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Image as Speculum

Depicting Physical and Spiritual Vision in a fourteenth-century illuminated Tractatus Moralis de Oculo (c. 1274-1289)
Image comme Speculum. Représentation de la vision physique et spirituelle dans une manuscrit du quatorzième siècle: Tractatus Moralis de Oculo (c. 1274-1289)
Roisin Astell

Résumés

Peter de Limoges (1240-1306), un théologien français installé à l'Université de Paris, a composé le Tractatus Moralis de Oculo comme un manuel de prédication qui encourageait l'utilisation de la théorie optique pour faciliter la dévotion. Il a combiné les théories optiques scientifiques contemporaines et les nouvelles compréhensions de la cognition visuelle dans un cadre religieux pour aider les clercs dans leur enseignement moral aux laïcs. Cet article examine la relation entre le texte et l'image dans un manuscrit français du début du quatorzième siècle qui contient le Tractatus. Ce manuscrit est le dernier exemplaire existant. Il contient un ensemble décoratif composé de figures surprises dans l'acte de « regarder » le texte qu'elles accompagnent. Cet article enquête sur le rôle de ces images dans les stratégies visuelles employées pour représenter les expériences sensorielles évoquées dans le Tractatus et de la façont dont elles ont pu façonner les expériences sensorielles du spectateur.

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Notes de l’auteur

This article stems from my unpublished PhD thesis, “Enlightening the Laity”: Learning and Seeing in English and French late-thirteenth to early fourteenth-century illuminated manuscripts’, University of Kent, 2022. I would also like to extend my thanks to the following people who read earlier drafts of this work: Kathryn Rudy, Elizabeth Sandoval, Julia Faiers, Fergus Bovill, and Cecilia Mazzocchio.

Texte intégral

  • 1 « Si diligenter voluerimus in lege domini meditari facillime perpendimus ea que pertinent ad vision (...)

If we want to contemplate the law of the Lord diligently, we are going to recognize very easily that those matters which pertain to vision and the eye are referred to more frequently than any others in holy writings. From this fact it is obvious that a consideration of the eye and of the things related to it is very useful in order to gain a more complete understanding of divine wisdom.1
Peter of Limoges,
Tractatus Moralis de Oculo (c. 1274-1289)

  • 2 For more information on Peter of Limoges and his Tractatus Moralis de Oculo see Herbert L. Kessler, (...)

1Towards the end of the thirteenth century, Peter of Limoges (1240-1306), a French theologian based at the University of Paris, composed a preaching manual that encouraged the understanding of optical theory as a means of facilitating devotion. The Tractatus Moralis de Oculo (The Moral Treatise on the Eye, c. 1274-1289) combined contemporary scientific optical theories and new understandings of visual cognition within a religious framework to aid clerics in their moral teaching to the laity2.

  • 3 Newhauser, Peter of Limoges: The Moral Treatise on the Eye, 2012, p. xxix.

2The treatise consists of fifteen chapters. The first twelve chapters each begin by focusing on specific optical theories, the physiology of the eye, and how such knowledge concerning vision can aid comprehension of spiritual matters. The final chapters exclusively examine spiritual seeing and the divine gaze. Widely read, the Tractatus appears in over 260 extant manuscripts written across Europe from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries3.

3Despite the emphasis placed on the role of sight in devotional understanding and the agency of viewers, few manuscripts containing the Tractatus have illuminations beyond an opening miniature. For example, a Tractatus may open with an illustration depicting either a theologian pointing towards his eye or lecturing to a congregation from a pulpit (fig. 1 and 2). However, a fourteenth-century Northern French illuminated manuscript goes beyond this standard decorative opening. Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234 (c. 1325, Arras; henceforth Latin 3234) is the only extant example of an illuminated Tractatus that includes more than a single opening illumination.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Gotha, Forschungsbibliothek MS Memb. II 74 (France? late thirteenth-century), f. 162r (image taken from Richard Newhauser’s Peter of Limoges: The Moral Treatise on the Eye, Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2012.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine MS 1733 (Belgium, 1498), f. 335v

  • 4 The images of MS Latin 3234 included in this article were taken by the author. I would like to than (...)

Latin 3234 is unique in its unified decorative programme of initials that contain figures shown in the act of “looking” at the text they accompany (fig. 3)4. As the only illuminated Tractatus to have more than a single opening historiated initial, the design choice to include such initials (which will be referred to as “head initials” throughout this article) in Latin 3234 appears deliberate as these figures seem to both embody and encourage the reciprocal relationship of seeing and reading. Furthermore, such a decorative programme provides the opportunity to examine how illuminations were used to capture the process of seeing alongside a text centred on that very action.

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 27v (c. 1325, Arras), male head initial alongside chapter viii of the Tractatus.

  • 5 The head initials are found on the following folios: Latin 3234, ff. 3r, 3v, 8r, 8v, two on 9r, 10r (...)
  • 6 While a discussion of this female head initial is beyond the scope of this article, I have devoted (...)
  • 7 These clerical head initials are on Latin 3234, ff. 9r, 10r, 19r, 20r, 38r, 55r.

4Latin 3234 has twenty-two head initials5. Most of these are men, except for one woman and two apes masquerading as humans6. Alongside the text are six clergy members, including young clerics and prelates, identifiable by their tonsured heads7. The abundance of male head initials – especially those of prelates – may indicate the intended owner and audience of the manuscript: the bishop of Amiens Jean de Cherchemont (c. 1303-1373). As will be examined, the hypothesis that Jean was the likely recipient of Latin 3234 is grounded in the iconography and the strategic placement of images that align closely with his clerical responsibilities. In viewing images of clergy members learning from the Tractatus, this iconography demonstrates the importance of vision in devotional education. Furthermore, it reflects Jean’s very own physical engagement with his manuscript, functioning as a form of speculum (mirror).

  • 8 For more information on the relationship between the medieval metaphor of the speculum, theology, a (...)
  • 9 Corinthians 1. 13: 12: « Videmus nunc per speculum in enigmate tunc autem facie ad faciem nunc cogn (...)
  • 10 Examples of Speculum literature includes Edmund of Abingdon’s Speculum religiosorum (c. 1213-1214) (...)

5Medieval theology and philosophy used speculum as a metaphor for understanding how one could access the divine8. Saint Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians was a central instigator of this tradition, where he states humans only see God “through a mirror and dimly, but at the time of glory, face to face”9. It also became a core concept in a new form of Medieval literature, the Speculum tradition, with texts aiming to provide “mirror-like” reflections of the world and people who read them10.

  • 11 For important contributions of visual culture studies and the development of the idea of the agency (...)

6This article will examine the decorative programme alongside the Tractatus in Latin 3234, focusing on the proliferation of cleric head initials. As a text full of opportunities to depict narrative scenes, it is especially significant that figures in the act of seeing have been emphasised. This article will consider the role of these head initials within the visual strategies employed in picturing sensory experiences as discussed in the Tractatus and how they may have shaped the viewer’s own sensory experiences11. To do this, I will focus my analysis on the depiction of clergy members as head initials, with specific reference to the manuscript’s patron. I will argue that the inclusion of these heads was a conscious design strategy to emphasise the intrinsic meaning of the text and reflect the intended experience that was anticipated by the manuscript’s user.

  • 12 For information on semiotic theory, see David S. Clarke, Principles of Semiotic, London and New Yor (...)
  • 13 For the work of Michael Camille and others, see Barbara Nolan, The Gothic Visionary Perspective, Pr (...)
  • 14 For research on Medieval understandings of the senses, see David Howes (dir.), The varieties of sen (...)

7This research employs methodologies from art history, history of science, theology, semiotics, cognitive studies, and reception theories to examine the role of the head initials. Semiotics is used in this research to approach images as signifiers of meaning12. Simultaneously, reception theories inform our understanding of how medieval viewers experienced these images, demonstrating the act of seeing as a cognitive function that extends beyond mere perception to encompass the acquisition of knowledge, as argued by Michael Camille and others13. Furthermore, the history of the senses provides awareness of the evolving role of sensory perception in religious practices14. Such methodological approaches provide a framework to examine the significance of the head initials in Latin 3234 and their devotional potential beyond mere decoration.

8The uniqueness of Latin 3234, made less than fifty years after the completion of the Tractatus, offers insight into the visual strategies applied to a text that has hitherto been illuminated. Just as the species of external forms intertwine the viewer and object in a mutual relationship, the head initials of Latin 3234 did this too. I will argue that these initials were not perceived as static designs but had dynamic energy that required the viewer’s active participation. They encourage the reader-viewer to look beyond the written form and take on the visible species of those in the act of seeing, evoking a mirroring of action, whether mentally or physically, to facilitate spiritual contemplation.

The decorative programme of Latin 3234

  • 15 Latin 3234 comprises of 104 folios and measures 280 x 180mm. Unfortunately, an investigation on the (...)
  • 16 Latin 3234, Tractatus Moralis de Oculo, ff. 2r-56r.
  • 17 Latin 3234, Distichs of Cato, ff. 58r-69r; and the Liber de ludo scaccorum, ff. 70r-104r.
  • 18 There are three other head initials found alongside these two additional texts. There is one with t (...)

9Latin 3234 is a small miscellany created in Arras, France, at the beginning of the fourteenth century15. The manuscript includes three Latin texts. The first is the Tractatus16. The following two are the Distichs of Cato (c. 3rd-4th century AD, ff. 58r-69r) written by the pseudo-Cato and an incomplete version of Jacobus de Cessolis’ (1288-1322) Liber de ludo scaccorum17. Only the Tractatus includes a sustained decorative programme of head initials18.

  • 19 Due to word limitations, I cannot recount the nuances of each artistic style displayed in the manus (...)
  • 20 The two head initials produced by this second artist are on ff. 54r and 55r. The first of these is (...)
  • 21 Alison Stones, op. cit., GM (I), II, p. 177.
  • 22 The script changes to a light brown ink from folio 50r to folio 56, and then returns to the same sc (...)

10Two artists completed the illuminations of Latin 323419. The first produced most of the initials and illustrations alongside the Tractatus, working on folios 2r to 49v. A second artist took over the illuminations, from folio 50r onwards, producing only two head initials alongside the Tractatus20. This second artist’s style is defined by his use of light shades of reds, blues, and browns and his affinities with contemporary Italianate styles (fig. 4). As this artist only illuminates the final seven folios of the Tractatus to the very end of Latin 3234, Alison Stones suggests that this illuminator may have played a “secondary capacity in this book” and that it is most likely that the first artist passed away or retired before finishing it21. This article will focus on the illuminations created by Latin 3234’s first illuminator. Their style is characterised by small facial features, such as tightly pursed mouths, small round heads, long slender fingers, and wispy hair (fig. 5). There appear to be two scribes working on the manuscript, with one writing most of the text and another working in a lighter brown ink from folios 50r to 56r22. This break in scribal work aligns with the change of illuminators working on the manuscript.

Fig. 4

Fig. 4

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 70r (c. 1325, Arras), male head initial alongside the Liber de ludo scaccorum.

Fig. 5

Fig. 5

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 2r (c. 1325, Arras), initial opening the prologue of the Tractatus.

11As mentioned, Latin 3234 goes beyond the standard inclusion of a single opening miniature with the Tractatus. Throughout the treatise are a myriad of head initials. Most of the twenty-two head initials alongside the Tractatus are men. While Latin 3234 includes other various head initials like kings wearing golden crowns (ff. 3r, 17v, 20v) (fig. 6), ordinary men (3v, 12r, 14v, 15r, 18v, 23v, 27v, 43v, 44v, 54r) (fig. 7 and 8), and one single woman (f. 9r) (fig. 9). This article will focus on a select group of images: five clerics and the two ape head initials. These head initials are the most compelling examples of forms of speculum and encapsulate the act of seeing. Focusing on these images offers an insight into how these figures mirrored the patron, actively shaped his sensory engagement with the manuscript, and their distinct role in encouraging introspection.

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 17v (c. 1325, Arras), king head initial alongside chapter vii of the Tractatus.

Fig. 7

Fig. 7

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 12r (c. 1325, Arras), male head initial alongside chapter vii of the Tractatus.

Fig. 8

Fig. 8

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 44v (c. 1325, Arras), male head initial alongside chapter xii of the Tractatus.

Fig. 9

Fig. 9

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 9r (c. 1325, Arras), Female head initial alongside chapter vi of the Tractatus.

A manuscript for a Bishop: identifying the original patron of Latin 3234

  • 23 See François Avril, « Un cas d’influence italienne dans l’enluminure du Nord de la France au quator (...)
  • 24 Jean-Marie Mioland, Actes de l’église d’Amiens: recueil de tous les documents relatifs à la discipl (...)
  • 25 Ibid.
  • 26 Jean-Marie Mioland, op. cit., p. XLVIII; Jean-Baptiste Maurice de Sachy, op. cit., p. 153-156; Thom (...)

12Scholars have hypothesised that the original patron of Latin 3234 was Jean de Cherchemont (c. 1303-1373), a Bishop of Amiens23. Jean was born in Poitiers and had a prolific career in the Church: he was a canon at the Church of Sainte Radegonde in Poitiers and Saint Quentin in Saint-Quentin24. He then became the Dean of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois in Paris and later Bishop of Troyes (1324-1326)25. In 1326, when he was twenty-three, Jean was made Bishop of Amiens until he died in 137326.

  • 27 This includes a shield with alternating pale argent and sable (which was originally sinople, but du (...)

13One of the primary reasons for attribution to Jean de Cherchemont is the heraldry at the top left of the opening folio on Latin 3234. Here, two bird-like creatures carry a coat of arms (fig. 10)27. This heraldry is made of alternating pales made of silver (now oxidised) and dark blue, with diagonally descending red lozenges. This is similar to the heraldry of the Cherchemont family (fig. 11). At the centre of this coat of arms is a golden crozier, attesting that the owner of this coat of arms held the position of a bishop.

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 2r (c. 1325, Arras), detail of the Cherchemont heraldry with a golden crozier in the middle.

Fig. 11

Fig. 11

Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, MS 2909 (18th century), detail of the Cherchemont family heraldry.

  • 28 François Avril, op. cit., p. 33 and 37. The manuscript was first connected to the Cathedral of Mend (...)
  • 29 Camille Gaspar and Frédéric Lyna, Les principaux manuscrits à peintures de la Bibliothèque Roya (...)

14The attribution of Jean as the manuscript’s original owner is further supported by other manuscripts believed to be owned by the young bishop. One manuscript in Jean’s collection is a Pontifical manuscript from the Cathedral of Amiens (Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique MS 9216; henceforth, the Brussels Pontifical), likely produced after Latin 323428. On the fore-edge of the manuscript, one can discern the Cherchemont heraldry29. What is significant is that the Brussels Pontifical also contains the work of Latin 3234’s second “Italianate” artist. The Cherchemont heraldry and the inclusion of work by the same artist indicate that Jean possessed both these manuscripts.

  • 30 Richard Hazelton, “Chaucer and Cato”, Speculum, vol. 35, n° 3, 1960, p. 357-380, p. 360.
  • 31 Dario Del Puppo, “The Limits of Allegory in Jacobus de Cessolis’ De ludo Scaccorum”, in Daniel E. O (...)

15The three texts of Latin 3234 differ in scope and function, yet they would have given Jean different ways of educating his congregation. As mentioned, the function of the Tractatus makes it an appropriate text for a bishop whose primary role was to offer instruction and teach church members. The second text, the Distichs of Cato, included commentaries on morals, proverbs, virtues, and vices30. The Liber de ludo scaccorum focused on chess and its analogies to the moral qualities needed for “good government”31. The pairing of these texts, primarily aimed at noble male readers, further strengthens the manuscript’s provenance to Jean. As a young, newly appointed bishop, these works suggest a patron who wanted to enhance their sermon-writing skills and further their self-improvement and religious learning. These treatises worked together to create a compendium that functioned as a means of spiritual edification which could be disseminated to the wider public through preaching.

16Moreover, Latin 3234’s size (280 x 180mm) indicates that it was intended for close engagement as it could easily be held in his hands, providing a private reading experience that aided his personal and spiritual development. Finally, the plethora of male head initials, particularly those of clerics, reinforces Jean as the manuscript’s likely intended owner and audience.

Theories of Vision and the Tractatus

17Before examining the individual head initials in Latin 3234, it is worth noting the contemporary intellectual advancements in optics that influenced Peter of Limoges. For centuries before the Tractatus, there were two opposing theories of how vision physically took place. The first of these was the extramission theory. This theory posited that vision occurred when the eye emitted visual rays that “touched” external objects. In this theory, the viewer is the active agent within visual perception. The opposing theory to this is known as the intromission theory. This asserts that external objects project their own visual impressions (species) outwards, which the soul processes and judges accordingly. For Aristotle (384-322 BC), light enabled the colours and forms of these objects and species to be transmitted from the object to the eye. In this theory, the object is the active agent in vision.

  • 32 The main contribution of these scholars in the study of optics can be found in Robert Grosseteste’s (...)
  • 33 For information on optical theories in Arabic philosophy (especially Alhazen) see David Lindberg, “ (...)
  • 34 « Et hoc est communis nervus in superficie cerebri situates. Ubi concurrunt duo nervi a duabus part (...)
  • 35 « Eodem modo visio spiritualis non solum requirit ut anima recipiat ab extur scilicet a Deo virtute (...)
  • 36 See footnote 1.

18It was not until the mid-thirteenth century that scholars in Paris posited a complex doctrine on visual perception that incorporated both extramission and intromission theories. Theologians such as Robert Grosseteste (c. 1168-1253), Roger Bacon (1214/1220-1292), John Peckham (c. 1230-1292), and Peter of Limoges aimed to demonstrate the active nature of both the object and viewer within visual perception32. The premise was that objects externally disseminated their species (likeness) and that viewers were required to receive and process these to facilitate visual perception. While drawing upon the work of the Arabic philosopher Alhazen (965-1040 AD) and Roger Bacon, Peter emphasises the viewer’s intentio (intention) and active participation33. According to Peter, the viewer’s intentio to deduce external forms was analogous to spiritual vision34. He writes that just as the soul’s cooperation is necessary for visual perception to occur, spiritual vision requires the soul to “receive powers and grace […] from God”35. This, in turn, would provide devotees with “a more complete understanding of divine wisdom”36.

  • 37 « Septimo est oculus forme seu speciei cei visibilis receptivus. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., cha (...)
  • 38 « Cuius inter alia hec est una probatio manifesta; Probatur enim in principio perspective opus si q (...)
  • 39 « Pluraliter dicit confixerunt, omnes enim Christum confiximus, yimo et crufiximus, qui a pro omnib (...)
  • 40 Carolyn Muessig, “‘Can’t take my eyes off of you’: Mutual Gazing between the divine and humanity”, (...)
  • 41 This can be seen in Peter’s discussion of the afterimage: Peter of Limoges, op. cit. chapter vii, f (...)
  • 42 For developments in optical theories, cognition, and theology during this period see David Lindberg (...)

19When explaining how objects disseminated their own likeness (species), Peter uses the phenomenon known as the “afterimage”37. The afterimage follows the premise that if one looks at something in a bright setting and then closes their eyes, they will see this image imprinted in their mind38. To explain this, Peter states that images (or species) can potentially affect the viewer’s memory and emotion, making them active participants in vision. He compares the afterimage to how one should visualise Christ’s wounds. He states that each Christian should go within their conscience “and consider Christ’s wounds with the eyes of the mind” to “feel” Christ’s suffering39. The image of Christ’s wounds must thus be imprinted onto the devotee’s mind. In using the optical theories of species and the afterimage, Peter “provides a scientific explanation of how a visible species when perceived by the fleshy eye can then impress itself on the mind’s eye”40. He emphasises the cognitive movement from external to interior vision and the importance of the outward bodily and interior senses in religious contemplation. Such affective piety through the mental construction of images was central to Peter’s theory of visual perception. By comparing the external object’s likeness being imprinted on the mind’s eye, Peter demonstrates the utility of physical objects to assist with devotion41. By this period, vision was thus understood as an inherently active process between the viewer and object, encompassing the external and internal senses, cognition, and the soul42.

  • 43 Newhauser, Peter of Limoges: The Moral Treatise on the Eye, 2012, p. xi–xxxiii.

20While scholars such as Roger Bacon attempted to show the utility of understanding optical theories within religion, Peter’s Tractatus is the earliest known systematic attempt by a theologian to apply such theories to develop devotional learning in the form of a preaching manual43.

Mirrors of Morality: Optical Illusions and Clerical Self-Awareness

  • 44 Fourth Council of the Lateran, 1215, canons 14-17 (<https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/lateran4. (...)
  • 45 Ronald J. Stansbury, “Preaching and Pastoral Care in the Middle Ages” in Ronald J. Stansbury (dir.) (...)
  • 46 Dallas George Denery, Seeing and Being Seen in the Later Medieval World: Optics, Theology and Relig (...)

21In the thirteenth century, there was a growing interest in cognition and perception, as well as self-reflection and the judgement of oneself and others. This shift towards scrutiny of the self is evident in the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. Canons fourteen to seventeen are concerned with the moral conduct and behaviour of the clergy, including the necessity for chastity and abstinence, while discouraging activities like frequenting taverns44. During this time, there was a heightened emphasis on the cultivation of self-awareness among theologians regarding their public image, underscoring the importance for the edification of the senses. The impetus was all the more crucial for clerics, who were under the constant gaze of their communities45. Consequently, there was a surge in the creation of preaching manuals during this period, advocating for the clergy to be conscious of how they presented themselves46.

  • 47 « Sextum de xiii mirabilibus circa oculi visionem moralem continentibus informationem. » (Peter of (...)
  • 48 « Probatum est in scientia perspectiva, quod oculus in aere nebuloso locatus, non videt nec percipi (...)
  • 49 « Per hunc modum et peccator quam diu est in peccato, peccati sui tenebras non ad avertit. Sed extr (...)
  • 50 Ibid.
  • 51 « Eodem modo visio spiritualis non solum requirit ut anima recipiat ab exteriore, scilicet a deo vi (...)

22In chapter vi of the Tractatus, Peter uses a series of optical illusion and their parallels to the spiritual senses to explain the importance for clerics to be mindful of their presentation and perception of others47. In one example, Peter uses the analogy of a person shrouded in fog to illustrate spiritual blindness. When standing in fog, one’s sight is obscured, for they cannot see around themselves48. For Peter, this is comparable to the spiritual blindness caused by sins, where the sinner “does not notice the darkness of his sin”49. However, only once situated outside the fog can one see clearly. Likewise, to gain their spiritual sight, the sinner must be “enlightened by the glow of divine grace”, for only then “he will recognize the magnitude of his sin and the mental blindness he suffered”50. For Peter, this analogy underlines the necessity for the soul to embrace and receive the glow of divine grace(lumine divine gracie), similar to the requirement of light in vision and the active reciprocal nature between object and viewer in visual perception51.

  • 52 This cleric appears on Latin 3234, f. 9r.
  • 53 « Oculo respicientis in speculo facies apparent prepostere, et altitudines videntur everse. » (Pete (...)
  • 54 “Iudicat enim oculus dum res extat in speculo quod dextrum est esse sinistrum, et quod est sinistru (...)
  • 55 Dallas George Denery, op. cit., p. 106, footnote 83.
  • 56 « Sic et si nostre consideracionis oculus secundum doctrine sacre speculum de rebus iudicet, ea que (...)

23Alongside this chapter on optical illusions, the first illuminator of Latin 3234 astutely emphasises such moral concerns by including two clerical head initials alongside the tenth and eleventh examples of optical illusions. The first is a young prelate portrayed with a tonsure and facing the text to his right (fig. 12), which focuses on illusions created by mirrors52. Peter writes that “shapes appear in reverse” when seeing an object in a mirror53. To see such objects correctly, Peter claims that the eye judges accordingly so the viewer knows “what is right is left and vice versa”54. The moral parallel to this is when one’s spiritual sight is impaired, their perception of the world is inaccurate, for “they reflect against the flawed mirror of [man’s] sinful nature”55. This distorted vision is apparent in how material possessions are often viewed as valuable despite their non-existent spiritual worth. To overcome unreliable vision, Peter writes that one must use the eye of contemplation, guided by “the mirror of holy doctrine”56.

Fig. 12

Fig. 12

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 9r (c. 1325, Arras), clerical head initial alongside chapter vi of the Tractatus.

24The young prelate, alongside this part of the Tractatus, signalled that even clerics were susceptible to being deceived by reflected mirrors that impeded their moral and spiritual judgement. The cleric in the initial may have functioned as a visual aide-mémoire to encourage the viewer-reader, in this case, Jean, to also judge through “the eye of our contemplation” according “to the mirror of holy doctrine”. This illumination was thus an eternal reminder of how Jean was expected to spiritually perceive the world around him. Given that the original owner was likely a young, newly appointed Bishop of Amiens, the presence of a young cleric next to this text could be a literal stand-in for the Bishop himself or young clergy in general, emphasising the importance of understanding the doctrine thoroughly at an early stage in one’s spiritual career. Just as a young cleric is in the formative years of his spiritual journey, so is a newly appointed Bishop, and both are expected to have a deep understanding of their faith's teachings – the “holy doctrine” – to guide them.

25But this figure may also have served as a visual reminder of the need to be constantly vigilant in maintaining one’s spiritual mirror. Clerics and Bishops were both tasked with understanding and disseminating holy doctrine. Therefore, they must keep their spiritual mirrors clear for their benefit and to act as moral and spiritual guides for their community. The visual emphasis here on seeing and the act of reading and looking at the adjacent text mirrors the necessity for the eye of contemplation to be attuned to the mirror of the holy doctrine.

  • 57 « Probatum est in saepe dicta sciencia quod rei vise sub fractis radiis certificari non potest quan (...)
  • 58 Ibid.
  • 59 « Peccator autem quando peccatum committit, ipsam culpam non directe, sed quasi per fractam lineam (...)
  • 60 « Modo consimili peccatum potest certitudinaliter comprehendi secundum gradum proprie quantitatis a (...)
  • 61 « Hoc autem modo doctor aliquis vel quicumque alius studiosus peccatum suum repicit qui veritatem i (...)
  • 62 « Sicut recte iudicant speculando, quod ut non habeant ideo fortasse contingit, quod inveniuntur ad (...)

26In the next optical illusion, Peter discusses how it is difficult to determine an object’s size “when it is perceived through refracted rays of light”57. However, if one observes the object with a direct and unobstructed line of sight, its true size becomes apparent58. The spiritual analogy is that “when a sinner sins, he does not see the fault directly yet, but rather through a refracted line, or an oblique line”, seeing only the pleasure associated with the sin itself 59. Peter writes that to understand the consequences and transgressions of one’s sins, they must be viewed directly “with the eye of reason”60. In turn, this enables a clear differentiation between different types of sin61. In this part of the text, Peter scolds clerics who are eager to learn yet lazy and reluctant to act, highlighting the discrepancy between knowledge and deeds62.

  • 63 Ibid., f. 10r.

27Adjoining this discussion is the second cleric head initial within the letter “P” (fig. 13)63. Unlike the previous cleric, who was intently focused on the text next to him, this second figure appears more animated, pointing the index finger of his right hand upwards. This animated young cleric may have been a vivid juxtaposition to the calmer cleric portrayed in the preceding initial, representing Peter’s caution against being “lazy and impulsive in learning”. His upward-pointing finger might indicate a hasty, perhaps erroneous “lightbulb” moment of premature confidence. With this in mind, this head initial may have been a visual warning, especially for those in spiritual leadership: quick conclusions without deep contemplation can lead to mistakes. The cleric’s lively gestures highlight the dangers of superficial understanding and emphasise the importance of profound learning and seeing with the eye of reason. On the other hand, his gesture could be that of active inquiry into the text rather than impulsive judgment. Instead of representing what not to do, this prelate could embody the ideal state of being for a spiritual leader – someone who is genuinely engaged in careful looking and rational thought.

Fig. 13

Fig. 13

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 10r (c. 1325, Arras), clerical head initial alongside chapter vi of the Tractatus.

28This figure and the preceding cleric represent the continual process of looking for and seeking enlightenment. They both exemplify the active use of the eye of reason to receive the “glow of divine grace” and see the world through the lens of “holy doctrine” – an approach Jean de Cherchemont would likely aspire to. Peter’s examination of optical illusions in chapter vi mirrors the importance of inner vision and introspection over deceptive external appearances. These two young clerics, intent on the accompanying text, are engaged in a “direct vision” of learning without intermediary distractions. Their presence is not only a visual form of speculum, mirroring the reader’s expected engagement with the text, but also underscores the necessity for direct understanding in spiritual and moral pursuits.

Illuminated by the gift of knowledge: the Role of Vision in Clerical Learning and Devotion

  • 64 « Est enim oculus numero geminus compare suo simillimus, colore diversus, figura sphericus, palpebr (...)

29I will now focus on three more clerical head initials in Latin 3234’s Tractatus. This section will examine the role of these images within Peter’s discussion of the role of vision in the clerical pursuit of learning and devotion. This is evident in the inclusion of two young prelates alongside chapter vii. In this chapter, Peter focuses on different properties of the eye64. This includes the variation of eye colours, the eye’s physical health, its ability to distinguish objects at different distances, and its role in receiving the species or likeness of external objects within vision.

  • 65 « Decimo oculus est tocius corperis directionis. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vii, f. 19r (...)
  • 66 « Unde et oculi vocantur luminaria, que lumen exterius respiciunt, et acceptum communicant et effun (...)
  • 67 « Unde secundus philosophus oculum definiens ait: Oculus est dux corporis, vas luminis, index animu (...)
  • 68 « Oculus enim non sibi soli videt, sed toti corpori. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vii, f. (...)
  • 69 « Specialiter autem sicut oculus corporalis lumen suum communicat ceteris membris dum non solum sib (...)

30Peter discusses the importance of the eyes, describing them as guides for the body, drawing from both intromission and extramission theories65. He describes the eyes as receivers of external light (intromission), which then transmit back out what it has received (extramission), suggesting a reciprocal process66. According to Peter, the eyes are the highest of the senses because they are closest to the brain and “the window of the soul”67. But the eye does see for the sake of seeing or “for itself alone” but does so for the whole body by the soul sharing “its light with the rest of the body’s members”68. Peter argues that just as the eyes illuminate the body with vision, those “illuminated by the gift of knowledge” should generously impart it to others69.

  • 70 This cleric appears in Latin 3234, f. 19r.
  • 71 « Primo igitur oculus in corpore optuis locum pre ceteris eminentem. Et hoc propter maiorem inter c (...)

31Opening this discussion is another young cleric who wears a red hooded tunic (fig. 14)70. This clerical figure likely reflects Peter’s emphasis on the responsibility of those endowed with religious knowledge to educate others. Like this head initial, clerics were seen as “the spiritual eyes of the church” tasked with disseminating divine wisdom71. The image of this young, hooded prelate serves to underscore this duty, reminding the reader of their pivotal role and responsibilities in elevating the spiritual awareness of their community.

32The inclusion of a hood, the only depiction of its kind throughout the manuscript, may have represented a conundrum for the devotee looking at this image. The act of partially wearing the hood over his head may portray the concealment of his spiritual wisdom that is yet to be shared with his congregation. Just as the eyes are gateways to the soul and enable deeper understanding, lifting the hood may reveal the cleric’s true nature and spiritual wisdom to be shared with all. Given that a young bishop likely owned the manuscript, this image might also provoke self-reflection on his part: Is he sharing his light of divine understanding with his congregation? Is his vision clear or hooded by ignorance or an unwillingness to share his insights?

Fig. 14

Fig. 14

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 19r (c. 1325, Arras), clerical head initial alongside chapter vii of the Tractatus.

  • 72 « Undecimo oculus archanorum mentis est indicativus. Unde et motus oculi significat statum interior (...)
  • 73 « Et ideo multum decet honestum hominem ut ab obscenis et impudicis spectaculis oculus avertatur, n (...)
  • 74 This cleric is depicted in Latin 3234, f. 20r.

33In the following discussion of the properties of the eye, Peter further emphasises the eyes as the “window of the soul”. Central to this is the belief that the eyes reflect a person’s inner state and mind72. Peter stresses that everyone, especially clerics, needs to avoid obscene and shameless spectacles, as they can cloud spiritual vision and judgment73. The necessity for maintaining healthy eyes was, therefore, connected with the well-being of the spiritual eye. Opening this part of the Tractatus in Latin 3234, the first illuminator again depicts another cleric (fig. 15)74.

Fig. 15

Fig. 15

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 20r (c. 1325, Arras), clerical head initial alongside chapter vii of the Tractatus.

A young, tonsured cleric wears a red robe in the letter “U” initial. Unlike the other clerical figures who are depicted facing the text, this young cleric is presented facing the observer, his mouth slightly open as though he is caught in the act of speaking. While his body faces forward, his gaze is directed to the text on the right. This young cleric, depicted with his gaze fixed on the sacred text yet oriented towards the viewer, embodies the tension between worldly distractions and the call to divine knowledge. His deliberate avoidance of “shameless spectacles” beyond the manuscript is a visual reinforcement of Peter’s assertion that the eyes reflect the mind’s inner state. His fixed contemplation and attention symbolise his soul’s desire to learn and his spiritual diligence, becoming a model for the reader to emulate. This young cleric breaks the fourth wall by facing out to the viewer. Perhaps a reminder of the cleric’s duty to educate his congregation (us as the reader), which is emphasised with the pursed lips, as if he is in the middle of speaking, preaching, or sharing his wisdom. At the same time, he also advocates for the cleric’s need for continuous spiritual education. This representation would resonate with Jean, a young Bishop at the time, encouraging him to steadfastly direct his mind's eye towards divine matters.

  • 75 This cleric is portrayed in Latin 3234, f. 38r.

34Another animated cleric is depicted alongside chapter xi (fig. 16)75.

Fig. 16

Fig. 16

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 38r (c. 1325, Arras), clerical head initial alongside chapter xi of the Tractatus.

  • 76 « Undecimum capitulum, de informatione scholarium ex septem conditionibus que requiruntur ad visum. (...)
  • 77 « Dunc enim scholari studium proficit cum hijs que legit vel audit diligenter intendit, et cum ea q (...)
  • 78 Ibid. The emphasis placed on the intention of the viewer is discussed in chapters iv, vii, and xi. (...)
  • 79 Ibid.
  • 80 « Dunc enim scholari studium proficit cum hijs que legit vel audit diligenter intendit, et cum ea q (...)

This chapter examines the seven conditions required for sight and how these relate to the education of students76. Accompanying this head initial, Peter illustrates the importance of concentrated devotional learning by drawing parallels between vision theories and the soul’s role within vision77. Just as the soul is required to actively judge the visual species of external objects, students must purposefully focus their attention on their religious education78. He likens a student’s focused engagement to a hunting dog single-mindedly tracking the scent of a stag, ignoring all other distractions79. Peter suggests that this level of dedication is crucial for students who should persistently pursue their spiritual studies with the same enthusiasm, disregarding all else. Central to this is the role of memory, with Peter emphasising the need to internalise teachings by reflecting and examining them “internally in the cabinet or locker of his heart”.80 Such attention and retention, he asserts, are vital for attaining deeper spiritual understanding.

35The animated gesture of the adjoining cleric, with his right hand pointing towards the text, suggests a form of active engagement with the material, not merely passively reading it. This aligns with Peter’s explanation that students must actively engage with their devotional education just as the soul judges visual species. His pointing action is like a visual cue for the reader to pay attention, similar to how one might underline or highlight key passages in a book. But he might also represent the cleric’s role in guiding the manuscript’s user toward the correct path of spiritual understanding, serving as a form of instruction or direction. This figure ultimately mirrors the text he adjoins, becoming an eternal diligent student.

36Given that the likely owner of the manuscript was a young Bishop, these figures of clerics may have functioned as idealised models of clerical behaviour and duty, each embodying a different aspect of what it means to be a religious leader. Such figures may have served as meditative tools and forms of speculum, encouraging deeper contemplation, self-examination, and introspection – essential parts of spiritual growth. The clerics depicted next to parts of the Tractatus concerning mirrors, optical illusions, and introspection exemplify the contemporary expectations for prelates to be conscious of their self-representation. As a bishop, Jean would have looked and read this manuscript, knowing that he was morally and spiritually obliged to educate himself on the importance of sight. These clerical head initials invited Jean into the physical matrix of the manuscript to identify himself within the imagery and deepen his process of devotional learning.

37Just as objects project their likeness in the intromission theory, the text and teachings disseminate spiritual species or principles. The clerics could be understood as receiving these disseminations, which the reader of the manuscript itself then acquired. These “looking” clerics were constant reminders of how Jean was expected to behave, understand and spiritually perceive the world around him.

Animals as similitudo: Satirical Visions of the Clergy

  • 81 These apes appear in Latin 3234, ff. 8r and 8v.

38The role of head initials as forms of speculum for Jean de Cherchemont extended beyond these clerical figures. This is notably highlighted in the depiction of two fascinating figures in chapter vi of the Tractatus. Two apes are shown in two of the initials (fig. 17 and 18)81.

Fig. 17

Fig. 17

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 8r (c. 1325, Arras), ape head initial alongside chapter vi of the Tractatus.

Fig. 18

Fig. 18

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 8v (c. 1325, Arras), monkey head initial alongside chapter vi of the Tractatus.

The first wears a red robe with long hair and a hat. His ape-like features are identifiable through his large nostrils. The second is an ape dressed as a monk, who lifts his head towards the space in the margin on the left. These apes visually contrast with the other figures depicted and are noticeably different due to their animal-like physiognomies. At first glance, their inclusion appears somewhat odd. However, upon further investigation, it becomes apparent that they have an intrinsic function within the manuscript.

  • 82 The first ape is in Latin 3234, f. 8r.
  • 83 « Demonstratum est etiam in praefata scientia quod oculus debilius apprehendit rem quam videt in sp (...)
  • 84 Ibid.
  • 85 f. Ibid., p. 30.

39The first human-like ape opens the sixth optical illusion (fig. 17)82. Peter explains that objects seen in mirrors provide a weaker vision than those seen directly in person83. This is because reflections are understood to produce a weaker image84. Peter says that these weaknesses have spiritual analogies to those who do not correctly practice the teachings from Scripture, merely seeing “them as if in a mirror”85.

  • 86 The second ape appears in Latin 3234, f. 8v.
  • 87 « Apud perspectiuos expertum est et vulgatum quod si oculus in speculo in aqua posito solem respici (...)
  • 88 « Unus videlicet existens in celo, et duo procedentes ab ipso, id est due solis imagines in aqua et (...)
  • 89 « Modo consimili si in aquis sapiencie salutaris oculo fidei solem iusticie contemplati fuerimus, a (...)

40The second human-like ape accompanies the next optical illusion (fig. 18)86. Here, Peter describes how two suns are reflected when you look at the sun in a mirror placed in water87. Because of this, you may think that there are three suns – the sun in the sky and the two reflected – when, in reality, there is just one88. For Peter, God’s plurality in the Trinity spiritually parallels this illusion of three suns. As part of the Trinity, God reveals himself “as threefold and singular”89. At the heart of these two spiritual analogies is the potential fallibility of reflected images, which can be deceiving.

  • 90 « Alii simias Latino sermone vocatos arbitrantur, eo quod multa in eis similitudo rationis humanae (...)
  • 91 For illuminations depicting apes mimicking humans, see Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Douce 6 (Flander (...)

41Throughout this part of the Tractatus, Peter’s language is proliferated with the repetition of the word similitudo, meaning likeness or imitation. Similitudo was also often associated with apes, as the Latin word for apes is simia. Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636) explains in the Etymologiae that apes are called simia because they “have a great similarity (similitudo) to human behaviour”90. Apes were viewed as humanity’s similitude through their physical form and actions91.

  • 92 Joyce E. Salisbury, The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages, New York, Routledge, 1994, p. 126
  • 93 Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter viii, ff. 29v-30r, p. 105.
  • 94 Matthew 7: 15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly th (...)

42But their inclusion in Latin 3234 goes beyond this linguistic parallel between simia and similitudo. Their depiction may have been intended as a form of visual exemplum. Exempla, especially those based on animals, became popular in medieval sermons, with animals functioning as moral signifiers and providing satirical commentaries92. Peter uses animal exempla alongside optical theories in the Tractatus as moralising tools. For example, he compares the entranced tiger who stares at a mirror and “is charmed by its own beauty” to lavishly dressed women who cause men to become transfixed and to “forget the heavenly things which he should pursue”93. Peter also uses Saint Matthew’s parable of the wolf to warn prelates about false advisors and prophets94. Simultaneous to the increased frequency of animal exempla in sermons was also the proliferation of animals depicted in the marginalia of Gothic manuscripts. These marginal animals became more human-like, portrayed as playing music and preaching (fig. 19 and 20).

Fig. 19

Fig. 19

New Haven, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, MS 229 (late thirteenth century France), f. 1r.

Fig. 20

Fig. 20

London, British Library Stowe MS 17 (Liège, First quarter of the 14th century), f. 84r.

  • 95 For examples of apes as forms of exempla in the Tractatus see Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter v (...)
  • 96 Alexander Neckam, De naturis rerum, book 2, ed. by Thomas Wright, London, Longman, Green, Longman, (...)

43Apes were also a popular feature in medieval exempla. Alexander Neckam (1157-1217) claims that apes were used to highlight the foolish nature of false imitation95. Neckam describes an ape who had ruined a cobbler’s leather goods and stolen his knife. Frustrated and knowing that the ape was watching him, the cobbler brought the blunt edge of a “knife across his throat”, which the ape imitated, accidentally killing himself96. The moral of this exemplum was that men must not pretend to be someone they are not.

  • 97 Horst W. Janson, Apes and Ape Lore: in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, London, Warburg Institu (...)
  • 98 Paula Hancock, “Transformations in the iconography of the mirror in medieval art”, unpublished doct (...)

44The moral interpretation of foolish imitating apes became popular in Gothic marginalia. Such images include apes acting as priests and preaching to congregations of other apes (fig. 21). In these examples, apes function “as a symbol of mock piety” and as a satire “to parody the ritual of the Church”97. Such images were “a reference to an animal’s lust, vanity, pride, or folly, thus echoing the didactic uses of the mirror with homo sapiens”, but also relates to the linguistic closeness of sima and similitudo98.

Fig. 21

Fig. 21

London, British Library, MS Stowe MS 17 (Liège, first quarter of the 14th century), f. 109r.

45Including these two human-like apes in Latin 3234 may have made the reader rethink how he judges images and first appearances. For example, upon a quick glance, one might think that these apes are ordinary men. They could be interpreted as the “weaker” version of a devout person, just like the mirror’s weaker or flawed reflected image. They cautioned those looking at the images and reading the text that they could fool a casual observer but cannot stand up to closer, more spiritual scrutiny. Again, this underscores the central message of the Tractatus - the necessity for spiritual or intellectual insight to grasp the “true” nature of things.

  • 99 For this discussion, see Peter’s discussion in chapter six, ninth phenomena: Peter of Limoges, op. (...)
  • 100 For more discussion on the “oculis interioribus” see: Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter xiii, ff. (...)

46These two human-like apes display foolish imitations – one pretending to be a cleric and the other masquerading as a human. They are the epitome of pretending to be something that they are not. This is similar to Peter’s warning in the Tractatus of the unreliability and deceptive nature of a mirror’s reflection and the importance of discernment with the eye of reason. The insistence on “real” and a more established vision resonates with the notion that imitation does not triumph over genuine authenticity and correct behaviour. These caricatures serve as a stark warning that superficial imitation, like that of the apes, can only lead to spiritual emptiness. These apes also visualise Peter’s warnings against the reliance on carnal or bodily vision, such as the eyes of the flesh (oculis carnalibus)99. This is compared to the clerical figures in the manuscript who exemplify the use of their oculis interioribus (interior vision)100.

47The ape initials offered satirical and moralising examples. While functioning as forms of specula, the mimicking apes also contributed to Peter’s cautioning of the potential dangers of sight and the necessity for conscious moral self-representation. Jean would have been accustomed to the role of animals in religious exempla as didactic vehicles for moral teaching. These apes reveal more nuanced understandings of the text they accompany and the role of images for the manuscript’s user.

Images as active: seeing, mirroring, and manipulating vision in Latin 3234

  • 101 Michael Camille, “Before the Gaze: The Internal Senses and Late Medieval Practices of Seeing”, op. (...)
  • 102 Cynthia J. Hahn, “Visio Dei: changes in medieval visuality”, in Robert Nelson (dir.), Visuality bef (...)

48Throughout the Tractatus, the reciprocal relationship between object and viewer is emphasised, with viewers actively receiving and processing the species (likeness) of all external objects. Works of art during this period could also be understood as being “active” – requiring the viewer’s participation to reveal their meanings. As Michael Camille writes, images could “stare back”, offering the transformative potential for a viewer’s soul, just as the species in the intermediary air did101. Images were, therefore, part of a dynamic and interactive experience102.

  • 103 Grover A. Zinn, Richard of Saint Victor: The Twelve Patriarchs; The Mystical Ark; Book Three of The (...)

49In examining the inclusion of clerical and ape head initials, I have shown that these figures emphasise the intrinsic need for the edification of sight, visualising the opposition between bodily and spiritual seeing. These head initials also functioned as specula of the intended experience anticipated by the manuscript’s original user, Jean de Cherchemont. The clerical figures that proliferate the manuscript were also tools for inward reflection, providing visual reminders of the necessity for awareness of self-representation. The clerics are akin to moral compasses, pointing the manuscript’s user towards a life of introspection and integrity, while the apes dressed as men were a reminder of the perils of accepting surface appearances and false imitation. This juxtaposition creates a dynamic tension, encouraging the viewer to constantly examine their physical and spiritual faculties of sight and pushing the reader towards introspection. Their placement alongside parts of the Tractatus that dealt with the potential dangers of optical illusions and flawed reflections further strengthens their roles. Just as the mirror needed to be polished to discern reflections, so too did the soul’s purity need to be constantly maintained103. These clerical head initials perpetually remind the viewer of the need to correctly preserve one’s physical and spiritual vision.

50The production of medieval manuscripts was collaborative, often involving teams of scribes, illuminators, and potentially a designer. The patron may also have had a decisive influence on the design of the illuminations. In the case of Latin 3234, the proliferation and strategic placement of clerical head initials suggest an intentional decorative scheme tailored to the preferences and status of the intended owner, a young bishop of Amiens. This thoughtful design closely aligns with the Tractatus, enhancing the manuscript’s didactic experience, and was likely designed to reflect and resonate with Jean de Cherchemont’s spiritual and clerical identity.

51The singularity of Latin 3234, adorned with head initials, is a remarkable divergence from other manuscripts containing the Tractatus, and the importance of these images cannot be underestimated. This deviation can be best understood through the lens of its intended owner. The head initials, especially those examined in this article, could reflect the patron’s personal aspirations or approach to his new position. As demonstrated, their placement and potential meanings suggest a pedagogical strategy that may have explicitly resonated with Jean.

52Latin 3234 was created during a period that witnessed transformations in optical theories, cognition, and the evolving role of images within devotion. The manuscript offers insight into medieval understandings of sensory experience within a religious framework and reveals how images may have shaped the user’s sensory experiences and devotional learning. In the same way that physical objects actively disseminate their likeness, images were no longer static representations. The inherent power of images to drive cognition made them ideal vehicles for encouraging spiritual meditation. In this context, the head initials in Latin 3234 were likely designed to be more than mere decoration: they served as visual reminders that guided the reader-viewer to scrutinise what they saw and how they saw, and the need to maintain both their physical and spiritual vision.

53This research adds to our understanding of medieval devotion and the role of images, opening new ways of thinking about the potential relationship of art to contemporary developments in optics and cognition, and highlighting the need for further exploration into the broader and complex relationship between theories of perception and art. As this article has shown, these images functioned as immersive forms of meditation, enhancing the reader’s spiritual engagement with the Tractatus. Integrating the head initials examined alongside the treatise facilitated a dialogue between text and image that became the ultimate speculum, wherein they “could stare back” at the viewer.

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Notes

1 « Si diligenter voluerimus in lege domini meditari facillime perpendimus ea que pertinent ad visionem et oculum pre ceteris frequentius in sacris eloquiis recitari. Ex quo patet consideracionem de oculo et de hijs que ad eum spectant esse perutilem ad habendam divine sapiencie noticiam pleniorem. » (Peter of Limoges, Tractatus Moralis de Oculo, Prologue; Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234 (Northern France, Amiens?, c. 1325,), f. 2r; trans. by Richard Newhauser, in Peter of Limoges: The Moral Treatise on the Eye, Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2012, p. 3).

2 For more information on Peter of Limoges and his Tractatus Moralis de Oculo see Herbert L. Kessler, and Richard Newhauser eds., Optics, Ethics, and Art in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries: Looking into Peter of Limoges’s Moral Treatise on the Eye, Toronto: PIMS, Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2018; Katherine H. Tachau, “The scientist steps away from his theological cathedra: perspectivist and astrological learning in the priestly œuvre of Peter of Limoges and Pierre Aurio”, in Giulio D’Onofrio (dir.), The Medieval Paradigm: Religious Thought and Philosophy, 2 vols, Turnhout: Brepols, 2013, II, p. 645-680; Richard Newhauser, “Peter of Limoges, Optics, and the Science of the Senses”, The Senses and Society, vol. 5, 2010, n° 1, p. 28-44; Richard Newhauser, “Inter scientiam et populum: Roger Bacon, Peter of Limoges’, and the Tractatus moralis de oculo” in Jan A. Aertsen, Kent Emery, Jr., and Andreas Speer (dir.), Nach der Verurteilung von 1277: Philosophie und Theologie an der Universität von Paris im letzten Viertel des 13. Jahrhunderts: Studien und Texte / After the condemnation of 1277: philosophy and theology at the University of Paris in the last quarter of the thirteenth century, Studies and Texts, Berlin and Boston, De Gruyter, 2001, p. 682-703; Richard Newhauser, “Nature’s Moral Eye: Peter of Limoges’ Tractatus Moralis de Oculo”, in Robert G. Benson and Susan J. Ridyard, Sewanee (dir.), Man and nature in the Middle Ages, Tenn, University of the South Press, 1995, p. 125-136; Albert Soler, “Ramon Llull and Peter of Limoges”, Traditio, vol. 48, 1993, p. 93-105; David L. Clark, “New scientific theories disseminated by the pulpit: Optics for Preachers: the De oculo morali by Peter of Limoges”, The Michigan Academician, 1977, p. 329-343.

3 Newhauser, Peter of Limoges: The Moral Treatise on the Eye, 2012, p. xxix.

4 The images of MS Latin 3234 included in this article were taken by the author. I would like to thank the département des manuscrits at the Bibliothèque nationale de France for allowing me to include these in this article.

5 The head initials are found on the following folios: Latin 3234, ff. 3r, 3v, 8r, 8v, two on 9r, 10r, 12r, 14v, 15r, 17v, 18v, 19r, 20r, 20v, 23v, 27v, 38r, 43v, 44v, 54r, 55r.

6 While a discussion of this female head initial is beyond the scope of this article, I have devoted a whole section to examining this female head initial and the accompanying text in my unpublished PhD thesis. As the only woman depicted in MS Latin 3234 (f. 9r), she is portrayed as veiled, most likely indicating her moral status. She accompanies an examination of the spiritual meaning of concave spherical mirrors (mirrors that curve inwards). Peter compares concave mirrors to God, who “is an intelligible sphere whose centre is everywhere” and “the centre of all things”. Peter writes that those outside the mirror cannot see objects in a concave mirror’s centre. The spiritual analogy is that mankind cannot see God or his divine essence because they are “separated from God by the heavy weight of our oppressive flesh” (Tractatus, chapter vi). Her inclusion is all the more poignant as throughout Tractatus, Peter alludes to the unreliability and potential dangers of the female gaze, stating that a woman’s gaze can spiritually kill men with their “poisonous rays” or “lustful vapour” (Tractatus, chapter viii). In my PhD thesis, I argue that this woman is portrayed as the epitome of an upstanding and honourable woman whose non-threatening gaze does not meet the eye of the manuscript’s user. She appears to do all she can to thwart her “oppressive flesh”. Her passivity indicates the ‘delicate’ artist’s respect for not creating vehicles that elicit potential “poisonous rays”. Jean de Cherchemont could thus examine the manuscript without the threat of her oppressive flesh” spiritually affecting him.

7 These clerical head initials are on Latin 3234, ff. 9r, 10r, 19r, 20r, 38r, 55r.

8 For more information on the relationship between the medieval metaphor of the speculum, theology, and art see Katherine H. Tachau, Vision and Certitude in the Age of Ockham: Optics, Epistemology and the Foundations of Semantics, 1250-1345, Leiden and New York, E.J. Brill, 1988; Jeffrey F. Hamburger, “Speculations on Speculation: Vision and Perception in the Theory and Practice of Mystical Devotion”, in Walter Haug and Wolfram Schneider-Lastin (dir.), Deutsche Mystik im abendländischen Zusammenhang, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2000, p. 353-408; Jeffrey F. Hamburger and Anne-Marie Bouch (dir.), The Mind’s Eye: Art and Theological Argument in the Middle Ages, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006; Herbert L. Kessler, “Speculum”, Speculum, vol. 86, n° 1, 2011, p. 1-41; Marcia Kupfer, Art and Optics in the Hereford Map: An English Mappa Mundi c. 1300, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2016.

9 Corinthians 1. 13: 12: « Videmus nunc per speculum in enigmate tunc autem facie ad faciem nunc cognosco ex parte tunc autem cognoscam sicut et cognitus sum. »

10 Examples of Speculum literature includes Edmund of Abingdon’s Speculum religiosorum (c. 1213-1214) and Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum Maius (c. 1240s). For information on the Speculum tradition see Ritamary M. Bradley, “Backgrounds of the title Speculum in Medieval Literature”, Speculum, vol. 29, 1954, p. 100-115; Herbert Grabes, Speculum, Mirror and Looking Glass, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982; Einar Már Jónsson, Le miroir. Naissance d’un genre littéraire, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1995; Edward Peter Nolan, Now through a Glass Darkly. Specular Images of Being and Knowing from Virgil to Chaucer, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1990; Sabine Melchior-Bonnet, The Mirror. A History, trans. by Katharine H. Jewett, New York and London, Routledge, 2001; Mary Franklin-Brown, Reading the World. Encyclopedic Writing in the Scholastic Age, Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, 2012.

11 For important contributions of visual culture studies and the development of the idea of the agency of images see David Freedberg, The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1989; Hans Belting, Likeness and Presence. A History of the Image before the Era of Art, Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 1994; Alfred Gell, Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1998; Robin Osborne and Jeremy Tanner, Art’s Agency and Art History, Oxford, Blackwell, 2007; Grażyna Jurkowlaniec, Ika Matyjaszkiewicz, and Zuzanna Sarnecka, The Agency of Things in Medieval and Early Modern Art, Milton, Routledge, 2017.

12 For information on semiotic theory, see David S. Clarke, Principles of Semiotic, London and New York, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987; John N. Deely, Basics of Semiotics, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1990; Marcel Danesi and Donato Santeramo (dir.), The Sign in Theory and Practice: An Introductory Reader in Semiotics, Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 1999; John N. Deely, “A Sign is What?”, Sign Systems Studies, vol. 29, n° 2, 2001, p. 705-743; John N. Deely, Basics of Semiotics, Tartu, Tartu University Press, 2009; Paul Cobley (dir.), The Routledge Companion to Semiotics, London, Routledge, 2010. For scholarship of the use of semiotics in art history, see Meyer Schapiro, “On Some Problems in the Semiotics of Visual Art: Field and Vehicle in Image-Signs”, Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, vol. 6, n° 1, 1972-1973, p. 9-19; Meyer Schapiro, Words and Pictures: on the literal and the symbolic in the illustration of a text, The Hague, Mouton, 1973; Michael Camille, “Seeing and reading: some visual implications of medieval literacy and illiteracy”, Art history, vol. 8, 1985, p. 26-49; Umberto Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1986; Mieke Bal, “On looking and reading: word and image, visual poetics, and comparative arts”, Semiotica, vol. 3, n° 4, 1989, p. 283-320; Mieke Bal and Norman Bryson, “Semiotics and Art History”, The Art Bulletin, vol. 73, n° 2, 1991, p. 174-208.

13 For the work of Michael Camille and others, see Barbara Nolan, The Gothic Visionary Perspective, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977; Suzanne Lewis, Reading Images: Narrative Discourse and Reception in the Thirteenth‐Century Illuminated Apocalypse, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995; Michael Camille, “Before the Gaze: The Internal Senses and Late Medieval Practices of Seeing”, in Robert Nelson (dir.), Visuality before and beyond the Renaissance: Seeing as Others Saw, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 197-223; Elizabeth Sears and Thelma K. Thomas (dir.), Reading Medieval Images: The Art Historian and the Object, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 2002; Suzannah Biernoff, Sight and Embodiment in the Middle Ages, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire and New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002; Suzanne Conklin, Seeing Through the Veil. Optical Theory and Medieval Allegory, Toronto and London, University of Toronto Press, 2004; John Lowden, “‘Reading’ Images and Texts in the Bibles moralisées: Images as Exegesis and the Exegesis of Images”, in Mariëlle Hageman and Marco Mostert (dir.), Reading Images and Texts: Medieval Images and Texts as Forms of Communication. Papers from the Third Utrecht Symposium on Medieval Literacy, Turnhout, Brepols, 2005, p. 495-525; Michelle Karnes, Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2011; Anna Catherine Siebach‐Larsen, “‘For In The Boke Of God Is No Such Matter’: Visual Epistemologies And Vernacular Reading Culture In Thirteenth century England”, unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 2016; Madeline Harrison Caviness, ‘Reception of images by medieval viewers’, in Conrad Rudolph (dir.), A companion to medieval art: Romanesque and Gothic in northern Europe, Hoboken, NJ, Wiley Blackwell, 2019, p. 119-145; Suzanne Lewis, “Narrative, Narratology, and Meaning”, in Conrad Rudolph (dir.), op. cit., p. 147-169.

14 For research on Medieval understandings of the senses, see David Howes (dir.), The varieties of sensory experience: a sourcebook in the anthropology of the senses, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1991; Simon Kemp and Garth J. O. Fletcher, “The Medieval Theory of the Inner Senses”, The American Journal of Psychology, vol. 106, n° 4, 1993, p. 559-576; Suzannah Biernoff, Sight and Embodiment in the Middle Ages, New York, Springer, 2002; Stephen G. Nichols, Andreas Kablitz and Alison Calhoun (dir.), Rethinking the medieval senses: heritage, fascinations, frames, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008; Richard G. Newhauser, “Theory and Practice: The Senses in the Middle Ages”, The Senses & Society, vol. 4, n° 3, 2009, p. 367-372; Richard G. Newhauser, “Peter of Limoges, Optics, and the Science of the Senses”, in Pleasure and Danger in Perception: The Five Senses in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Special issue of The Senses & Society, vol. 5, n° , 2010, p. 28-44; Richard G. Newhauser, “Foreword: The Senses in Medieval and Renaissance Intellectual History”, in Pleasure and Danger op. cit., p. 5-9; Eric Palazzo, “Art, liturgy, and the five senses in the early Middle Ages”, Viator, 2010, vol. 41, n° 1, p. 25-56; Eric Palazzo, “Les cinq sens au Moyen Âge : état de la question et perspectives de recherche”, Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale, vol. 55, n° 220, 2012, p. 339-366; C. M. Woolgar, The senses in Late Medieval England, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 2013; Beth Williamson, “Sensory Experience in Medieval Devotion: Sound and Vision, Invisibility and Silence”, Speculum, vol. 88, n° 1, 2013, p. 1-43; Eric Palazzo, L’invention chrétienne des cinq sens dans la liturgie et l’art au Moyen Âge, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 2014; Richard G. Newhauser (dir.), A Cultural History of the Senses in the Middle Ages, London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2014; Richard G. Newhauser, “The Senses, the Medieval Sensorium, and Sensing (in) the Middle Ages” in Albrecht Classen (dir.), Handbook of Medieval Culture, vol 3, Berlin, München, Boston, De Gruyter, 2015, p. 1559-1575; Martina Bagnoli, A Feast for the Senses: Art and Experience in Medieval Europe, New Haven, Yale University Press 2016; Eric Palazzo, Les cinq sens au Moyen Âge, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 2016; Herbert L. Kessler and Richard G. Newhauser (dir.), Optics, Ethics, and Art in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries: Looking into Peter of Limoges’s Moral Treatise on the Eye, Toronto, PIMS, Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2018; Robin Macdonald, Emilie Murphy and Elizabeth L. Swann (dir.), Sensing the Sacred in Medieval and Early Modern Culture, New York, Routledge, 2018; Eric Palazzo, « L’activation sensorielle de l'art dans la liturgie au Moyen Âge. État de la question et perspective », in Gerardo Rodríguez and Gisela Coronado Schwindt (dir.), Abordajes sensoriales del mundo medieval, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, 2019, p. 3-14.

15 Latin 3234 comprises of 104 folios and measures 280 x 180mm. Unfortunately, an investigation on these artists’ artistic style is beyond this article’s scope. See Alison Stones, Gothic Manuscripts: 1260-1320, two parts, 4 vols, London, Harvey Miller Publishers, 2013, part 1, vol 2, n° III-12, p. 176-177.

16 Latin 3234, Tractatus Moralis de Oculo, ff. 2r-56r.

17 Latin 3234, Distichs of Cato, ff. 58r-69r; and the Liber de ludo scaccorum, ff. 70r-104r.

18 There are three other head initials found alongside these two additional texts. There is one with the Distichs of Cato: f. 64r; and two with the Liber de ludo scaccorum: ff. 70r and 98v.

19 Due to word limitations, I cannot recount the nuances of each artistic style displayed in the manuscripts. It will suffice to say that the first artist’s style is defined by delicate representations, characteristic of illuminations found in Arras between 1290-1300. The second illuminator demonstrates affinities with contemporary Italian styles, characterised by three-dimensionality and spatial depth in his compositions. Further discussion on the style of the first artist can be found in Alison Stones, op. cit.

20 The two head initials produced by this second artist are on ff. 54r and 55r. The first of these is a man wearing an orange hooded robe that covers his head and neck, and the second head initial is of a cleric.

21 Alison Stones, op. cit., GM (I), II, p. 177.

22 The script changes to a light brown ink from folio 50r to folio 56, and then returns to the same scribal hand as the previous folios.

23 See François Avril, « Un cas d’influence italienne dans l’enluminure du Nord de la France au quatorzième siècle » in Irving Lavin and John Plummer (dir.), Studies in Late Medieval and Renaissance Painting in Honor of Millard Meiss, 2 vols, New York, New York University Press, 1977, I, p. 32-42 (vol. II, plates p. 5-11); Alison Stones, op. cit., Part I, vol II, p. 176-177.

24 Jean-Marie Mioland, Actes de l’église d’Amiens: recueil de tous les documents relatifs à la discipline du diocèse, de l’an 811 à l’an 1848, 2 vols, Amiens, Caron, 1848, I, p. XLVIII; Jean-Baptiste Maurice de Sachy, Histoire des évesques d’Amiens, Abbeville, Veuve de Vérité Libraire, 1770, vols. 450-470, p. 153-156.

25 Ibid.

26 Jean-Marie Mioland, op. cit., p. XLVIII; Jean-Baptiste Maurice de Sachy, op. cit., p. 153-156; Thomas Perkins, The cathedral church of Amiens. A short history and description of its fabric, London, G. Bell & Sons, 1902, p. 103.

27 This includes a shield with alternating pale argent and sable (which was originally sinople, but due to oxidization is now sable), with diagonally descending gules lozenges, with an or crozier in the middle. The coat of Arms of the Cherchemont family is described in 1345: Germain Demay, Inventaire des Sceaux de la collection Clairambault à la Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, Imprimerie nationale, 1885, p. 259; a seal of 1327 is also identified in J. Brossard, Inventaire sommaire des archives départementales antérieures à 1790, Somme, Archives ecclésiastiques, série G et H, Amiens, Impr. picarde, 1891, p. 136. See François Avril, op. cit., I, p. 32-42 (vol. II, plates p. 5-11); Alison Stones, op. cit., Part I, vol II, p. 176-177.

28 François Avril, op. cit., p. 33 and 37. The manuscript was first connected to the Cathedral of Mende, in the South of France by J. van de Gheyn, Catalogue des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, Tome I: Écriture sainte et liturgie, Brussels: Henri Lamertin 1901, I, p. 225. This was according to the four saints mentioned in the manuscripts Litany. A 1420 inventory of the library collection in the Cathedral of Amiens’ treasury also notes that Jean donated a now lost Missal. This missal was beautifully illuminated in gold and silver: « Primo, unum valde pulcrum missale, novum, sine nota, prefationibus exceptis, de auro and azuro pulcre illuminatum; post kalendarium incipit in second linea secondi folii: ‘ejus ipse’. Ex dono reverend Patris in Christo domini Johannis de Cercemont, episcopi Ambianensis. » (E. Coyecque Catalogue général des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France, t. XIX, Amiens, Paris, Plon, 1893, p. LXXXV–LXXXVI).

29 Camille Gaspar and Frédéric Lyna, Les principaux manuscrits à peintures de la Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, Paris, Société française de reproductions de manuscrits à peintures, 1937, p. 32; François Avril, op. cit., p. 36.

30 Richard Hazelton, “Chaucer and Cato”, Speculum, vol. 35, n° 3, 1960, p. 357-380, p. 360.

31 Dario Del Puppo, “The Limits of Allegory in Jacobus de Cessolis’ De ludo Scaccorum”, in Daniel E. O’Sullivan (dir.), Chess in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age: A Fundamental Thought Paradigm of the Premodern World, Boston: De Gruyter, 2012, p. 221-240, p. 221.

32 The main contribution of these scholars in the study of optics can be found in Robert Grosseteste’s De veritate (c. 1220s) and De Luce (c. 1225-8); Roger Bacon’s Perspectiva (1267); and John Peckham’s Perspectiva communis (c. 1270s). For more information, see David Lindberg, Theories of vision from al-Kindi to Kepler [1981], Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1996, p. 104-146.

33 For information on optical theories in Arabic philosophy (especially Alhazen) see David Lindberg, “Alhazen’s Theory of Vision and Its Reception in the West”, Isis, vol. 58, n° 3, 1967, p. 321-341; Lindberg, Id., Theories of vision, 1996, p. 42-52, and p. 58-86; A. Mark Smith, “Alhacen’s Theory of Visual Perception: A Critical Edition, with English Translation and Commentary, of the First Three Books of Alhacen’s ‘De aspectibus’, the Medieval Latin Version of Ibn al-Haytham’s ‘Kitāb al-Manāẓir’”, 2 vols, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 91, n°  4-5, 2001; A. Mark Smith, From sight to light. The passage from ancient to modern optics, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2015, p. 155-227.

34 « Et hoc est communis nervus in superficie cerebri situates. Ubi concurrunt duo nervi a duabus partibus anterioris cerebri. Qui post concursum in duos item dividuntur et sic ad oculos extenduntur. In illo ergo nervo communi virtus visiua fontaliter radicatur. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit. chapter v, f. 4v, p. 16). See also, David L. Clark, “New scientific theories disseminated by the pulpit: Optics for Preachers: the De oculo morali by Peter of Limoges”, The Michigan Academician, Winter 1977, p. 333.

35 « Eodem modo visio spiritualis non solum requirit ut anima recipiat ab extur scilicet a Deo virtutes et gratia; sed ut cooperetur per virtutem propriam. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter iv, f. 4r, p. 14).

36 See footnote 1.

37 « Septimo est oculus forme seu speciei cei visibilis receptivus. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vii, f. 4r, p. 59).

38 « Cuius inter alia hec est una probatio manifesta; Probatur enim in principio perspective opus si quis in luce diei vehementer aspiciat in celum de loco super quem domus habeat foramen magnum discoopertum ad celum et reuertat postsmodum ad locum obscure vel claudat oculos suos aspiciet formas illius foraminis cum figura. » (Alhazen, De aspectibus, I.I [4.4] quoted in Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vii, ff. 16v-17r, p. 59).

39 « Pluraliter dicit confixerunt, omnes enim Christum confiximus, yimo et crufiximus, qui a pro omnibus crucifixus est Christus. Iutret igitur unusquisque domum cosciencie sue ut mentis oculo Christi vulnera contempletur ut Christo passo pro suo modulo conformetur. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vii, f. 17r, p. 60).

40 Carolyn Muessig, “‘Can’t take my eyes off of you’: Mutual Gazing between the divine and humanity”, in Herbert L. Kessler and Richard G. Newhauser (dir.), Optics, Ethics, and Art in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth centuries: Looking at Peter of Limoges Moral Treatise on the Eye, Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2018, p. 24.

41 This can be seen in Peter’s discussion of the afterimage: Peter of Limoges, op. cit. chapter vii, f. 4r, p. 59.

42 For developments in optical theories, cognition, and theology during this period see David Lindberg, Theories of vision from al-Kindi to Kepler, op. cit., especially chapters v, vi and vii.

43 Newhauser, Peter of Limoges: The Moral Treatise on the Eye, 2012, p. xi–xxxiii.

44 Fourth Council of the Lateran, 1215, canons 14-17 (<https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/lateran4.asp> [accessed 3rd January 2022]).

45 Ronald J. Stansbury, “Preaching and Pastoral Care in the Middle Ages” in Ronald J. Stansbury (dir.), A Companion to Pastoral Care in the Late Middle Ages (1200-1500), Leiden: Brill, 2010, p. 23-40, p. 24.

46 Dallas George Denery, Seeing and Being Seen in the Later Medieval World: Optics, Theology and Religious Life, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 16.

47 « Sextum de xiii mirabilibus circa oculi visionem moralem continentibus informationem. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit. Prologue, f. 2r, p. 4). In medieval theology the soul was understood to encompass the “spiritual senses” (sensus spirituales), which often correlated with the five physical senses. The expression “spiritual senses” was used to describe encountering God not through the physical senses, but through the inner spiritual senses, such as with the “mind’s eye” or the “eyes of the soul”. For information on the role of the spiritual senses in medieval thought, see Herbert L. Kessler, Spiritual Seeing: Picturing God’s Invisibility in Medieval Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania, 2000; Gordon Rudy, Mystical Language of Sensation in the Later Middle Ages, New York and London, Routledge, 2002; Boyd Taylor Coolman, Knowing God by Experience: The Spiritual Senses in the Theology of William of Auxerre, Washington DC., Catholic University of America, 2004; Herbert L. Kessler, Seeing Medieval Art, Peterborough, Ontario, Broadview Press, 2004; Herbert L. Kessler, “Corporeal Texts, Spiritual Paintings, and the Mind’s Eye”, in Marielle Hageman and Marco Mostert”, Reading Images and Texts: Medieval Images and Texts as Forms of Communication, Turnhout: Brepols, 2005, p. 159-178; Paul L. Gavrilyuk, and Sarah Coakley, The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2011; Richard Newhauser, “The Senses, the Medieval Sensorium, and Sensing (in) the Middle Ages” op. cit., p. 1559-1575.

48 « Probatum est in scientia perspectiva, quod oculus in aere nebuloso locatus, non videt nec percipit vapores et nubila qiubus est circumseptus. Cum autem recedens exierit huius modi aeres vaporosum, si tunc retro respiciat, videt ipsum quem prius in ipso poitus non videbat. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit. chapter vi, f. 5r, p. 18).

49 « Per hunc modum et peccator quam diu est in peccato, peccati sui tenebras non ad avertit. Sed extra peccatum positus et lumine divine gracie illustratus, tunc primo peccati gravitatem in qua fuit recognoscit. » (f. 5r, Ibid.).

50 Ibid.

51 « Eodem modo visio spiritualis non solum requirit ut anima recipiat ab exteriore, scilicet a deo virtutes et gratia; sed ut cooperetur per virtutem propriam. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter v, f. 4r, p. 18).

52 This cleric appears on Latin 3234, f. 9r.

53 « Oculo respicientis in speculo facies apparent prepostere, et altitudines videntur everse. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit. chapter vi, f. 9r, p. 34).

54 “Iudicat enim oculus dum res extat in speculo quod dextrum est esse sinistrum, et quod est sinistrum esse dextrum, et quod est inferius esse superius, et quod est deorsum esse sursum.” (Ibid.).

55 Dallas George Denery, op. cit., p. 106, footnote 83.

56 « Sic et si nostre consideracionis oculus secundum doctrine sacre speculum de rebus iudicet, ea que videntur esse sinistra id est adversa, dicet esse dextra id est prospera, et eciam e converso. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vi, f. 9r, p. 35).

57 « Probatum est in saepe dicta sciencia quod rei vise sub fractis radiis certificari non potest quantitas, potest autem si videatur per rectas lineas. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vi, f. 10r, p. 37).

58 Ibid.

59 « Peccator autem quando peccatum committit, ipsam culpam non directe, sed quasi per fractam lineam respicit sive oblique. […] non tamen aspirit ad ipsum peccatum, nec ad deformitatem, seu maliciam, sed potius ad delectationem annexam. » (Ibid.).

60 « Modo consimili peccatum potest certitudinaliter comprehendi secundum gradum proprie quantitatis ab eo qui peccatum directe respicit in oculo rationis. » (Ibid.).

61 « Hoc autem modo doctor aliquis vel quicumque alius studiosus peccatum suum repicit qui veritatem in singulis speculando de pectorum gradibus agnoscendis considerat vel inquirit. » (Ibid.).

62 « Sicut recte iudicant speculando, quod ut non habeant ideo fortasse contingit, quod inveniuntur ad operandum desides, licet sint ad addiscendum ferventes. » (Ibid., p. 38).

63 Ibid., f. 10r.

64 « Est enim oculus numero geminus compare suo simillimus, colore diversus, figura sphericus, palpebris velatus, in capite collocatus, specierum visibilium receptivus, non sui sed alterius agnitus iuxta gradus distantie visibilium diversimode cognitiuus, tocius corporis directivusm archanorum mentis indicatiuus, post longam vigiliam somnolentus. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vii, f. 12r, p. 45).

65 « Decimo oculus est tocius corperis directionis. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vii, f. 19r, p. 67).

66 « Unde et oculi vocantur luminaria, que lumen exterius respiciunt, et acceptum communicant et effundunt. » (Ibid.).

67 « Unde secundus philosophus oculum definiens ait: Oculus est dux corporis, vas luminis, index animum. » (Ibid., ff. 19r–19v, p. 67-68).

68 « Oculus enim non sibi soli videt, sed toti corpori. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vii, f. 19v, p. 68).

69 « Specialiter autem sicut oculus corporalis lumen suum communicat ceteris membris dum non solum sibi videt, sed toti corpori. Sic quicumque illustratur dono scientia, debet illud omnibus liberaliter impartire. » (Ibid., ff. 19v–20r, p. 69).

70 This cleric appears in Latin 3234, f. 19r.

71 « Primo igitur oculus in corpore optuis locum pre ceteris eminentem. Et hoc propter maiorem inter cetera membra dignitatem. In quo natura docente instruuntur oculi spirituales ecceslie. Scilicet prelate qui loco oculorum sunt ecclesiae decet, ut sicut precellunt alios status dignitate, sic et vitae veant sanctitate. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter xii, f. 41v, p. 146) and « Secundo oculus speculatur pro toto corpore. Sic et prelatus in eccelsia habet speculatoris officium excercere. » (Ibid., f. 42v, p. 149).

72 « Undecimo oculus archanorum mentis est indicativus. Unde et motus oculi significat statum interiorem animi. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vii, f. 13r, p. 71).

73 « Et ideo multum decet honestum hominem ut ab obscenis et impudicis spectaculis oculus avertatur, ne ipsum oculi incontinentiam mentis et impudicitiam fateantur. » (Ibid., f. 13v, p. 71).

74 This cleric is depicted in Latin 3234, f. 20r.

75 This cleric is portrayed in Latin 3234, f. 38r.

76 « Undecimum capitulum, de informatione scholarium ex septem conditionibus que requiruntur ad visum. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter xi, f. 32r, p. 114).

77 « Dunc enim scholari studium proficit cum hijs que legit vel audit diligenter intendit, et cum ea que audierit vel legerit, interius in cordis armariolum vel scrimo examinat et revoluit […] Cum enim species multorum visibilium afficiunt aerem medium et circumstant oculum et visibilem ipsum, tamen aliquid de omnibus illis visibilibus coram oculo positis, visis unicum apprehendit, illud videlicet ad quod anima intenta intendit. » (Ibid., f. 38r, p. 134).

78 Ibid. The emphasis placed on the intention of the viewer is discussed in chapters iv, vii, and xi. In chapter xi, Peter compares the process of vision to the educational requirements needed to be a good student. In the fifth lesson he writes: “The application of the visual faculty is required for vision. For although the species of many visible objects have an effect on the meditating air and are arrayed about the eye and the visual spirit, nevertheless of all those visible objects located about the eye, our vision often perceives only one, namely that one on which the soul has fixed its attention. In the same way, when a hunting dog is firmly locked onto the scent of a stag by the application of its hunting instincts, it pursues that stag in such a way that it seems neither to see nor to perceive other stages that it happens to come across or that appear in its path.” He then compares this with the student: “As long as he diligently pays attention to what he reads or hears and when he reflects on what he has heard or read and examines it internally in the cabinet or locker of his heart. To read otherwise is not to understand is to be neglectful. […] For those who go over their writings from every angle and have a purpose for each and every word, it is unavoidable that they will imprint things on their memory as often as they recall them to mind.” (« Quinto ad visione requiritur attentio visivae potentiae. Cum enim species multorum visibilium afficiunt aerem medium et circumstant oculum et visibilem spiritum; tamen aliquando de omnibus illis visibilibus coram oculo positis, visus unicum apprehendit, illud videlicet ad quod anima intenta intendit. […] Cum enim species multorum visibilium afficiunt aerem medium et circumstant oculum et visibilem ipsum, tamen aliquid de omnibus illis visibilibus coram oculo positis, visis unicum apprehendit, illud videlicet ad quod anima intenta intendit.[…] Qui scripta sua torquent et de singulis verbis in concilium veniunt necesse est ut que tociens ad intellectum revocant memoriter affigant. ») See Ibid., ff. 38r-38v, p. 134-135.

79 Ibid.

80 « Dunc enim scholari studium proficit cum hijs que legit vel audit diligenter intendit, et cum ea que audierit vel legerit, interius in cordis armariolum vel scrimo examinat et revoluit. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., f. 38v, p. 134).

81 These apes appear in Latin 3234, ff. 8r and 8v.

82 The first ape is in Latin 3234, f. 8r.

83 « Demonstratum est etiam in praefata scientia quod oculus debilius apprehendit rem quam videt in speculo, quam si eam teneret aspectu recto, eo quod forme reflexe debiliores sunt et ideo debilius representant. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vi, f. 8r, p. 29–30).

84 Ibid.

85 f. Ibid., p. 30.

86 The second ape appears in Latin 3234, f. 8v.

87 « Apud perspectiuos expertum est et vulgatum quod si oculus in speculo in aqua posito solem respiciat, apparent oculo duo soles, ad quod quidem speculum quasi tres soles videntur concurrere. » (Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vi, f. 8v, p. 31).

88 « Unus videlicet existens in celo, et duo procedentes ab ipso, id est due solis imagines in aqua et speculo apparentes, et tamen scimus secundum rem et veritatem tantum unicum esse solem. » (Ibid.).

89 « Modo consimili si in aquis sapiencie salutaris oculo fidei solem iusticie contemplati fuerimus, apparebit nobis deus trinus et unus. » (Ibid.).

90 « Alii simias Latino sermone vocatos arbitrantur, eo quod multa in eis similitudo rationis humanae sentitur; sed falsum est. » (Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, Book 12, 2:30–31, ed. and trans. by Wallace M. Lindsay, 2 vols, Oxford, Oxford Classical Texts, 1911, p. 253).

91 For illuminations depicting apes mimicking humans, see Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Douce 6 (Flanders, Ghent, 13th-14th century), ff. 53r, 73v, 76r, 82r.

92 Joyce E. Salisbury, The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages, New York, Routledge, 1994, p. 126.

93 Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter viii, ff. 29v-30r, p. 105.

94 Matthew 7: 15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Ibid., chapter xii, f. 49r, p. 155.) See also Frederic C. Tubach, Index Exemplorum: A Handbook of Medieval Religious Tales, Helsinki, Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1969, n° 4865 for the Tiger exempla, and Physiologus, 2.2-3 (xxiv), Friedrich Maurer (dir.), Der Altdeutsche Physiologus: Die Millstätter Reimfassung und die Wiener Prosa (nebst dem Lateinischen Text und Dem Althochdeutschen Physiologus), Max Niemeyer, 67, Tübingen, 1967, p. 75.

95 For examples of apes as forms of exempla in the Tractatus see Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vi, p. 18, chapter viii, p. 106 and chapter xi, p. 128 and 134.

96 Alexander Neckam, De naturis rerum, book 2, ed. by Thomas Wright, London, Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1863, p. 209, trans. by Joyce E. Salisbury, The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages New York, Routledge, 1994, p. 143.

97 Horst W. Janson, Apes and Ape Lore: in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, London, Warburg Institute, University of London, 1952, p. 168.

98 Paula Hancock, “Transformations in the iconography of the mirror in medieval art”, unpublished doctoral thesis, Emory University, 1988, p. 158.

99 For this discussion, see Peter’s discussion in chapter six, ninth phenomena: Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter vi, f. 9r, p. 34: « Sic quamque diu in hac vita noster incolatus prolongatus est et mole carnis oppressi a deo distamus, videre divinam essentiam non valemus. » See also Biernoff, Sight and Embodiment in the Middle Ages, p. 25.

100 For more discussion on the “oculis interioribus” see: Peter of Limoges, op. cit., chapter xiii, ff. 49r-49v, p. 170-171: « Oculis interioribus cecatur […] Sic et rex confusionis diabolus bona opera per peccatum morcificat et peccatorem spiritualier excaecat. Quia postquem homo cessat a bonis operibus lumine gracie subtrahitur et penitus excecatur. »

101 Michael Camille, “Before the Gaze: The Internal Senses and Late Medieval Practices of Seeing”, op. cit., p. 207.

102 Cynthia J. Hahn, “Visio Dei: changes in medieval visuality”, in Robert Nelson (dir.), Visuality before and beyond the Renaissance: Seeing as Others Saw, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 169.

103 Grover A. Zinn, Richard of Saint Victor: The Twelve Patriarchs; The Mystical Ark; Book Three of The Trinity, London and New York, Paulist Press, 1979, p. 20.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1
Légende Gotha, Forschungsbibliothek MS Memb. II 74 (France? late thirteenth-century), f. 162r (image taken from Richard Newhauser’s Peter of Limoges: The Moral Treatise on the Eye, Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2012.
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Légende Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine MS 1733 (Belgium, 1498), f. 335v
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Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 27v (c. 1325, Arras), male head initial alongside chapter viii of the Tractatus.
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Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 70r (c. 1325, Arras), male head initial alongside the Liber de ludo scaccorum.
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Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 2r (c. 1325, Arras), initial opening the prologue of the Tractatus.
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Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 17v (c. 1325, Arras), king head initial alongside chapter vii of the Tractatus.
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Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 12r (c. 1325, Arras), male head initial alongside chapter vii of the Tractatus.
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Titre Fig. 8
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 44v (c. 1325, Arras), male head initial alongside chapter xii of the Tractatus.
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Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 9r (c. 1325, Arras), Female head initial alongside chapter vi of the Tractatus.
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Titre Fig. 10
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 2r (c. 1325, Arras), detail of the Cherchemont heraldry with a golden crozier in the middle.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/aes/docannexe/image/6919/img-10.png
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Titre Fig. 11
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, MS 2909 (18th century), detail of the Cherchemont family heraldry.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/aes/docannexe/image/6919/img-11.png
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Titre Fig. 12
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 9r (c. 1325, Arras), clerical head initial alongside chapter vi of the Tractatus.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/aes/docannexe/image/6919/img-12.jpg
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Titre Fig. 13
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 10r (c. 1325, Arras), clerical head initial alongside chapter vi of the Tractatus.
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Titre Fig. 14
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 19r (c. 1325, Arras), clerical head initial alongside chapter vii of the Tractatus.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/aes/docannexe/image/6919/img-14.jpg
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Titre Fig. 15
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 20r (c. 1325, Arras), clerical head initial alongside chapter vii of the Tractatus.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/aes/docannexe/image/6919/img-15.jpg
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Titre Fig. 16
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 38r (c. 1325, Arras), clerical head initial alongside chapter xi of the Tractatus.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/aes/docannexe/image/6919/img-16.jpg
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Titre Fig. 17
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 8r (c. 1325, Arras), ape head initial alongside chapter vi of the Tractatus.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/aes/docannexe/image/6919/img-17.jpg
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Titre Fig. 18
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Latin 3234, f. 8v (c. 1325, Arras), monkey head initial alongside chapter vi of the Tractatus.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/aes/docannexe/image/6919/img-18.jpg
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Titre Fig. 19
Légende New Haven, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, MS 229 (late thirteenth century France), f. 1r.
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Légende London, British Library Stowe MS 17 (Liège, First quarter of the 14th century), f. 84r.
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Titre Fig. 21
Légende London, British Library, MS Stowe MS 17 (Liège, first quarter of the 14th century), f. 109r.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/aes/docannexe/image/6919/img-21.png
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Roisin Astell, « Image as Speculum »Arts et Savoirs [En ligne], 20 | 2023, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2023, consulté le 19 juin 2024. URL : http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/aes/6919 ; DOI : https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/aes.6919

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Roisin Astell

Universities of York and Oxford

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