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The Dove Over the Ark, in a Historical Compilation

The Dove Over the Ark, in a Historical Compilation

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1390

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Nero D VI

Item number: f.76r

Length: 35.5

Width: 23

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

King Richard II (1367-1400), son of Edward the Black Prince, was crowned at age ten, with the regency of a council headed by John of Gaunt. His achievements when an adolescent in negotiating an end to the Peasants' Rebellion, 1381, were not lived up to when he ruled the country as king. He alienated Parliament, was deposed in 1399 and died (probably murdered) a prisoner at Pontefract Castle. This collection of historical documents, a chronicle of English kings and rules for activities at the royal court was made during Richard's reign. It is possible that the king had it made for his ally, Thomas de Mowbray. Its miniatures resemble closely others surviving in manuscripts decorated for the monks of Westminster Abbey as well as a few linked to Richard II, who apparently was an outstanding royal patron of painters. The Wilton Diptych (in the National Gallery, London), probably his personal devotional shrine, represents him before English royal saints adoring the Virgin and Child. While documents at the beginning of the manuscript are generally treaties successfully negotiated by Richard's Plantagenet ancestors, this text looks even farther back, to Biblical times, to place English kings within world history and emphasise their role in Christian salvation. The 'Chronicle of English kings from Noah to the present day' mentions Richard II in the present tense, thus dating the manuscript to his reign. Its first letter bears an image of the dove flying over the ark, as Noah and his family peer out over the floodwater.

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