Leaf from a Book of Hours:
An Ape Hunting Wild Boars (Litany of the Saints), about 1500-10
France, Paris or Rouen
Ink, tempera, and liquid gold on vellum
The Jeanne Miles Blackburn Collection [Cat. no. 61]
The Litany of the Saints is one of the most ancient and most emotional Christian liturgical texts, dating in the West to at least the 5th century. In a book of hours, the litany comprised a series of saints' names. The names were recited rhythmically, followed each time by Ora pro nobis (Pray for us)-an appeal for deliverance and intercession. The theme is that of the sinner seeking forgiveness and salvation. The series begins by address-ing the Trinity, followed in order of rank by the Virgin, archangels, angels, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgin saints, etc. On this leaf the bas-de-page (lower margin) scene features an ape hunting wild boars. Both animals were symbolic of vice in general and lust in particular. While the scene could be purely amusing, perhaps deriving from a fable or proverb, its juxtaposition with the litany may have given it a more serious meaning for the book's medieval owner.