French Renaissance Paleography


Paris, 1400-1415
Chronique de Normandie
Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, MS Ludwig XIII 4


The Chronique de Normandie recounts the deeds of the medieval dukes of Normandy. The first version of this prose chronicle drew on a long tradition of historiographical writing celebrating the dukes of Normandy that began in the late 10th century. By the 13th century, Latin and French verse histories of the dukes (by such authors as Dudon, Guillaume of Jumièges, Orderic Vital, Wace, Benoît of Saint-Maure, and others) had fallen out of style and were replaced by a prose vernacular version, likely due to the influence and popularity of contemporary prose Crusade chronicles. The anonymous French prose chronicle composed in the 13th century drew heavily on earlier Latin and vernacular sources while elaborating on the events described and bringing the chronicle up to date.

Later, in the 14th century, another anonymous author/compiler further revised and expanded the 13th-century prose Chronique de Normandie; modern scholars sometimes call this 14th-century version the _Grande Chronique de Normandie _to differentiate it from its predecessor. This later text is the one conserved in the Getty Museum manuscript. Scholars have divided the surviving manuscripts of the 14th-century chronicle into two text families: manuscripts of Family A, like the Getty’s copy, lack the two introductory chapters that are found in manuscripts of Family B. Overall, 43 manuscript copies of the 14th-century chronicle are known today.

The Getty’s copy of the Chronique de Normandie is an elaborate manuscript incorporating painted miniatures, marginal decoration, and large decorated initials. The miniatures depict major events from the chronicle, such as the coronation of William I (popularly known as William the Conqueror, identified as “guillaume le bastart” in the inscription) illustrated on folio 91v. Most of the miniatures utilize a technique known as “grisaille,” or painting with shades of gray instead of color. Manuscripts using grisaille were particularly in vogue among the French royal family in the 14th century, and the Dukes of Burgundy continued to favor the technique in the 15th century.

Two of the decorated initials in this manuscript contain armorial devices that allow us to posit the identities of the two people who originally commissioned (or received?) the manuscript: David de Rambures and Guillaume de Bours. The two men were friends who served as counselors for various dukes and kings, including King Philip the Bold. Both men were killed at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, one of the major battles of the Hundred Years’ War.


-Labory, Gillette. “Les manuscrits de la Grande Chronique de Normandie du XIVe et du XVe siècle.” Revue d’histoire des textes _29, no. 1999 (2000): 245-94. -Labory, Gillette. “Les manuscrits de la _Grande Chronique de Normandie du XIVe et du XVe siècle.” Revue d’histoire des textes 28, no. 1998 (1999): 183–233 [esp. 192-95]. -Labory, Gillette. “Les manuscrits de la Grande Chronique de Normandie du XIVe et du XVe siècle.” Revue d’histoire des textes 27, no. 1997 (1997): 191–222. -Walsh, John. “Acquisitions/1983. Manuscripts Acquisitions: The Ludwig Collection.” The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 12 (1984): 281–306. -Meiss, Millard. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Limbourgs and Their Contemporaries. New York: G. Braziller, 1974.