Costuming the past: Heraldry in illustrations of the Roman d'Alexandre (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264)

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Completed in 1344, MS Bodley 264 contains the Old French Roman d'Alexandre and is one of the most famous illuminated manuscripts extant. While Bodley 264 owes its renown to its plethora of marginalia, it is also notable for its extensive depiction of heraldic insignia, which appear on almost half of the manuscript's 208 folios. Bodley 264's exceptional display of heraldry is examined as part of the network of cultural practices for which heraldry became ever more important in the fourteenth century. On a practical level, the heraldry in Bodley 264 responded to the greater use of narrative picture cycles in manuscripts, which increased the need for legible visual details articulating story development. Bodley 264's blazons are also localizing and familiarizing devices that may have signified ownership. As a visual citation of contemporary tournaments, Bodley 264's heraldry showed that the ancient chivalric tradition imagined in the book remained alive in Franco-Flemish society. Finally, the heraldry in Bodley 264 assimilates Alexander's life to crusade history, casting him as a forefather of medieval campaigns in the East. Bodley 264's heraldry inscribes Alexander into a timeless chivalric community and is a testament to the desire to see the chivalric past revivified in images, texts, and pageantry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-59
Number of pages17
JournalGESTA-International Center of Medieval Art
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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