The Primer of Claude of France

Master of Antoine de Roche


Mazzoni left for France in 1496 where he served as artist to Charles VIII (1470-1498) and designed the king’s bronze tomb in St Denis. Mazzoni also executed various commissions for Louis XII and Anne of Brittany, and it is conceivable that he made this Primer at the queen’s request. Ironically, for a book that was made to teach her daughter how to read, garbled captions in Old French (e.g. ADEM ET VEE) are inscribed on the gold frames of the miniatures. The captions in red and blue were painted with a fine brush and are almost certainly the work of the illuminator. Whoever supplied the captions had not mastered French, which lends support to the idea that the artist was a foreigner. No works survive from Guido Mazzoni’s time in France, so whether he did, in fact, illuminate Claude’s Primer remains subject to debate.

Lightbox: 81
Detail of Claude of France’s face under magnification (7.5x).

Claude of France, kneeling at a prayer desk, is presented by St Claude to the enthroned St Anne who holds an open book on her lap and is teaching the Virgin Mary to read. The prayer desk on which an open book lies, is covered in a blue cloth embroidered with fleurs-de-lis and gold initials C. The arms of Claude’s mother, Anne of Brittany (France impaling Brittany), are held aloft by the angel on a pillar in the right border and are also shown in the lower border encircled by the motto, PENSON EN DIEU, with sprays of blue flowers on either side.