~ Rene's masterpiece, Le Livre du Cueur d'Amours Espris, was written in 1457. This book of the heart as love's captive is a direct descendant of Rene's classic Romance of the Rose , with it's allegorical characters clearly labeled by names indicating their nature and functions. Although such a world of personified abstractions may not be too congenial to modern modes of thinking, Rene's contemporaries were quite comfortable with it. It was, in fact, a popular scenario for the literature of the period.
~ Rene's allegorical romance is presented within a rather circumscribed "realistic" frame. He tells us that he went to bed early one night, tired and preoccupied with musings about love. Then ~~ was it a vision, a dream ? ~~ Love himself suddenly appears before him, taking the heart from his breast and handing it to Desire. This is where the story begins. At it's end Rene awakens in terror, clutching his left breast ~~ his heart, did Love really take it? He cries out for his valet, by the light of whose candle they reassure themselves that the left side of his chest is whole and undamaged. Greatly relieved, Rene happily takes paper and pen to record his dream.
~ The heart, represented in the dream as a knight in full armor named Cueur ( or Cuer ) , accompanied by his Page, Desire, Sets off on a perilous journey of courtship to liberate Sweet Grace ( Dame Doulce-Mercy ) who is being held in captivity by three enemies of Love: Denial ( Reffus ), Shame ( Honte ) and Fear ( Crainte ).
~ Only the first part of the journey is illustrated by the sixteen paintings in the Vienna manuscript. Here the story must unravel thru the commentaries as we view each of the illuminated folios. The last of these portrays an intermediate landing, by night, on a rocky island. The story however goes on from that point, telling of the next morning.
You may start viewing the Sixteen Illuminated Folio Commentaries Here as they unfold the narrative in sequence or you may view them individually below.
The Illuminated Folios are marked as follows The remainder of the 127 folios without illuminations are all beautiful calligraphed text.