Book of the Philosopher Alchandreus
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Virgil Master
French, Paris, about 1405
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment in a restored and rebacked doeskin binding
15 3/8 x 12 in.
MS. 72

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This manuscript begins with a text by the astronomer Alchandreus, a somewhat mysterious figure who was active sometime before the 900s. He wrote on such topics as the movement of the planets, the signs of the zodiac, and the art of predicting the future. Alchandreus consulted Arabic sources for his writings, and also cited Alexander the Great as an authority on various subjects. The second part of this manuscript contains Boethius's (480-525) texts on mathematics and music, of which few manuscript copies survive. All the texts appear in Latin, the scholastic language of the Middle Ages (the title in Latin is Liber Alchandrei philosophi).

Three miniatures painted by the Virgil Master appear in this manuscript, along with numerous charts and diagrams that illustrate points in the text. Although members of the European courts often commissioned scientific treatises, high-quality illuminated copies like this example are rare. Like other International style artists, the Virgil Master incorporated many elements of courtly life into his miniatures, such as elaborate costume and structures modeled after castle architecture. The artist worked at the court of Jean, duc de Berry, and this manuscript was most likely commissioned by one of the duke's high-ranking officials.

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