Themes
  An Earthly Paradise?
alciato

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Andrea Alciato or Alciati
Italian, 1492–1550
Emblemi dell’ Alciato (Alciato’s Emblems)
Lyon, 1549, Italian edition
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

 

The publisher of this edition was Guglielmo Rovillio, whose refined books in Italian were highly prized among the wealthy Italian community in Lyon. As historian Henry Heller points out, “the four Italian nations [Milan, Luca, Genoa, and Florence] inhabited a special part of the cities, built their mansions in the Italian style, spoke Italian more than French, and supported a largely Italian literary and culinary culture.”

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rabelais

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François Rabelais
French, 1494–1553
Les oevvres de Me. François Rabelais ... contenant cinq liures, de la vie, faicts, & dits heroïques de Gargantua, & de son fils Pantagruel (The Works of François Rabelais, containing five books, of the Lives, Heroic Deeds and Sayings of Gargantua and His Son Pantagruel)
Lyon, Jean Martin, first edition, 1558
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

 

Rabelais was a major Renaissance writer, doctor, and humanist who was protected by Marguerite of Navarre, sister of King François I. With support from members of the prominent Du Bellay family, and from Marguerite de Navarre, he was able to publish his very inventive and provocative stories of giants. Rabelais mocked the flaws, ridiculous behavior, and hypocrisies of the elite, for instance, the passion of nobles for genealogy, the excess of effete politeness at the court, the ignorance of pedantic scholars, or the ruthless violence of knights.

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barnaud

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Nicolas Barnaud
French, 1538–1604
Le Cabinet du Roy de France (The Cabinet of the King of France), 1581
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

 

This pamphlet, written by a Protestant, contains a violent satire against the royal court, and especially the effeminate and vain mignons: The courtiers are “fancy dollies” and “do-nothings” who believe they are “the equals of gods.” They seek to have people “kiss their shoe, like their paternal boss in Rome.”

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january

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Attributed to the workshop of Pierre Reymond
French, ca. 1513–after 1584
The Month of January, from a series of twelve plates depicting the
Labors of the Months, ca. 1575
Enamel and gold on copper
Membership Purchase Fund


Although it looks like a dessert plate, this small object evokes the kind of collections amassed by French courtiers. Enamels like this were made in Limoges, in south-central France, by a small group of royally-licensed artisans, the émailleurs du roy. Enameling is the process of coating copper objects with layers of powdered glass, which, when fired, fuses into a hard and lustrous surface.

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hercules

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Gabriel Salmon
French, active 1504–1542
Hercules Attacking a Three Satyrs and a Nymph
Woodcut
Gift of Paul Ehrenfest (Class of 1932) and Elizabeth K. Ehrenfest

 

As one of the chief heroes of classical mythology, Hercules was naturally a common subject in Renaissance art.  However, in sixteenth-century France, Hercules embodied a variety of meanings—for example as a precursor of Christ, or as a symbol of moral fortitude. Perhaps most interesting of all is the development of the uniquely French concept of the “Gallic Hercules,” crafted from blending Roman historical and pseudo-historical accounts of two personages: the Gallic Hercules-Ogmios, and the Libyan Hercules, tenth king of the Gauls. The idea of a French Hercules (despite its spurious historical origin) allowed French scholars to assert a French parallel to the classical roots of Italian culture.

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