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PERREAL Jean
L’Alchimiste

1516
parchemin (peint, doré) H. 18.1 cm ; l. 13.4 cm
inv. M-6188
don Wildenstein Daniel (donateur) (1981 acquis)
In 1943, André Vernet, a historian of medieval painting, published a manuscript in the Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, presenting manuscript 3220 from the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, dated 1516 and titled Complainte de Nature. The name of the painter, IEHAN PERREAL DE PARIS, appears in an acrostic in the first nineteen lines of the prologue. Perréal was a well-known painter and was the valet de chambre to the kings Charles VIII, Louis XII, and François I. The description of the manuscript specifies that it is decorated with gilt ornamental letters and originally contained a miniature showing Nature and an alchemist. This had been described in 1847 but lost in the meantime, as Vernet regretfully notes. This “full page,” a masterpiece of Perréal’s art, was rediscovered in the Wildenstein collection in 1960 and given to the Musée Marmottan Monet in 1981. In this miniature, Perréal places the alchemist, who has emerged from his dark workshop in which we can make out his retorts and furnace, in relation to Nature, who appears in the foreground of an open landscape, naked and seated on a throne made up of interlaced branches, at the base of which burns a fire, the principle of all life.