The Rose novel is a medieval allegorical epic on the theme of love. The book is a remarkable instance of medieval courtly literature. A best seller of the Middle Ages, the Roman de la Rose was written by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun in Old French and translated into Middle English. The novel's purpose is to both entertain and to teach about the art of love.
About 300 manuscripts are extant. Many of these codices are illustrated with a few miniatures; others are embellished with twenty or more illuminations. This exemplar of the Roman de la Rose is exceptional for its extensive cycle containing more than one hundred miniatures.
A Fashionable Manuscript for the King
Around the years 1520-25 the master Girard Acarie illuminated this manuscript for King François I. Active in Rouen, the illuminator painted 107 miniatures depicting the story of love contained in the book. Along with the scenes of sensual love described in the novel, the illuminations enrich the manuscript with portraits of the king.
The frontispiece of the book depicts François I receiving the codex from the scribe. The king and his court are dressed in rich fabrics, displaying fashionable clothes inspired to the Italianate style. Their gowns have wide collars and short puffy sleeves.
A Sensual Narrative: Love and Allegory
The manuscript tells the famous Roman de la Rose, a novel in which a young man dreams of a beautiful garden; as he stands in the garden, he finds a rose which, later in the story, becomes clear it is the symbol of the beloved girl.
The man is overcome with an indomitable passion. His love is described in its emotional strength. The novel explores all the delight, confusion and soul-moving feelings that he encounters along his path. While love lifts him to heights of extreme joy, it also drops him into the deep depth of despair until his goal is attained: the conquest of the beautiful rose.
We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Rose Novel for King François I":
- Der Rosenroman für François I (Deluxe Edition) facsimile edition published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 1993
- Der Rosenroman für François I (Standard Edition) facsimile edition published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 1993