This week’s marginalia comes from a thirteenth-century manuscript, the Psalter of Margaret the Black, Countess of Flanders and Hainault*, and you need to see the full-page context to get the joke:
Images of men hunting hares with dogs are so common in illuminated manuscripts, we usually don’t even mention them in the catalogs of images.** But this poor hunter here is a clever riff on the standard presentation. He and his dogs seem to be learning the hard way about that page gravity*** I’m always on about. Their prey–that smug little hare–has somehow made its way up into the upper margin, and since there are no convenient floreate extensions for the hound and hunter to use to scale the page, she is thus safe from hound predation. All the one dog can do is gnaw the border in frustration:
While the other hound does his best “I could’ve sworn there was a hare here a moment ago…”:
By the by, if you’re wondering how much cash you need to be willing to shell out to own a manuscript like this, Black Meg’s psalter sold at Christie’s this past July for a cool $147K.
- * Daughter of the lady that Orlando bloom flirts with in that movie. [↩]
- ** My personal theory is that when illuminators wanted to knock off early for the day, they just tossed off a quick hunting scene and skipped out. [↩]
- *** For those of you who don’t slavishly follow my marginalia posts, as weird and trippy as gothic manuscript illumination might seem, there are nonetheless rules that the figures must generally obey. One of those rules is the law of gravity. Figures must stand on top of or hang from the borders; they can’t travel through the open white space of the page. [↩]