On her deathbed, Canace writes a sad letter to Machaire, her brother and lover. In the Greek myth, the siblings’ father, King Eolus, discovers his children’s incestuous affair when Canace gives birth to a son. Enraged, Eolus sends her a sword and demands that she kill herself. Before doing so, Canace, fearful that an equally dire fate awaits their son, writes to Machaire, asking him to bury the child in her grave, so he might mourn them together. In the miniature, while her son innocently looks on, Canace writes with one hand and stabs herself with the other; a satisfied Eolus stands nearby.
John Gower, Confessio amantis, in Middle English and Latin, England, London?, ca. 1470, possibly commissioned for Elizabeth Woodville, queen of England and wife of King Edward IV; MS M.126, fol. 51v (det.). Purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913), 1903.