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Burial of Richard, in The Pageants of Richard Beauchamp

Burial of Richard, in The Pageants of Richard Beauchamp

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1485

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Julius E IV

Item number: f.27r

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 help 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.

The last picture in the manuscript shows the lowering of the coffin of Richard Beauchamp into his tomb, presided over by the Bishop of Lichfield. The diagonal placement of the coffin and the moment of being lowered are typical of the pictures created by the Caxton Master. Conventional models were plentifully available for him in, for example, illuminations in the Offices of the Dead in books of hours, which to an extent the picture resembles. He added original inventive touches to the composition and multiplied the number and realism of the mourners to create an impressive image of a high-status funeral.

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