Sorry I’ve been away so long, folks. Blame Sid Meier. But in repayment, today you’ll get three marginal illustrations for the price of one,* one in the morning, another noon, and one final one at night. That should make up for the last two virtual-conquest-blighted weeks.
Scenes of horseback nobles and hounds coursing after hares and stags or men returning from the hunt are so common in medieval manuscripts that we hardly bother to index the straight versions. It’s only when the illuminator riffs on the standard pattern that we pay attention, such as in the various hunts of the hares I’ve featured here before. Can you spot the riff in this version found in the lower margin of a page of the famous Bodleian Alexander manuscript (MS Bodl. 264)?
That’s right–the hunter’s a girl!
It is to laugh! A girl on the back of a horse!! Can you imagine!?! It’s completely uncharacteristic for a hunt–which is usually a strictly male activity, let me remind you–to include female participants!!! How could she even get her feet in the stirrups without her reproductive organs getting tangled up in the flank cinch billet? Oh, those wacky medievals, taking something you’re familiar and replacing a single element to make–
…wait, I’ve just been informed that the lady on horseback is Diana the Huntress of Greek myth. Here she’s shown getting her revenge on the hunter Actaeon who dared glimpse her bathing naked by transforming him into a stag and siccing his hounds own on him. Don’t I look like the tool? Stupid medievals, being all “oooooh look at us, we’re so culturally literate”. OK, fine. Be that way. But explain to me which Greek myth this is supposed to be, Alexander illuminator:
Wait, I know–is that Zeus magically shapechanged into a loaf of bread, preparing to seduce the naked guy trussed up like a hunter’s game, maybe? No? Well, I give up.
(Still… a girl on horseback? *snicker*)
*Which is, let me remind you, still free.