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Old Screeds

Wemics in a Medieval Book of Hours [23 Dec 16] Liontaurs in a holy book lavishly populated with grotesques and drolleries.

The online digital collections of The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore include this lovely Book of Hours from the diocese of Cambrai (in northeastern France) ca. 1300. This particular prayer book, as the museum's description says, "is especially interesting for its profusion of humorous drolleries. Humans, animals, and hybrids are featured in the margins of each page of the book." That word -- "drolleries" -- means little monsters drawn around the text. And that includes, among many other monsters, wemics. Here are some of the liontaurs, aka sagittaries, that I found in this book. Click the images to embiggen.

a female liontaur musician from a book of hours
With her angel wings and heavenly harp, this flying nun-taur is clearly making celestial music! (page 116v)

a liontaur piper with an odd tail from a book of hours
Well, I suppose that if I had a head on the tip of my tail, I'd try playing a recorder or clarinet of some kind to keep it happy. (page 143v)

a female liontaur musician with an odd instrument from a book of hours
She does not seem too unhappy about the odd disembodied head that's enjoying her performance. And what is it she is playing, actually? A hand-held church organ? The world's largest pan-flute? (page 59r)

an old liontaur monk pleads for his life in a book of hours
Why do I like this old liontaur in monk garb? Alas, he is showing every one of his 700-plus years. (page 28v)

liontaur with sword in a book of hours
This fierce fellow does not have mercy in mind! I do like his tawny hide. (page 24v)

liontaur regards his own tail in a book of hours
You know how dogs run in circles to chase their own tails? Same thing here, but he caught it. (page 18v)

Check out even more liontaurs and sagittaries in this Book of Hours at The Walters Art Museum.

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