A framed illumination on folio 180v of a Latin manuscript containing the works of Vergil depicting Aeneas and Dido ambiguously consummating their marriage in a cave while their escorts shield themselves from the rain.
Ink and tempera on vellum.
Made in the 5th century in Italy. Currently held at the Vatican Library.
One of 3 surviving illuminated manuscripts from the Western Roman Empire.
…There are a bit more illuminated manuscripts from the Western Roman Empire—like the Chronography of 354, various papyrus fragments from Egypt, and the Quedlinburg Itala—but it’s one of only three surviving illuminated Homeric epics (along with the Vatican Vergil and the Ambrosian Iliad) from Late Antiquity.
The last page of a medieval book is usually a protective flyleaf, which is positioned between the actual text and the bookbinding. It was usually left blank and it therefore often filled up with pen trials, notes, doodles, or drawings. This addition I encountered today and it is not what you’d expect: a full-on drawing of a maiden playing the lute, which she holds just like a guitar. A peaceful smile shines on her face. I love this rockstar lady, so unexpectedly positioned at the end of the book, trying to catch the reader’s attention as he is closing it.
Pic: London, British Library, Sloane MS 554 (more here).