Music in the Margins: The Funeral of Reynard the Fox (13th century)

This motley crew of anthropomorphic animals can be found adorning the lower margins of a finely illuminated "book of hours" produced in late thirteenth-century England and now residing in the collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Appearing throughout a section relaying the crucification of Christ, these horn-tooting, cymbal-beating, bier-bearing creatures are attending the funeral of Reynard the Fox.

Thought to have originated in Lorraine folklore, the tale of the trickster fox Reynard soon made its way into a literary cycle of allegorical Dutch, English, French and German fables, getting its most extensive treatment via the pen of Pierre de Saint-Cloud in his Le Roman de Renart, ca. 1170. Written mainly during the Middle Ages by a multitude of authors, the Reynard stories often acted as parodies of medieval literature staples (e.g. courtly romances), as well as satire commenting on political and religious institutions. Reynard's funeral appears in many of the tales: his enemies gathering to deliver weepy, over-the-top elegies full of insincere piety, only to then come a cropper as Reynard leaps alive from the bier and wreaks his revenge.

These Reynard stories were so popular that the the old French word for "fox" (goupil from the Latin vulpecula) actually ended up stepping aside in favour of "renard" still used today.

RightsUnderlying Work RightsPD Worldwide
Digital Copy RightsNo Additional Rights
DownloadDownloadRight click on image or see source for higher res versions

If You Liked This…

Prints for Your Walls

Explore our selection of fine art prints, all custom made to the highest standards, framed or unframed, and shipped to your door.

Start Exploring

Pantagruel
Sign Up for Our Newsletter!
The latest wonders from the site to your inbox.
Once every two weeks.
You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking on the provided link in our emails.