Livre de la Chasse, by Gaston Fébus

On how one should hunt and take down the cat by force - 101r. Livre de la Chasse, by Gaston Fébus (Français 616, Paris, early 15th c.) Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris BnF

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On how one should hunt and take down the cat by force - 101r

Two times thirteen lines will be sufficient to discuss the hunting of the cat, a cat of a beautiful size:  a lynx, with ringed spots and small pointed ears, but an overly long tail.  The feline, its lower stomach pierced by a javelin, still bravely fights the two hounds with hanging ears which bite his back and throat. The blood flowing down the head of the white dog clearly indicates that the cat has hit it on the nose. Two servants encourage them without intervening, but ready to throw their javelin.  The two horsemen, who arrived late, are still galloping. The background is a pasture sown with tall flowering stalks and ferns throughout the scene. Three lonely old trees serve as a pretext for an additional feature in the scene, that of a grey cat trying to hide amongst the sparse leaves of the middle tree. Its strange colour suggests that it is a domestic cat, still rare in that era. To take down the cat, the only solution would be to shoot it with an arrow; here he is safe, since the hunters do not have crossbows or a bow and arrow. The wildcat, also known as a lynx, is attacked without any order or organisation, by chance, during a fox- or hare-hunt. Its hunt lasts a long time and the hounds bark loudly, especially if greyhounds and bloodhounds are used to catch it. Here the cat is trapped by a small pack of six running dogs. It is worth comparing this image with folio 90v, that of Fébus´ personal copy; the staging is actually quite different, more accurate and complete. The two horsemen gallop up to the lynx injured by the two hounds biting its throat and back. We can imagine that the javelin has just been thrown by one of the two horsemen. Effectively, the two servants on foot are not at all involved in the capture of the lynx. The first points out to his comrade the cat perched in the tree. The latter takes aim with a drawn bow and arrow.

Yves Christe,
Université de Genève


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