Epitre d'Othéa; Les Sept Sacrements de l'Eglise

(The Epistle of Othea; The Seven Sacraments of the Church)

Not on display

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Pizan, Christine de (b.1364, d.c 1430)


Miélot, Jean (d.1472)

script, decorative initials and borders by Jean Miélot Workshop (active 1449-1472)
miniatures attributed to the circle of Master of the Flemish Boethius (Belgian or Flemish, active 1478-1492)
coat of arms, initial and border by Unknown
binding by Charles Lewis (British, b.1786, d.1836)


c 1455 {manuscript}

c 1490 {miniatures}

Place of production

  • Lille, France
  • Ghent, East Flanders, Flanders, Belgium


  • vellum, ink, paint, gold, paper and velvet

Type of object

  • Illuminated manuscripts

Accession number


Christine de Pizan's literary masterpiece about the Trojan war was first written around 1400. Jean Miélot made this copy of the text around 1455. It was illustrated some 30 years later, probably in Ghent on the request of Philip of Cleves (1459-1528). The second text in this volume, a description of the Seven Sacraments of the Church, is also attributed to Miélot.


Miélot was a priest and author as well as the head of a productive workshop. The unusually large calligraphic initials incorporating grotesque heads are probably evidence of his own penmanship (see e.g. fol. 49r). These initials are evidence of how Renaissance scribes blurred distinctions between script and marginal decoration.

The Waddesdon manuscript was unfinished when it left Miélot's workshop. He may have abandoned it because he was unsatisfied about its cramped layout. Miélot appears to have learned from his mistakes. He made another version with a more generous format: the manuscript made for Philip the Good (1396-1467) that bears Miélot's signature and a date of 1460 (Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS 9392).

Philip of Cleves acquired the Waddesdon manuscript probably around 1485-1487. He must have commissioned the miniatures then as the costumes of the figures and the style of painting suggest a date after 1480. They have been attributed to the circle of a master who worked for Cleves. Such a large programme must have been carried out by several craftsmen based in the same workshop. After 1492, Cleves had his arms added to folio 3 and signed the book on the last page. It was bound in green to match the other didactic books in his library.

Female nudes were a particular favourite of the illustrator, featuring in several appropriate stories such as the dangers of Venus (fol. 7v) and Paris's perusal of three goddesses (fol. 40v). They also appear in inappropriate places. The theme of the Judgement of Paris is repeated at another point in the book even though the text is about Paris's dream of finding Helen (fol. 38r). The designer of the illustrations probably knew little about the content of the text and used stock models to help. Some details such as the stress on female authority in the illustration of Emperor Augustus and the arming of Hector are more unusual or well-observed (fols. 54v, 48r).

Nothing is known about the manuscript's later history until it appeared in the sale of a Dutchman held in London in 1825. At that time it was believed to be the earliest version of de Pizan's manuscript in existence. The manuscript was sold again in 1873 when it was reported in the newspapers. Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) acquired the manuscript shortly after the sale through one of his dealers. By his late 20s, he had already become a passionate collector of late-medieval woodcuts and engravings. This was the first manuscript he purchased.

For a detailed list of the illustrations and text content, please see the Physical Description tab.

Phillippa Plock, 2015

Physical description

Dimensions (mm) / weight (mg)

442 x 324 x 45; 423 x 313 (leaves)

Physical details

57 folios gathered in 7 quires; bound in dark green velvet wtih gilt metal clasps in 1825.
115 miniatures: 2 approx. 203 x 232 mm, 99 approx. 93 x 126 mm, 14 approx. 123 x 107 mm; numerous large decorative calligraphic initials in brown and black ink, approx. 179 x 53 mm; and numerous smaller painted initials; three large decorative initials with associated decorative borders; and many decorated paragraph signs and line endings all in colours and gold.

List of illustrations:

1. Christine de Pizan presents book to Philip the Bold, fol. 1v (1/2 page)
2. Othea gives her letter to Hector, fol. 3r (1/2 page)
3. Othea presents her sister Temperance to Hector, fol. 4v
4. Hercules fights against devils and monsters in Hell, fol. 5r
5. Minos, the judge of Hell, fol. 6r
6. Perseus armed with scythe rescues Andromeda, fol. 6v
7. Othea invites Hector to follow Jupiter and show compassion, fol. 7r
8. The dangers of the 3 Venuses, fol. 7v
9. Saturn, sat in judgement on a rainbow with advisers, fol. 8r
10. Apollo, god of Light and Truth, sat on rainbow in mandorla, fol. 8v
11. Phoebe, moon goddess and enemy of constancy, as male archer on rainbow, fol. 9r
12. Mars, god of War, sat on rainbow, fol. 9v
13. Mercury, god of Eloquence, fol. 10r
14. Minerva gives Hector his armour, fol. 10v
15. Pallas and Minerva, a double representation of same goddess, fol. 11r
16. Queen Penthesilea leads Amazons in battle, fol. 11v
17. Narcissus at fountain, fol. 12r
18. Athamus kills wife and children in madness, goddess of Rage with 2 serpents, fol. 12v
19. Mercury followed by Rage turns envious Aglauros to stone, fol. 13r
20. Ulysses blinds Cyclops, fol. 13v
21. Latona changes shepherds to frogs, fol. 14r
22. Bacchus in mandorla changes drunken men to pigs, fol. 14v
23. Pygmalion and statue, fol. 15r
24. Diana in mandorla, with 6 maidens, fol. 15v
25. Ceres in mandorla, sowing corn, fol. 16r
26. Isis tends young trees, fol. 16v
27. Punishment of Midas, before statues of Pan and Phoebus (Apollo), fol. 17r
28. Hercules, Prometheus and Theseus fight to free Proserpina from Hell, fol. 17v
29. Cadmus kills dragon and building of Thebes, fol. 18r
30. The learned Io and her admirers, fol. 18v
31. Mercury sends Argus to sleep, Jupiter and Io as a cow, fol. 19r
32. Pyrrhus avenges father's death in battle against Trojans, fol. 19v
33. Cassandra kneels to temple statues, fol. 20r
34. Neptune protects sailors, fol. 20v
35. Death threatens cardinal, pope, emperor and king with dart, fol. 21r
36. Bellerophon among wild beasts, fol. 21v
37. Memnon protects Trojans against Achilles, fol. 22r
38. Jason and Hercules repulsed from Troy by King Laomedon, fol. 22v
39. Pyramus and Thisbe, fol. 23r
40. Aesculapius and his patients, fol. 23v
41. Achilles killed by Paris in temple, fol. 24r
42. Busiris offers his victims' heads at altar, fol. 24v
43. Hero about to drown herself as Leander is dead, fol. 25r
44. Greeks reclaim Helen from Paris, fol. 25v
45. Aurora as dawn over farmyard, fol. 26r
46. Pasiphaë and bull, fol. 26v
47. Polynices and Tydeus fight near Adrastus's palace, fol. 27r
48. Cupid appears to young man, fol. 27v
49. Phoebus (Apollo) kills beloved Coronis, with crow, fol. 28r
50. Juno, goddess of wealth, fol. 28v
51. Adrastus advised not to attack Thebes, fol. 29r
52. Saturn, sparing and wise in speech, fol. 29v
53. A discussion among crows, fol. 30r
54. Phoebus (Apollo) accidently kills Ganymede, fol. 30v
55. Jason subjugates guardians of Golden Fleece, fol. 31r
56. Perseus kills the Gorgon, fol. 31v
57. Mars and Venus discovered as adulterers, fol. 32r
58. Tomyris orders Cyrus's head to be dipped in blood, fol. 32v
59. Jason makes promise to Medea, fol. 33r
60. Galatea's beloved Acis crushed by Polyphemus, fol. 33v
61. Eris as strife throws golden apple at Peleus and Thetis's marriage, fol. 34r
62. Death of Laomedon, fol. 34v
63. Deception and death of Semele, fol. 35r
64. Diana hunting, fol. 35v
65. Arachne transformed into spider, fol. 36r
66. Adonis killed by boar, fol. 36v
67. The first capture of Troy, fol. 37r
68. Orpheus tames wild animals, fol. 37v
69. Paris dreams of the gift of the golden apple for his judgement of 3 goddesses, fol. 38r
70. Diana and Acteon, fol. 38v
71. Orpheus frees Eurydice from Hell, fol. 39r
72. Ulysees discovers Achilles disguised as a girl on Skyros, fol. 39v
73. Atlanta races a suitor, fol. 40r
74. Judgement of Paris, fol. 40v
75. Fortune and her wheel, fol. 41r
76. Paris and Helen sat on bed, fol. 41v
77. Cephalus accidently kills his wife Procris; Lot's wife turned to pillar of salt fol. 42r
78. Priam taking counsel, fol. 42v
79. 3 men asleep, dreaming under influence of Morpheus, fol. 43r
80. Ceÿx leaves Alcyone, fol. 43v
81. Child Troilus advises Priam not to send Helen back, fol. 44r
82. Treason of Trojan Chalcas, fol. 44v
83. Hermaphroditus, fol. 45r
84. Greeks rest during Trojan war, Ulysees plays chess, fol. 45v
85. Briseis's infidelity, fol. 46r
86. Achilles pursues Hector, killer of Pactroclus, fol. 46v
87. Echo and Narcissus, fol. 47r
88. Phoebus (Apollo) and Daphne, fol. 47v
89. Hector arms for last battle, fol. 48r
90. Ninus captures Babylon, fol. 48v
91. Hector implores Priam to allow him to go into battle, fol. 49r
92. Death of Hector, fol. 49v
93. Hector struck from behind by Achilles, while taking armour from dead Polybotes, fol. 50r
94. Funeral of Hector, fol. 50v
95. Death of Ajax as one arm unprotected by armour, fol. 51r
96. Treason of Antenor brought before 2 noblemen, fol. 51v
97. Trojan horse, fol. 52r
98. Capture of Troy by Greeks, fol. 52v
99. Circe transforms Ulysees's messangers into pigs, fol. 53r
100. Ino orders the sowing of boiled corn, fol. 53v
101. Cumaean Sibyl reveals the Virgin and Christ Child to Emperor Augustus, fol. 54r
102. Naaman bathing in Jordan as prefiguration of Baptism, fol. 54v left
103. First Sacrament: Baptism, fol. 54v right
104. Anointing of Saul by Samuel as prefiguration of Confirmation, fol. 55r left
105. Second Sacrament: Confirmation, fol. 55r right
106. Melchisedech offers bread and wine to Abraham as prefiguration of Eucharist, fol. 55v left
107. Third Sacrament: Eucharist, fol. 55v right
108. Nineveh King does penance as prefiguration of Penance, fol. 56r left
109. Fourth Sacrament: Confession, fol. 56r right
110. Anointing of King David as prefiguration of Extreme Unction and sacrifice of lamb, fol. 56v left
111. Fifth Sacrament: Extreme Unction as Last Communion, fol. 56v right
112. Consecration of Aaron by Moses as prefiguration of Ordination, fol. 57r left
113. Sixth Sacrament: Ordination, fol. 57r right
114. God joins Adam and Eve's hands as prefiguration of marriage, fol. 57v left
115. Seventh Sacrament: Marriage, fol. 57v right

Text content:

Christine de Pizan's, "Epitre d'Othéa" adapted by Jean Miélot (fols 1r-54r); including a dedication to Philip the Bold d. 1404 (fols 1v-2v); "Les Sept Sacrements de l'Eglise", composed by Jean Miélot (54v-57v).


Phé [decorative flourish] de cleves
Owner's mark
[fol. 57v, lower right, signature in ink of Philip of Cleves, d. 1528]

Ms 6.
Owner's mark
[inside front cover, upper left, handwritten in pencil on label, inventory number of Baron Edmond de Rothschild (d. 1934)]


Heer van Ravensteynm getrouwt met Francoÿse van Luxembourgh, sterf sonder Kinders, leefde int Jaer 1480
[fol. 57v, lower right, handwritten in ink beneath signature of Philip of Cleves, prob. in 18th C. Flemish hand]

Translation of inscription

Lord of Ravenstein, married Françoise de Luxembourg, died without children, lived in the year 1480
Adolph, Duke of Cleves, married Mary of Burgundy Jan [...?] died 1443 - Adolph of Cleves, Lord of Ravenstein, married Beatrix of Portugal - Philip of Cleves, Lord of Ravestein, married Françoise de Luxembourg, died without children, lived in the year 1480.


Adolph Hartogh van Cleef troude Maria van bourgogne Jan [....?] sterft 1443 - Adolph van Cleef heer van Ravestijn getrout met Beatrix van Portugael - Philips van Cleef heer van Ravestijn, getrout met françoise van luxembourgh, sterff sonder kinders leefde int jaer 1480
[fol. 57 v, lower right, handwritten in ink on paper stuck over inscription, Flemish 18-19th C. hand]

[cutting of lot no. 70 from sale catalogue of Thomas Thorpe at Evans, 2 March 1826, with following annotations:]

H.P. £67.4s

Book 126-
Binding 4: 14: 6
Clasps 5: 14 +
136: 8: 6
Printed label
[front fly-leaf, pasted on, annotations by probably Arch and another hand, possibly Thorpe]

Printed label
[inside front cover, upper left, printed label with blue frame]





  • Possibly acquired by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (b.1396, d.1467), as unfinished without miniatures; possibly acquired by Louis of Luxembourg, Count of Saint-Pol (b.1418, d.1475); acquired by Philip of Cleves, Lord of Ravenstein (b.1459, d.1528) possibly after 1492; acquired by Jan van Marquette Rendorp (d.c 1825); his sale (as John Rendorp), Sotheby's, London, 28 February - 7 March 1825, lot 1334; acquired there for £136.10s by the book dealer Thomas Thorpe of 173 Piccadilly, London, (active c 1826-c 1839); Thorpe sale, Evans, 2 March 1826, lot 70; acquired there for £67.4s by dealers John and Arthur Arch of 61 Cornhill, London, on behalf of Henry Perkins (b.1778, d.1855); inherited by his relative Algernon Perkins of Hanworth Park, Middlesex (d.1870); his sale Gadsden, Ellis & Co., 3-6 June 1873, lot 374; acquired there for £650 by Bernard Quaritch (b.1819, d.1899); acquired by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (b.1845, d.1934) either directly from Quaritch or via Morgand et Fatout before 1877; by descent to his son James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); accepted by The Treasury Solicitor in lieu of taxes on the Estate of Mr James de Rothschild in 1965; given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1990.


  • Waddesdon (National Trust)
  • Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1990


  • Sotheby & Co.; Bibliotheca splendidissima Rendorpiana; London; Sotheby & Co.; 1825; pp. 66-68, lot 1334.
  • Gianni Mombello; La tradizione manoscritta dell' "Epistre Othea" di Christine de Pizan; Turin; Accademia delle Scienze; 1967; pp. 221-22, no. 41; Identified only from 1825 sale.
  • ♦, ♦, ♦, ♦, ♦, ♦, ♦, ♦; L M J Delaissé, James Marrow, John de Wit; Illuminated Manuscripts: The James A de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre; 1977; pp. 154-180, cat. no. MS 8, figs. 1-28; Full techincal description, miniatures attrib. to so-called Alexander Bening.
  • ♦; Sandra Hindman; Christine de Pizan's Epistre Othea - Painting and Politics at the Court of Charles VI; Canada; Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies; 1986; p. 140, fig. 87; (fol. 48r).
  • Georges Dogaer; Flemish Miniature Painting in the 15th and 16th Centuries; Amsterdam; B M Israel; 1987; p. 158.; As so-called Alexander Bening.
  • A De Splenter, De rol van Filips van Kleef in de boekverluchting van het laatste kwart van de 15e eeuw, Gentse bijdragen tot de kunstgeschiedenis en oudheidkunde, 29, 1990-1991, 69-90; pp. 70-71.
  • Bert Cardon; Manuscripts of the Speculum Humanae Salvationis in the Southern Netherlands (c.1410 - c.1470); Leuven; Peeters; 1996; p. 337, no. 164.
  • Walter Prevenier; Le prince et le peuple: images de la société du temps des ducs de Bourgogne, 1384-1530; Antwerp; Fonds Mercator; 1998; p. 188; (fol. 48) [also published in Dutch as "Prinsen en poorters. Beelden van de laat-middeleeuwse samenleving in de Bourgondische Nederlanden", Antwerp 1998].
  • Maurits Smeyers; Vlaamse miniaturen van de 8ste tot het midden van de 16de eeuw: de middeleeuwse wereld op perkament; Leuven; Davidsfonds; 1998; p. 446, fig. 8.41; (fol. 3) [also published in French and English: "Flemish Miniatures from the 8th to the mid-16th Century. The Medieval World on Parchment", Turnhout 1999].
  • Christine de Pizan, Gabriella Parussa; Epistre Othea (Textes littéraires français); Geneva; Librairie Droz; 1999; pp. 87, 108, 507; As no. D IV.
  • ♦; Tobias Capwell, A Depiction of an Italian Arming Doublet, c1435-45, Zeitschrift für Waffen- und Kleidungsgeschichte, 2, 2002, 177-196; pp. 181-82, fig. 8; (fol. 48).
  • Anne Schoysman, Les deux manuscrits du remaniement de l'Epitre Othea de Christine de Pizan par Jean Miélot, Le moyen français, 51-53, 2002-2003, 505-528; pp. 505-24, 527 ill.; (fol. 14).
  • ♦; Marilynn Desmond, Pamela Sheingorn; Myth, Montage, & Visuality in Late Medieval Manustcipt Culture: Christine de Pizan's 'Epistre Othea'; Ann Arbor; University of Michigan Press; 2003; pp. 234-235, ill. p. 235, fig. A.5; (fol. 54v).
  • ♦; Christopher de Hamel; Les Rothschild collectionneurs de manuscrits; France; Bibliothèque nationale de France; 2004; p. 35, fig. 11c, p. 105; (fol. 1v).
  • ♦; James Marrow; Pictorial Invention in Netherlandish Manuscript Illumination of the Late Middle Ages. The Play of Illusion and Meaning; Paris; Peeters; 2005; pp. 7, 10, ill. 18; (fol. 49).
  • ♦, ♦; Christopher de Hamel; The Rothschilds and their Collections of Illuminated Manuscripts; London; The British Library; 2005; pp. 25, 51, pl. 11c; (fol. 1v).
  • Catherine Reynolds; The Undecorated Margin: The Fashion for Luxury Books without Borders; Thomas Kren, Elizabeth Morrison, Flemish Manuscript Painting in Context, Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006; 9-26; pp. 16-19, fig. 2.6; (fols. 41v-42).
  • Anne Korteweg; 'La bibliothèque de Philippe de Clèves: inventaire et manuscrits parvenus jusqu’à nous'; Jelle Haemers, Céline Van Hoorebeeck, Hanno Wijsman, Entre la ville, la noblesse et l'état. Philippe de Clèves (1456-1528), homme politique et bibliophile, Turnhout, Brepols (Belgium), 2007; 183-221; pp. 193, 203, no. 43.
  • Hanno Wijsman; Le connétable et le chanoine. Les ambitions bibliophiliques de Louis de Luxembourg au regard des manuscrits autographes de Jean Miélot; Renaud Adam, Alain Marchandisse, Le livre au fil de ses pages: Actes de la 14e journée d'étude du Réseau des Médiévistes belges de Langue Française Université e3 Liège 18 Novembre 2005, Brussels, Archives et bibliothèques de Belgique, 2009; 119-150; pp. 123-4, 139-140, 150, fig. 7.
  • ♦; Eberhard König, Dieter Röschel, R Schindler, S Himmelsbach; 100 Bilder der Weisheit; Germany; Dieter Röschel; 2009; p. 323, fig. 7.
  • ♦; Hanno Wijsman; Luxury Bound; Illustrated Manuscript Production and Noble and Princely Book Ownership in the Burgundian Netherlands (1400-1550); Belgium; Brepols (Belgium); 2010; pp. 299, 302-3, 434, 438, 674, fig. 31; (fol. 1v) as possibly owned by Louis de Luxembourg and by a follower of Loyset Liédet (c. 1420-1479).
  • Bernard Bousmanne, Thierry Delcourt; Miniatures flamandes: 1404-1492; (Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, Brussels, 30 September - 31 December 2011; Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, 6 March - 10 June 2012); Paris; Bibliothèque nationale de France; 2011; p. 356.

Related files

Other details

Subject person

  • Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Pictured
  • Christine de Pizan, Pictured
  • Augustus, Pictured
  • Philip of Cleves, Lord of Ravenstein, Heraldry or Attributes
  • Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Dedicatee
Indexed terms

Person as Subject