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The 'Third Tragedy of Satourne', in John Lydgate, 'The Falls of Princes'

The 'Third Tragedy of Satourne', in John Lydgate, 'The Falls of Princes'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1450

Shelfmark: Sloane MS 2452

Item number: f.3v

Length: 37

Width: 25

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Separated from the rest of the manuscript (now in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, USA), this page comes from a section of John Lydgate's epic poem, 'Falls of Princes', which is an English translation (via a rather free French translation) of Boccaccio's poem of the same title in Latin. Lydgate was a London-born Benedictine monk who spent a good part of his life at Bury St Edmunds, but also he was a famous poet, a self-described disciple of Chaucer who enjoyed royal patronage. He wrote the 'Falls of Princes' for Humphrey, the Duke of Gloucester (uncle of Henry VI) between 1430 and 1438.

The poem is a series of moralising biographies of people of the ancient world (including biblical characters such as Eve) who fell from the height of fame, wealth or power at the most unexpected moment. It follows a well-used late medieval literary theme, the 'fallen persons' tragedy. Here the story of Satourne, king of Crete, begins. It is based on the ancient Greek myth of Saturn, who eats his children, a gruesome diet depicted in the illustration. The manuscript was probably made in East Anglia, possibly at Bury, based on the similarity of its paintings with mid-15th century book art from the monastery.

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