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At the Holy Sepulchre, in The Pageants of Richard Beauchamp

At the Holy Sepulchre, in The Pageants of Richard Beauchamp

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1485

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Julius E IV

Item number: f.9r

Length: 27.7

Width: 20

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

Thought to have been made for Anne, Countess of Warwick and daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (1382-1439), this is the only illustrated biography of a secular figure to have survived from the late middle ages. Richard Beauchamp was a true high-flyer, but his daughter married Richard Neville ('The Kingmaker'), who opposed Edward IV and so caused the exclusion of Anne from all her possessions after his death. It is believed that, to recover the family's reputation and property, Anne had the 'Pageants' written, probably from an account kept by the family and possibly under the supervision of John Rous (Beauchamp's chantry priest at the Collegiate Church of St Mary's, Warwick), and the extraordinary illustrations made by a Continental artist (known as the Caxton Master) to enhance further the glorifying message.

While display of Richard's chivalry is the main intent of the storyline, his religious devotion is spotlighted as well. His journey to the Holy Land provides the framework for both. Here he arrives at Christ's sepulchre (left) and presents a coin or other offering to the abbot at the tomb. His large retinue underscores his status, but here he is shown kneeling devoutly, without armour or weapons.

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