An incredibly rich "book of love"


This book, which dates from 1620, was produced for Melchior Dassonleville, the descendant of a rich and famous line of lawyers in Hainaut, whose family coat of arms appears three times in the miniatures of the book. The author presumably wanted to declare his love for a lady in this way. The book gives a glimpse of 17th century miniature art in our regions. It sheds light on how the members of the nobility and the high bourgeoisie expressed their love for the person in question.

The manuscript contains no less than 33 highly detailed illustrations painted on vellum, more than twice as many as a similar copy, from the collection of the Russian Imperial Family, which is kept in the Royal Library in Brussels. The work contains 74 love songs in French, 17 superb miniatures on page-size parchment (one on silk) depicting love scenes from mythology, and 16 representations of animals including horses, elephants, lions and monkeys.

This unique "book of love" was auctioned on Saturday 13 October in Brussels, by the company Arenberg Auctions. The auction house confirmed that the book was sold for €95,000 (excluding sales costs). The name of the lucky buyer was not disclosed, but the house has confirmed that the book remains in Belgium and will go to an organisation. To peruse it online, go to this website.