Dating MS A

by Domenic Leo

Historian Roger Bowers definitively places Machaut in Reims around 1360, where he “[took up] formal residence as cathedral canon” until his death in 1377.[1] Keeping this in mind, it is no coincidence that Machaut was so prolific during this period of time. Manuscript A was painted in the 1370s, ostensibly making it the last manuscript that Machaut himself may have supervised. Although Machaut’s Dit de la fleur de lis et de la marguerite and the Prise provide a terminus post quem of c. 1370, the assembly of separate fascicles may have been executed before, during, or after this date (and Machaut’s death in 1377).[2]

Figures 51, 52, and 53.
BnF, ms fr. 122.
Lancelot du lac, three men conversing, each wearing a cote hardy – and a woman behind them (fol. 137v); BnF, ms fr. 1586. Remède, three men, two fashionably dressed in pourpoints, watch a carol dance (fol. 51, C36, det.); BnF, ms. fr. 1584. Prologue, Dous Penser, wears a later version of the pourpoint, known as a houpelande (fol. D, A1, det.)

Fashion can also aid in dating. In MS A men wear the body-conscious pourpoint, which came into style around mid-century. It supplanted the longer, looser, belted tunic with a hemline just under or above the knees, referred to as a cote hardy. For example, in an image from a Lancelot du lac (BnF, ms. fr. 122), of c. 1344-1355, on fol. 137v, three men wear knee-length, colorfully decorated cotes hardys and contrasting hose (fig. 51).

From the 1350s to the late 1360s, the pourpoint generally had a mid-thigh length hemline. The earliest extant complete-works manuscript of Machaut’s oeuvre, MS C, of c. 1350, is richly decorated with large and colorful miniatures. It is the best example of the early pourpoint with all its variations (fig. 52).[3] This is the so-called ‘short style’. The man in the center’s pourpoint buttons down the front; while at far right another man’s has ‘stripes’ around it. This demarcates the use of quilting, which originally related to the padding worn under armor.[4] Beyond this element, there are highly individualized depictions of men’s fashion. There are dagged and scalloped hemlines on the pourpoints, capuchons, and liripipes (long extensions of fabric from the hood). The last could be worn tied in a series of knots, hanging down the back, wrapped like a turban around the head, or simply thrown over the shoulder. Common to all are the low slung belts and daggers worn over the crotch. By the 1370s, the style reached its apogee (fig. 53): the chest was more heavily padded, forming a wasp waist, and the length of the hemline was mid-buttocks (as it appears in the large Prologue miniature on fol. D).

Figures 54, 55, and 56.
BnF, ms. fr. 22545-22546.
Behaingne, a knight wearing a bastard-length houpelande with bombard sleeves (fol. 9v, F10, det.); BnF, ms. fr. 22545-22546. Fonteinne, the lover wears a full-length houpelande (fol. 128, F79, det.); BnF, ms. fr. 9221. Lyon, the lion leads the lover by his robe, a buttoned, belted houpelande (fol. 61v, E14, det.)

In MS A, Love’s child, Dous Penser (Sweet Thought), is, however, wearing a pourpoint which has an important new development: normally the sleeve is fitted from shoulder to wrist, usually with buttons to the elbow, as in the main body of MS A. But Dous Penser’s ‘doublet’ (to use a style-neutral term) is blousy from shoulder to elbow, at which point it is tight to the wrist (fig. 53). This looks forward to a new fashion trend for men that began sometime in the second half of the 1380s. For example, men’s fashion in MS F-G, of c. 1390, is characterized by variations of the pourpoint: a new garment, called the houpelande, replaces it (fig. 54). This style also has blousy sleeves but, unlike Dous Penser’s, they flare at the wrists (bombards). The ‘bastard-length’ houpelande has a hemline even higher, almost above the buttocks, cinched with a gold, linked belt. At the same time a longer robe becomes fashionable (not to be confused with a cleric’s garb), sometimes slashed at the side to reveal another color or type of fabric beneath: the ‘full-length’ houpelande (fig. 55).[5] The clothing style in MS E, from the early 1390s, changes again. A soft hat replaces the capuchon and most men wear an ankle-length houpelande which buttons down the center (fig. 56).


[1] Bowers, “Canonry of Reims.” I thank Roger Bowers for discussing his revisionist work with me.

[2] Lyon, 1342; Navarre, 1349; Alerion, before c. 1350; Confort, 1357; Fonteinne, 1360-61; Voir dit, 1363-65; Marguerite, 1364-69; Lys, 1369; Prise, after 1369.

[3] The sole extant fourteenth-century example is the so-called Pourpoint of Charles de Blois (Lyon, Musée historique des tissus, Inv. 924.XVI.2 – no. d’entrée: MT 30307). For discussion with bibliography, see Gasq-Berger, writing on ‘Tissus et broderies’ pp. 399-400.

[4] Blanc, “From Battlefield to Court,” fig. 9.3, dated c. 1364; on Machaut, see pp. 163 and 169.

[5] On the houpelande, with all its variations in length, see van Buren and Wieck, Illuminating Fashion, pp. 307-308. The posthumous complete-works Machaut manuscripts F-G and E are solid examples of a change in men’s hairstyles from jaw-length with bangs during the short style to a distinctive bobbed cut, almost above the ears, and parted down the middle.



***********************STOP PRESS!!!!!!!!************************

The Complete Poetry and Music of Guillaume de Machaut Volume 1 is out now!!!!

Volume 1: The Debate Poems is now available in print.

You can also enjoy the entire volume online via the Middle English Texts Website.

Edited and translated by R. Barton Palmer, with art historical commentary by Domenic Leo, and musical commentary by Uri Smilansky, the volume contains  Le Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne, Le Jugement dou Roy de Navarre, and Le Lay de Plour.




The Ferrell-Vogüé Machaut Manuscript

Full colour facsimile with introductory study by Lawrence Earp, Domenic Leo and Carla Shapreau. Preface by Christopher de Hamel

"It is a vast manuscript of royal luxury, 390 leaves of parchment, 314 mm. by 220 mm., illustrated with 118 enchanting miniatures by a workshop of court illuminators led by the Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy.They include pictures of gothic chivalry and romance, with mythology and natural history. Music is included on 235 pages of the manuscript, with almost the entire corpus of the ballades, lais and motets of Machaut, as well as his great polyphonic setting of the Mass, the four-part Messe de Nostre-Dame.The manuscript has never before been photographed in its entirety or reproduced in colour."

"Vol. 1 introductory study (225 pages colour/mono), vol. 2 facsimile (789 full colour pages) on 150gsm matt art paper. Full size reproduction, hard bound in buckram, presented in hard slipcover."

Available now from DIAMM Publications.

The Art of Grafted Song: Citation and Allusion in the Age of Machaut by Yolanda Plumley

Available now from Oxford University Press

"Presents the first detailed exploration of citational practices in the song-writing tradition of fourteenth-century France. The first monograph-length study on the Ars nova chanson with new evidence about the emergence of the new polyphonic chanson. Provides new evidence about the circle of poets and composers who engaged with Machaut and created a new style of poetry and song. Explores little studied collections of lyrics and songs of the period and provides fresh insights and perspectives on Machaut's works."