St. Margaret and the Dragon
Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne
Illuminated by Jean Poyer
The Pierpont Morgan Library, Purchased in 1905
This prayer book was commissioned by Anne de Bretagne, wife of two successive kings of France, Charles VIII and Louis XII, to teach her son, the dauphin Charles-Orland (1492–1495), his catechism. It was painted in Tours by Jean Poyer, an artist documented as working for the queen. The book is richly illustrated, and its thirty-four airy, light-flooded miniatures are among the most delicate examples of late-fifteenth-century art.
St. Margaret and the Dragon (fol. 20v, left)
Margaret had caught the eye of the Roman prefect Olybrius, who wanted her as his wife or mistress. Rejecting him, Mar- garet was thrown into a prison where a devil, in the form of a dragon, swallowed her. The saint was miraculously delivered from the bloody belly of the monster.
St. Margaret, like Catherine and Ursula, belongs to a large group of early Christian martyrs that was popular in the late Middle Ages. The pride of place that these three women receive among the Suffrages in her prayer book is a reflection of the piety and patronage of Anne de Bretagne. Margaret, for example, was patron of safe childbirth, always a concern of the mother of a potential king.