The art of hunting was a passion for Gaston III (1308-1343), the Lord of the Shire of Foix and Bearn, who, like the god of sun Apollo was called Phoebus because of his golden hair. A contemporary historian recorded that the three special delights that Gaston Phoebus preferred were arms, love and hunting. A peculiar character, Gaston Phoebus married Inés, the sister of Carlo II of Navarra andhis goal in life was to build a great Pyrenean reign exploiting his talent as a war strategist.
Musician, writer and poet, Gaston Phoebus had a splendid and celebrated court at Orhez. He was one of the greatest huntsmen of his day, and the author of an important treatise on the art of hunting.
A Masterpiece at the Hermitage Museum
Gaston Phoebus wrote the book between 1387 and 1389 and dedicated it to Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. The treatise deals with the art of hunting with a pedagogical function. The book shows how to hunt wild animals and instructs the hunters in the training of dogs.
At the same time, the text describes the behavior and the biology of the animals. Considered one of the best monographs on the art of hunting written in medieval times, the text served as book of natural history up to the nineteenth century. The exemplar of Gaston III Phoebus preserved in the Library of the Hermitage is the one the highest artistic value. The miniatures beautifully illustrate the entire content of the manuscript.
Richly Detailed Miniatures on the Art of Hunting
The illuminators painted seventy-eight charming miniatures in the French style of the fourteenth century. The illuminations show with a realistic tone the art of hunting and its practice. The miniatures display highly detailed scenes of the preparations of animals and hunters. The horses are harnessed with decorated and embroidered weapons. Refined clothes and natural details are depicted on golden background. All the images in the manuscript are enriched with silver and gold.
Goatskin leather with gold embosses embellishes the front and back covers. The internal threads are made of the same kidskin leather.