Portrait of the Author: Gaston Phoebus

Gaston III Phoebus

Livre de la chasse, in French and Latin

Illuminated possibly by the Josephus Master and the Bedford Master

France, Paris
ca. 1406
385 x 287 mm

Bequest of Clara S. Peck, 1983

MS M.1044, fol. 4r
Item description: 

Gaston III, count of Foix (1331–91), was called Phoebus because of his golden hair or handsome features. He composed this treatise on hunting and dedicated it to his fellow hunter, Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy. The manuscript opens with an author portrait showing Gaston enthroned, directing the hunters and dogs gathered around him. He wears a voluminous fur-lined orange houpeland with elaborate gold embroidery and large bombard sleeves. The poke sleeve of his black pourpoint is visible on his right arm. The narrow cape of his chaperon is draped around his neck and a tall bonnet sits atop his head.

Exhibition section: 

Luxury in a Time of Madness

In 1392 King Charles VI suffered the first of forty-four bouts of madness that would cripple his reign. During a lull in the Hundred Years' War, strife between France and Burgundy erupted into civil war. This domestic crisis was sparked by the 1407 assassination of Charles's brother by Duke John of Burgundy. In 1419 the duke, in turn, was murdered by supporters of the crown. During these tumultuous times, fashion reached unbelievable heights of luxury.

Men's and women's fashions were dominated by a new garment, the houpeland. Men's houpelands featured enormous sleeves and a skirt ranging from full length to crotch level. The pourpoint remained popular, albeit often finely embroidered and equipped with large sleeves. Accessories included fancy baldricks (sashes) and belts—both sometimes hung with bells. Tall bonnets or chaperons, often tied into imaginative shapes, completed the look.

Women's houpelands were always full length, with bombard or straight sleeves. The simpler cote hardy, with its voluminous skirt and tight upper body, continued to be worn. Women began to wear their hair in temples, a double-horned coif surmounted by veils or a tubular burlet.