The Treasury of Wisdom. Creation to 138 AD


This richly decorated manuscript of Trésor de sapience (The treasury of wisdom) is a history of the world from the Creation up to 138 AD. It was illuminated by associates of Loyset Liédet and Willem (also called Guillaume) Vrelant, and was completed, probably in Bruges, circa 1470‒80. The book itself is a fine example of the secular books that were in demand by aristocratic patrons in the southern Netherlands during the third quarter of the 15th century. Along with an expansive decoration program, the history also features important heraldic evidence. The most current armorial shield, painted within an abraded surrounding area, is that of Adolph of Burgundy, seigneur of Beveren, Veere, and Vlissingen (died 1540). He was a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece as of 1516, following his father Philip of Burgundy, and his grandfather Anthony of Burgundy (the "Grand Bâtard de Bourgogne," illegitimate son of Philip the Good). The decoration, and its organization throughout the text, embodies principles of hierarchical design and artistic collaboration typical of expansive pictorial programs in this type of secular text. Of particular note are the six large miniatures, one before each major textual division of the chronicle, each of which spans two columns of text. These illustrations are quite imaginative, stylistically varied, and beautiful. The illustrations place a visual emphasis on the Trinity, as evinced by the frontispiece, which features a creation cycle in six medallions. This manuscript recalls Augustinian tenets on Trinitarianism linked with the six days of creation, the six ages of man, and the six ages of the world. It contains a mixture of biblical and secular themes, including the history of Thebes, Troy, and Britain; the third age of the world; the history of Rome from Romulus and Remus to the defeat of the Gauls and the Roman emperors through Hadrian (died 138 AD); the Italian kings since Aeneas; and Alexander the Great and rulers that preceded him. The work is written in Burgundian littera batarda script by several different hands.

Last updated: October 17, 2017