Grotesques in a Coital Partnership, and a Very Colorful Reptilian Female

TEXT FROM GOSPEL LESSONS.

(Northern France [probably Paris], ca. 1460s). 130 x 98 mm. (5 1/8 x 3 7/8"). Single column, 14 lines in a fine gothic book hand.

Attractively matted. The text similarly decorated as in the previous entry, but with both panel borders inhabited, that on the recto by a brown dog, with a shaggy plume on his forehead, riding a blue and orange goose, and that on the verso by a half-woman, half-serpent, the recto also WITH A PLEASING MINIATURE (measuring 35 x 33 mm.) OF SAINT MATTHEW, the seated Evangelist writing on a scroll and reaching out to dip his quill in the ink pot held by his angel, who wears a lavender deacon's dalmatic over his white robe. Four nearly invisible pinholes, one in the background of the miniature, otherwise especially clean, fresh, and bright.

This miniature provides the standard--and an artistically agreeable--depiction of Saint Matthew and his helpful attributive angel, but what really stands out here are the two exceedingly charming drolleries in the borders. On the recto, the dog is riding the goose with such enthusiasm and in such a posture as to suggest a coital agreement, while the grotesque on the verso shows an extremely vivid imagination: the combination of female human and serpent has spotted yellow wings, wears a curling red hat and a green bodice tucked into a similarly colored tail resembling a large horn, and holds a tightly swaddled infant wearing a hat that matches her own. It is entirely possible that the child's nether region is also reptilian, though it is obscured by the swaddling clothes, which look very much like a cocoon.
(ST12021-15)