Wednesday 26 June 2013

Help! by Louisa Young

Today it is quite simple. I have nothing to say, I want only to ask. 
Erudite ladies, do any of you know anything about this? 
Other than that it is lovely, and mediaeval, and French in some way? 
And seems to start with God, and go to Neptune, and something 'appelles en latin tritones' . . . is the next bit 'c'est a dire . . .'? 
But why is the white horse in a cave on an island in a marsh populated by mermaids with hunting horns, and the most enchanting piscine brass section including a turbot (who by the rule of all turbots is called Herbert) and a dogfish of some kind, with real dog's ears . . . But does the left-hand mermaid have two little legs growing out of her tail? And what is she wearing round her waist? Fur? And what is the blue cholla-type item out of which Neptune is emerging?

Look at the little bullrushes. Are they bullrushes? Or plantains? And the little irises - or are they tiny yellowish asphodels? 

Why are they serenading the horse? 
Is Neptune conducting? Or about to thwack?

Clearly this is symbolic as anything. But I don't recognise any of it. Help? 

Or just enjoy.


Imogen said...

Didn't Poseidon create horses? Maybe this is part way through the process and the fish are being encouraging. I admit this doesn't get us far with the belimbed mermaid... Very beautiful

Katherine Langrish said...

Yes! How gorgeous: it's Neptune creating the horse. There's a 17th C. example here:
- but I like this one MUCH more! I reckon the legs look a little like some of Hieronymus Bosch's weird mermaidy creatures - maybe the artist was just having fun.

Unknown said...

Here's a link, hope it's helpful!

Joan Lennon said...


Zizou Alphonse Corder, PhD said...

I knew I could rely on you!
It's unusual I think to see classical mythology portrayed at this period - is it?
No wonder the horse looks so intrigued . . .

Thank you all v much. I shall look at those links now . . .

Zizou Alphonse Corder, PhD said...

Neptune, avec son trident, entouré des tritons;
Évrard de Conty, Le Livre des échecs amoureux moralisés. Enluminures de Robinet Testard, vers 1496-1498. Manuscrit sur parchemin (51 x34 cm)
BNF, Manuscrits, français 143, f. 130 v°

Neptune est l'une des divinités figurées par Robinet Testard pour accompagner un texte qui est le commentaire d'une allégorie fortement inspirée par le Roman de la Rose. Chaque divinité est décrite et représentée dans l'ordre où l'amène ce récit, ouvre d'Évrard de Conty, le médecin de Charles V. Dans cet ouvrage, l'homme de science explique aussi que les mouvements de la mer sont régis par la Lune.
Le présent manuscrit a été copié et enluminé par Robinet Testard pour Louise de Savoie.

adele said...

What a fantastc picture! And what an intriguing post! Might have known the clever History Girls would know what it was. I just love it! Esp the turbut named Herbert! Must make sure I never eat one, now that I know his name!!Lovely!

michelle lovric said...

Tritons (and tritonesses) traditionally blow a conch shell like a trumpet. The hairy waist can be seen in some Italian mermaids, and it could be like a mane, indicating that the mermaid is a triple hybrid ... lion, fish, woman. Some mermaids in Venice are also winged. The Scylla, a another kind of sea hybrid was often shown with dogs heads and front limbs projecting from her waist.