Roman de la Rose


The Roman de la Rose, “wherein the whole art of love is contained,” was one of the most widely read literary works of the Middle Ages. An allegorical poem composed in the French—meaning Romance—of the 13th century, it was celebrated already in the 16th century as a national classic. The first 4,058 lines of the poem were written by Guillaume de Lorris in around 1230. Jean de Meung wrote an additional 17,724 lines in around 1275. The work is at once a courtly song, a story of initiation, and a literary game employing mirages, metaphors, and other literary devices. The author, who speaks in the first person and embodies L’Amant (the Lover) in the story, travels in a dream to a beautiful orchard inhabited by Déduit (Pleasure) and his companions, Jeunesse (Youth), Richesse (Wealth), Liesse (Jubilation), and Beauté (Beauty). Courtly ideals, personified, are the real actors in the fable, which recounts the adventures of the Lover as, having fallen under the laws of Love, the all-powerful master, he must avoid the traps of Male Bouche (Foul Mouth),  Dangiers (Danger), and Jalousie (Jealousy) to win his lady, The Rose. Around 300 manuscripts of the Roman de la Rose have been preserved around the world. This copy belonged to the library of Jean de Berry (1340–1416), the third son of King John II the Good, a great patron of the arts and an enlightened bibliophile. At least two hands can be distinguished in the paintings. One, more mannerist, shows figures with fine and slender forms, typical of the international Gothic style that was most prominent throughout Europe at this time and that stemmed from the Parisian court.

Last updated: January 8, 2018