The biographies written by Plutarch provide models of the virtuous lives of the great statesmen of antiquity. Before the translation published by Amyot from 1559, Renaissance readers are not interested in the parallels made by the author between the great Greeks and Romans that nevertheless form the basis of his moral demonstrations. Plutarch is then known in France by Latin translations. Most are questionable or apocryphal, having been modified or invented to flatter their sponsors.
Five manuscripts made in Paris in the early sixteenth century include Lives by Plutarch commissioned in French translation by the Duchess of Lorraine. Two of them are in larger format. The volume regrouping the lives of Demosthenes, Cicero and Cato the Elder is preserved at the National Library of Austria.
The other larger volume, 218 in folio leaves 35 x 22 cm in vellum, is dealing with the very illustrious lives of Romulus and Cato the Younger. It includes 54 full-page paintings showing transpositions of ancient history in medieval scenes beautifully contained in architectural frames. Its terminus ante quem is the death of the old duke in 1508,
These pictures are a very rare example of interpretations by the illuminators directly from the text rather than from pre-established artistic models : several instructions from the calligrapher to the artist were incompletely erased after the realization of the miniature.
This book was sold for £ 510K including premium by Sotheby's on December 7, 2010. It is estimated € 400K for sale by Pierre Bergé et Associés on December 14 in Paris (Drouot) in association with Sotheby's, lot 836.
SOLD for € 670K including premium