Grandes Chroniques de France

The Grandes Chroniques de France is a vernacular royal compilation of the history of France, most manuscripts of which are luxury copies that are heavily illuminated. Copies were produced between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, the text being extended at intervals to cover recent events. It was first compiled in the reign of Saint Louis (d. 1270), who wished to preserve the history of the Franks, from the coming of the Trojans to his own time, in an official chronography whose dissemination was tightly controlled. It was continued under his successors until completed in 1461. It covers the Merovingian, Carolingian, and Capetian dynasties of French kings, with illustrations depicting personages and events from virtually all their reigns.

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy with Chancellor Nicolas Rolin and the future Charles the Bold accepts his copy of the Grandes Chroniques de France from Simon Marmion on 1 January 1457. As often this presentation miniature is in the book itself, which is now in St Petersburg. This book contains the Burgundian version for later periods.
Clovis and his family, 14th-century

It survives in approximately 130 manuscripts,[1] varying in the richness, number and artistic style of their illuminations, copied and amended for royal and courtly patrons, the central work of vernacular official historiography. Over 75 copies are illustrated, with between one and over 400 scenes shown; analysis of the selections of subjects reveals the changing political preoccupations of the different classes of patrons over time.[2]

Following the contemporary styles of illustration seen in other manuscripts, early copies had mostly fairly small scenes, normally with a patterned background rather than a landscape or interior setting. In front of this a number of figures were engaged in key historical moments, especially battles, coronations, weddings and important meetings. There might be over 200 such scenes illustrated, often collected together as individual compartments in a full-page miniature with a decorated framework. By the mid-15th century the number of illustrations was fewer, around 50 even in lavish copies, but the miniatures were larger, and now had lovingly detailed landscape or interior backgrounds. Scenes of ceremonial moments, now often including large crowds, had become more popular, though battles retained their place.[3]


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