What Goes Best With Medieval Jesus? [Answer Within] (Mmm… Marginalia #28)


Pop quiz, hotshot.  You’re the illuminator for Bodleian Library MS Douce 49, a late 13th-century Flemish Psalter.*  You notice there’s a bit of spare room up above your historiated initial of the Passion of the Christ (pictured above).  Mel Gibson won’t return your calls, and you’ve already burned your lifelines.  What do you do?  What do you do?

If you answered “Add a monkey riding a lion,” you are correct! (And probably a cheater.)


Nonetheles, enjoy your Passion of the Christ, now fortified with essential monkey.

*True, you probably wouldn’t refer to it as “Bodleian Library MS Douce 49.”  You’d probably call it, “The prayer book for Mr. ‘Oooh, that page isn’t gilt enough for me, I’m such a fancy pants noble'”.  Assuming you hate the guy who commissioned it, of course.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • EK Black

    Why is the monkey holding a hammer? Not helping out with the Crucifixion is he?
    …I notice also that his mount is a most unnatural shade for a lion. Hmm…

  • Got Medieval

    I’m not sure if that’s a hammer or not, but the image of the crucifixion later in the same manuscript also has a monkey, this one holding a trumpet like it’s a rifle.

  • maepstein

    This is an obvious parallelism in the marginalia: the monkey = Jesus’ tormentors while the lion he is goading = Jesus himself.

  • beatrixherald

    In the illuminator’s defense, the passion is kind of a downer. Monkey’s on the other hand are delightful.

    Just a spooonful of monkeys helps the crucifix go up… In the most delightful way.

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