Double trouble

​This outstanding illumination has a double dose of fools.  The first is the fool who would presume to menace Christ, perhaps unique among fools for sporting a dog’s face, let alone his winged headgear.  He also has what appears to be a fool’s bladder-stick. 

But my favourite of all foolish illuminations I have seen so far, is the bas-de-page decoration of a fool making a face at us. I can’t get over him, or the fun and daring of the artist who created him, or the tolerance of the client, for letting him get away with it.  In addition to his grinning face-pull, he has a cap and bells and a phallic-looking fool stick which strategically conceals his otherwise naked private parts. 

​The artist was the 13th century Bute Master, so called because of his contribution to a Psalter which belonged to the Marquis of Bute.


Credit: Initial D: The Fool, with a Dog Face and Wearing Winged Headgear, Menacing Christ; bas-de-page A Fool Making Face at the Reader (c. 1285), Bute Master (Franco-Flemish, fl. c. 1260-90), France; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 46 (92.MK.92), fol. 72, public domain

Illumination - Bute Master - fool making a face
Illumination - Bute Master - dog-faced fool

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