A new (old) painting on my wall

 

I have to thank my daughter and son-in-law for an amazing gift they presented to me not long ago. They listened (ever-so-patiently) as I waxed lyrical about Simone Martini’s painting, St. Louis of Toulouse crowning Robert of Anjou, which hangs in the Museo di Capodimonte at Naples. They heard (again, I’m afraid) the story of those two brothers, my favorites of the Angevins of Naples, about their long imprisonment from youth to young adulthood, how Louis was called to the Franciscan order and defied his father to answer that call, how his charismatic brother Robert, a third son, became heir to the throne of Naples because of Louis’s decision, and how Martini’s painting contains many symbols of the brothers’ complex relationship and history.

It was a gift that they listened so attentively to the story that has fascinated me, and charged my imagination, for decades.

But a few weeks later, they showed up at my house… with the painting!! Of course, not the one from Naples–the original is not for sale. Mine is a reproduction, a knock-off from one of those websites that will make you a copy of any oil painting you like, in any size you want.

I have it framed, now, and hanging in my bedroom. The saint (Louis of Toulouse) and the king (Robert the Wise) watch over me as I sleep.

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BOOKS: Must have this book!

For people like me, with a freakish interest in the medieval Angevin Kingdom of Naples, there are some books we must have. Only recently I learned that a Bible has surfaced, after mouldering for half a millennium in the Low Countries somewhere, a Bible which was created at the court of Robert the Wise in Naples, and presented to his granddaughter Joanna, who would succeed him to the throne of Naples and rule for more than forty years.

The Anjou Bible: A Royal Manuscript Revealed was published last year by Peeters Publishers. At 350 pages, it weighs 4-1/2 pounds and costs about $100.

I don’t care. I want it.

All the illuminated folios are reproduced in the book, as well as information about the illuminator who signed the work in the early 1300s. Historical information about the Angevin dynasty in Naples–a family I have researched for more than 25 years–sounds as beautiful to me as the illuminations.

The fourteenth century Bible is now owned by the University of Leuven in Belgium, the oldest existing Catholic university in the world. The manuscript was disassembled, cleaned, digitized, and displayed for twelve weeks  in 2010 before being rebound and returned to the vaults for long-term storage.

This book is definitely on my Christmas list!!