La Somme le Roi (A Survey for a King) was written for the children of Philip III of France (r. 1270 –1285) by their tutor, Friar Laurent, who was also the King’s confessor. The work is a guide to virtue, contrasting it to vice, based on the principles of the Christian faith.
This copy was probably owned by Phillip III’s heir, Philip IV (r. 1285–1314). The images with inscriptions help to make abstract concepts in the treatise more easily understandable. One of the illuminations in four parts illustrates the four cardinal virtues (prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice) (f. 91v; image no. 1). Temperance is represented by a crowned lady instructing a young woman to decline a goblet offered to her by a young man.
Another set of four images represents prowess or fortitude on the left, firstly as a queenly figure, standing on a bull and holding a medallion of a lion and then using a biblical example of David defeating Goliath (f. 121v; image no. 2). On the right, the vice of idleness is contrasted with the virtue of labour, using examples from daily life: a lazy ploughman rests on a hilltop and an industrious farmer sows seeds.
- Article by:
- Alixe Bovey
By exploring illuminations depicting rural life, Dr Alixe Bovey examines the role of the peasant in medieval society, and discusses the changes sparked by the Black Death.