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La Cité de Dieu (The City of God)

The book La Cité de Dieu is a work of theology describing the City of God and the City of the Pagans. On folio 5 (the second image), The City of God, in the upper left, is filled with church spires and angels. The City of Pagans, below, is inhabited by flying demons and round-domed structures. A battle between the two cities is depicted on the right. God rules heaven while devils stoke a cauldron in hell. This luxurious copy of Augustine's La Cité de Dieu may have belonged to the famous fifteenth-century bibliophile, Jean, duke of Berry.

Orosius Master and Assistants, French (active Paris), from 1400 - 1418. Written by Saint Augustine.

Geography:
Made in Paris, France, Europe

Date:
1408-10

Medium:
Vellum with gold leaf, ink, and paints

Dimensions:
Folio (each): 17 1/8 x 12 3/8 inches (43.5 x 31.4 cm) Other (leather-bound box): 19 1/2 x 14 3/4 x 3 3/8 inches (49.5 x 37.5 x 8.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1945-65-1

Credit Line:
The Philip S. Collins Collection, gift of Mrs. Philip S. Collins in memory of her husband, 1945

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Saint Augustine's fifth-century Latin treatise De Civitate Dei (The City of God) was translated into French in 1375 to satisfy the courtly taste for ancient history during the reign of Charles V. Romantically embellishing the saint's theological arguments, the translation, known as La Cité de Dieu, was spiced with commentaries in courtly dialect and illustrated for its noble French audience. The Museum's manuscript is among the most richly illustrated of the translations, with miniatures and border decorations by one of the numerous manuscript workshops active in Paris in the early fifteenth century. This is the largest of the manuscript's sixty-one miniatures and serves as an emblem of its title, for within the four quatrefoil frames the walled Gothic City of God (upper left), blessed by God the Father, is juxtaposed with an onion-domed pagan city, flanked by the Fall of the Rebel Angels. The artist enlivens this contrast with minute descriptive details, such as the darkened hands of the plummeting rebel angels that have taken on the color of the devils. Innis Howe Shoemaker, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 216.

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