Another Machaut patron?

Full-text link to my new blog-only paper on a possible patron for the important Machaut Manuscript F-Pn fr.1584 (A)

As my second blog-only publication, I’ve decided to offer a paper that I gave in Oxford to Margaret Bent’s musici in 2009, to the Oxford Medieval Church and Culture Seminar in 2010 and at the 27th Harlaxton Symposium, also in 2010. It’s something I tried to get published as a journal article during 2009, but it was not art-historical enough for the art history journal I tried and not musical enough for the music journal; it could have gone in the Harlaxton proceedings, but I was quite keen for it to go somewhere that Machaut scholars in literature, music, and art history would find it. I also felt it was too speculative for ordinary publication, so online publication where people can comment on aspects of the argument directly (and quickly), help with things I haven’t been able to source (like the statue mentioned in the paper), and perhaps use it as a discussion paper for further work, seemed ideal. I’ve also put glossary-like open access links in the main text (including to MS images) and kept the paywalled academic reference links to the endnotes.

The headline content is as follows: I think one of the famous portrait miniatures in the Prologue section of Machaut’s MS A has an additional portrait, of Guillaume II de Melun, archbishop of Sens, playing the allegorical character of Sens. I think it is also possible that his brother is figured in the depiection of Sweet Thought in the other miniature. The Melun family might therefore be the patrons of the manuscript, at least in the shape we have it now with its fancy opening bifolio by a major royal miniature painter. The paper first gives an overview of the opening of Machaut’s Prologue before offering reasons for this identification.

Click here for an HTML version; (when I sort out how to stop Scrivener confusing LaTeX by having hyperlinks in footnotes without having to do a whole lot of fiddling, I’ll also post it here as a PDF).

Picture: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.

My interest in making this paper available is two-fold. First, in a paper at this year’s Med/Ren, Uri Smilansky, presenting a paper co-authored with Yolanda Plumley, proposed a compelling identification for an early owner and likely patron of one of the other main Machaut sources (I won’t give more details here, because that paper is theirs to reveal in due course!). Second, I saw a tweet from the LSEimpactblog linking to a blog about  the idea of guerrilla self-publishing and asking if now was the time for academics to consider doing this. I tweeted back that I had already done it, citing my blogpost from last year on the motet Exaudi/Alme. They replied asking me to blog about the experience, which I said I’d do after posting another blog-only article, and which I have now done. Meanwhile I decided to upgrade my earlier publication by adding an HTML file for it. Last year I was using LaTeX directly, but now I am using Scivener, which can generate both LaTeX and HTML files of the same document, so like a real journal I should be able (eventually) to offer it in both formats (just as soon as I fix the problem with footnotes). Unfortunately, the free version of WordPress which I’m using has a slightly different html code for sending links to and from footnotes from that which is generated by Scivener, so I’m hosting my html files off this site in my Oxford University webspace (although that won’t bother most clickers-through, who probably won’t even notice!).

As follow up questions, I’d be interested to know (or know how to find out):

1. In whose gift was the St Quentin benefice (canonry) that Machaut held?

2. What did the Meluns do in London, and when did they return?

3. What were relations like between the Meluns and Navarre?

4. Can anyone identify the heraldry of the flags in the MS A pictures or are they just generic?

[For a later answer to Q4 — click here]
Creative Commons License
Seeing Sens: Guillaumes de Machaut and de Melun by Elizabeth Eva Leach is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at


  1. Re: Q4. Leo discusses the pennants’ heraldic significance in his chapter in *Citation, Intertextuality and Memory*, vol. 1, ed. Plumley et al., pp. 108-9

    1. Thanks — I haven’t seen that yet but will now seek it out!

    1. Thanks for this. I checked out the Árpád dynasty (Árpád_stripes) but they died out in 1301. However, the Angevins (i.e. Capetian house of Anjou) who replaced them continued to use it within more elaborate arms. For the MS date of early 1370s, that would point to Louis I of Hungary ( The only problem is that I don’t see any obvious link between him and any of Sens, Machaut, Charles V of France. So even if I’m wrong about Sens and the flag’s a bigger clue, I’m still not sure where it’s pointing!

  2. Anna Zayaruznaya says:

    Wonderful stuff, Liz! This is quite thought-provoking. The only thing I would want more of is a fuller explanation of how we can be sure that Sens is indeed our guy chez Gace de la Buigne.

    1. Cazelles is a pretty cautious and careful document-based historian, so for him to read it that way is, I think, quite significant. I also think the centrality of Sens in the first part of Deduis, and the fact that the first part was started in exile in England, with John and Guillaume de Melun as the king and chief advisor of that exiled court should be stressed. Deduis is, by the way, a wonderful poem. I was vaguely planning to do an English translation of it and stick it up online to make it more widely available. However, it’s quite long, so that might have to wait until I retire — unless I get a party of volunteers to crowd source a complete translation. Any takers?!

      1. Anna Zayaruznaya says:

        Ah, so it’s Cazelles. I guess that was not clear to me because “by the time of manuscript A’s compilation he had already been personified as the allegorical character Sens in the long mid-fourteenth-century narrative poem…” ends with a footnote about the dating of the poem. So maybe it would make more sens(e) to foreground Cazelles in the main text during that part of the discussion.

        It would be amazing to have a translation of the Deduis! But we don’t get much credit for translations these days…

      2. Text now tweaked to make the sens(e) a bit clearer…

  3. d says:

    Liz, this is amazing detective work and I was thrilled to read it (btw, congrats on the award for your lovely book!!!).
    My only issues are style-related. As I approach work on a facsimile of Vg, I become more and more aware that the Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy’s presence in this ms is minimal. I believe that we are looking at drawings by him which were painted by his ‘atelier’ (dare I use this term…?). Only a few iconographic gems in Vg assure me that the Jean de Sy Master did, indeed, play a role here: Orpheus/Machaut/Narrator dressed in clerical garb and holding an armillary sphere aloft – the center of my studies for the moment – for example. The Jean de Sy Master was working on multiple, major commissions at this time.
    The idea that there is, indeed, a style associated with Reims c.1370 is only an idea; nothing more. Many years ago I had a conversation with Francois Avril concerning the possibility that the processing figures in the Prologue could be satisfactorily compared to Boethius and his ‘Consolations’.
    Peut-etre. Pourquoi pas.
    Pushing connoisseurship to the limit, the example that Avril gave in Les fastes exh. cat. is entirely unconvincing: oddly stylized, swaying figures; angular drapery folds; and the acid orange palette. It was a no-go for me from the beginning. The beauty of the quirky, Paris-be-damned painting in the main body in MS A is that nobody has found a satisfactory comparison. This also holds true for much of the iconography (even the painter messed up a few miniatures).
    A serious problem: quite aside from the Prologue images, there are TWO artists working in the main body of MS A!
    I discuss this at length in a commentary of Barton Palmer and Yolanda Plumley’s massive ed/trans project of A.
    But now my adrenaline rush is fading, and I’m getting tired after a long day of traveling (after having spoken of Machaut MSC at UVA). I was, however, WAY too excited to read this e-article before jumping into bed.
    Liz, you never cease to amaze me and I will read this work again soon, surely with the same amount of fascination and gratitude – anything to advance the Machaut Cause!

  4. Given that it was your comments on the figure of Sens that set me thinking about this issue, Domenic, I’m so grateful for your thoughts and comments here. What you say about MS A’s unique iconography and style makes perfect sense to me and I’m glad to know that these issues are more up for debate within art history than the currently published work on A suggests. So I can’t wait to read your think on MS A in the Palmer/Plumley volume when it’s out. WIth a bit of luck someone will send me a review copy!

    1. d says:

      I will request that! I’d be very pleased if you could take a look at my talk on MS C and the possible reception of the miniatures by the royal family, especially Bonne and the future Charles V. Once again, congratulations on your publication!
      What I can send via email I will. Do you have a Dropbox account? My very best. I wish you could have been a reader for my Voeux du paon work… I do look forward to reading the rest of your work here!

      1. Excited to read your stuff! Will email with dropbox details.

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