closed book has a heart shape, once opened it becomes a butterfly formed by the two hearts of lovers who send messages of love in each of the songs. A heart-shaped manuscript is tremendously rare, but it shows a book that opens a heart, but not two, like the one that occupies us, unique in the world.
The songs, in Spanish, French and Italian, written for different voices, are attributed to the best medieval composers. When the word “heart” appears in the texts, it is represented with a delicate pictogram. Two full-page representations appear in the codex. In the first, Cupid throws arrows on a young woman, and beside him Fortune spins his wheel. In the other, two lovers approach lovingly. Throughout this beautiful and refined manuscript, surrounded by pentagrams, music and love poetry, were painted borders, grotesques or drolleries, animals, birds, dogs, cats and all kinds of flowers and plants enhanced by some abundant and delicate golds. It shows the balanced and elegant artistic set the binding in velvet, blood color, as it could not be otherwise, to wear this “Heart-shaped Book”.
In addition to all the collection he received from his father, James de Rothschild, Henri de Rothschild donated this book to the National Library of France in a memorable ceremony on March 22, 1933.
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