King Modus's Book of the Hunt was penned in 1370 by Henri de Ferrières, at the time one of the leading authorities in the art and practice of hunting. A Norman nobleman, Henri decided to commit to writing in his old age. His work, the first treatise on hunting in French vernacular, which enjoyed great popularity, was probably produced for Philip the Good. Together with his predecessors in the duchy of Burgundy, Philip created one of the wealthiest and most powerful kingdoms in Europe.
The Book of the Hunt: A Mysterious Teacher
While wishing to highlight the authority of his work, Henri de Ferrières also wanted to secure his readers' attention. He thus styled his narration as if it had been written by a Greek philosopher, in the form of a dialogue between a student and his teacher conferring about the art of hunting. In this case, the role of the teacher is played by a metaphorical figure named King Modus.
Fifty-Six Miniatures and the Power of Realism
The illustrations of this manuscript, crafted in 1455 in Burgundy, are especially noteworthy. The lavish touches of gold are not just mere illustrations of the wording in the text. Rather, they act as a glorification of the nobility's refined and pompous lifestyle. The images amaze the reader with their liveliness, the expertly depicted animals, and the realism in the lavish vestments.
The illuminators were determined to make their pictures as realistic as possible, something they achieved by giving great importance to their work's truthfulness. The Book of the Hunt can thus be viewed as a milestone in Flemish art.
Leather with gold blocking.