Rhetorical invention in Outremer: Chantilly, Musée Condé 433

Rosa M. Rodríguez Porto
University of Southern Denmark

Julian Yolles
University of Southern Denmark

 This two-part paper centers on Chantilly, Musée Condé 433, a richly-illustrated manuscript containing a thirteenth-century French translation of two ancient rhetorical treatises (De inventione and Rhetorica ad Herennium) and a brief logical treatise, adapted from Boethius. Produced in Acre by John of Antioch in 1282 at the behest of William of Santo Stefano, a Hospitaller knight and later commander in Cyprus, the manuscript represents startlingly bold innovation in the choice of texts to be translated into the vernacular and in the decision to supply them with illustrations, for which no previous iconographic tradition existed. 

The first section, led by Julian Yolles, builds on recent work by Guadagnini (2009 and 2013) and Rubin (2018) by examining the intellectual-cultural implications of these French translations for the thirteenth-century Levant. The paper situates the translations within a more extensive tradition of rhetorical learning and innovation in Outremer and argues that John of Antioch, like his forebears, viewed himself as residing on an intellectual frontier. Paradoxically, this challenging cultural environment could have been more open socially and prone to change than metropolitan France. In this regard, the Chantilly manuscript can also be analyzed as a superb example of the distinctive aesthetics and revolutionary visual devices developed in Levantine book illustration, an aspect discussed by Rosa M. Rodríguez Porto. It should be remembered that the Paris-Acre Master, responsible for the illustration of this particular manuscript, was also in charge of the illumination of several copies of the vernacular translation of William of Tyre’s chronicle (Folda 2005). 

Viewed in this context, the presenters suggest that John of Antioch’s project—together with local historiography—may have been conceived as part of a broader formative enterprise for the Frankish elite, inspired by Cicero’s depiction of rhetoric in the prologue to the De inventione as a civilizing art that first brought an organized polity into being.