The Paris Alexander Romance is one of the most outstanding Gothic manuscripts from France, Paris. The codex, also known as Pariser Alexanderroman or Le Livre et la Vraye Hystoire du Bon Roy Alixandre, was written and illuminated in the first quarter of the 15th century and with its 86 remarkably illuminated miniatures framed in gold and over a hundred large initials it is a superb example of Gothic book illumination.
The Master of the Royal Alexander
Written in French the Pariser Alexanderroman displays an outstanding iconographic apparatus which is the work of the Master of the Royal Alexander, active between Paris and Normandy and author of other renown manuscripts.
In addition to the 86 wonderfully depicted miniatures, it is worth noticing the penwork decoration featured in the small gold initials on rose and blue grounds. As the title suggests, both the text and the iconography tell the story of Alexander the Great – an ancient hero who had become a role model among medieval rulers and knights.
Alexander the Great: an Heroic Figure
The life of this heroic figure offered the artist the chance to play with his creativity and artistry, and this is reflected in each miniature, which, despite the variety of representations (landscapes, interiors, mythological figures) betrays attention to details and extreme meticulousness.
In addition to the realistic and detailed rendering of naturalistic images, and the painstaking work behind the depiction of robes and armor, another skill worth noticing is the depiction of each character, each with his personal and individual distinctive traits which the artist took great pain in painting.
The choice of the topic does not surprise as already at the time there was a wealth of literature regarding the life of Alexander. This was mainly because Alexander embodied all the virtues that a ruler was to have and therefore by celebrating his figure, the rulers themselves obtained great prestige, too.
Although the commissioner remains unknown, it can be asserted that the manuscript certainly had a royal life for in the 16th century it became possession of Henry VIII – as the initials HR on the flyleaf would confirm. In 1757 the Royal Library was donated to the British Museum by King George II, and the manuscript became part of the British Library where it is still currently treasured.
Gothic Cursive Script
The Paris Alexander Romance displays a beautiful example of Gothic cursive script which echoes the Bourguignone style with which it shares features such as loops and pointed descenders. Other characteristics are the two shapes of r and s, and the use of the uncial and flagged d.
Unfortunately, like many medieval manuscripts, the codex is now missing its original binding which was replaced with a Royal library 18th century brown leather binding featuring the royal arms and the date of 1757.