Some time ago, Highly Eccentric tagged me for the Mutated Medievalist Meme, in which one lists seven random facts about one’s favorite medieval person. “Favorite,” as applied to a medieval person: what does that even mean? The one I find most interesting to study? Would most like to meet? Would like to have been? I’m not very good at picking out favorite foods or colors, either; I prefer the full range of variety.

But at last I came up with a rather obscure figure, but one who, indeed, I think I would like to be, if I had to be someone from the Middle Ages (where, in general, life was nasty, poor, brutish, short, ill-served by medical personnel, likely to be lacking in intellectual challenges if you were female, and on and on . . . I like to study the period, but I don’t want to go there). Jeanne de Montbaston was a married woman with an interesting job in Paris: this is a life I can imagine leading.

1. Jeanne de Montbaston was married to Richard de Montbaston, a scribe.

2. They lived in the Rue Neuve Notre Dame, in Paris, in the fourteenth century.

3. Jeanne illustrated books written by her husband. In BN ff 25526, f.77v, she shows them working in their atelier: he spreads his written leaves out to dry, she paints the miniatures.

4. Over the course of a 25-year career, they produced nineteen copies of the Roman de la Rose (or is it 19 years and 25 copies?).

5. After Richard’s death, Jeanne continued their business on her own, taking the booksellers’ oath in 1353.

6. Among other books she illustrated is a copy of the Légende dorée (BN ff 241).

7. The oft-reproduced picture of a nun picking penises from a penis-tree is Jeanne’s work (also in BN ff 25526; shown p. 148 in Michael Camille’s Image on the Edge, among other places).

For more information on Jeanne and her husband, consult the works of Mary and Richard Rouse, particularly Manuscripts and their Makers.

Since I’m coming very late to this meme, I won’t tag anyone; but if you feel inspired, tell us about a medieval figure we should know more about.

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