Gaston Phoebus – The Master of Game

M.1044 - Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)

Alternate Titles:

Gaston Phoebus - Das Buch der Jagd

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Alternate Titles

Gaston Phoebus - Das Buch der Jagd

Extent / Format

156 pages / 38.5 x 28.6 cm

Circa 1407

Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy

Artist / School

Workshop of the Bedford Master


87 vivid miniatures, richly ornate with gold leaf and brush gold, 126 imaginative large initials

Short description

The livre de la chasse was written by Gaston Phoebus between 1387 and 1389 and was reworked in 1407 at the French court at the behest of Philip the Bold. The new edition of the book is furnished with unbelievably beautiful miniatures from the studio of the Bedford Master. Today, the splendid manuscript is found in New York City’s Morgan Library.

Facsimile editions available


Gaston Phoebus – The Master of Game

In the years 1387 to 1389 the Count of Foix and Viscount of Béarn, named Gaston Pheobus, composed an extensive book concerning the hunt and dedicated it to his hunting companion, Philip the Bold. The livre de la chasse, its original title in French, has been transmitted into a total of 44 copies. The specimen in the Morgan Library in New York City is considered to be one of the most outstanding reproductions of this manuscript. The hunting book is an interesting cultural testimony and possessed such a great relevance to natural science that it was used as a textbook up until the 19th century. The informative manuscript is incomprehensibly richly adorned with a total of 87 vivid miniatures opulently furnished with gold leaf and brushed gold. In addition to the large-format miniatures, the work is illustrated with 126 great, imaginative initials in a splendid variety of colors.

The Study of Nature in the Middle Ages

The enthusiastic hunter Gaston Phoebus describes the hunt and related activities in his manuscript with great detail. Nonetheless, the work is not merely concerned with the most common forms of hunting. Through his distinct observations of various types of animals, Gaston managed to create a significant masterpiece of medieval natural science long before the age of empirical science. The livre de la chasse quickly became one of the most popular and widely-read books of the Gothic period. At the French and Burgundian courts, it was not only considered to be a study of nature and a textbook, but also a work of art. Numerous artists sought to translate the legendarily precise descriptions of the book into high-quality miniatures**. The masters of the Bedford workshop thereby attained the highest level of refinement. Their illuminated manuscripts are considered by researchers to be among the the most beautiful manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

The Masterwork from the Bedford Studio

Duke Philip the Bold, to whom the original manuscript was dedicated, commissioned the gifted artists for the revision of his book. The artists of the studio of the famous and highly-regarded Bedford Master, created miniatures of surprising and fresh liveliness. Characteristic for their style in particular is a unique handling of plastic forms and faces as well as a soft fall of folds. 87 exceptional miniatures illustrate the manuscript. The exciting pictures in luminous, fresh colors against splendid, variously arranged gold backgrounds enchant each and every beholder. Tender studies of animals and nature and realistic-looking figurative scenes are as persuasive as the sensible treatment of color. The skilled execution of depth and plasticity in the pictures is especially astonishing. Such perspectival, three-dimensional painting was revolutionary for the art of the Middle Ages. No other edition of the hunting book can measure up to this high standard.

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