Book of Treasures

Book of Treasures f. 13, Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, with her ladies-in-waiting

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f. 13, Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, with her ladies-in-waiting

The Kingdom of the Amazons

The kingdom of the Amazons began when the King of Scythia, with all of the land´s men, attacked the Egyptians; all those who took part died. When their wives heard the news, they chose a woman to rule the land as Queen, and established that a man would never again be allowed to live on their land. They would raise daughters and not men, and all would cut off their left breast to be able to better carry their shields and weapons. It is for this reason that they are known as Amazons, which means ´without breast´. These women went to help Troy [2]. And this is what Penthesilea, their Queen, did. Some said that she was in love with Hector, but no one except her ever knew the truth. They only knew that she died there along with many of her maidens.  

Translation of the original text by Brunetto Lattini in the Book of Treasures (ca.1230-1294)
Preserved in the National Library of Russia, Saint Petersburg

Miniature 13v preceding the chapter entitled “The kingdom of women”, in which the elegant drawing by a steady hand depicting the traits of the charming faces of the two ladies-in-waiting, the queen of the Amazons herself and the folds of their garments, is combined with the rough and rather clumsy outlines of their hands with awkwardly oversized palms. In general, drawing hands and in particular the far from simple combination of fingers clasping gloves, was a stumbling block for the painters of our manuscript. It must be said that the portrayal of human anatomy in the miniatures in this manuscript and indeed in most of the manuscripts of the same period was still far removed from reality. In the margins of the folio we can see jugglers.

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