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Gewalt, Krieg und Geschlecht im Mittelalter

Edited By Amalie Fößel

Gewalt und Krieg sind heute wie auch in der Vormoderne keine ausschließlich männliche Domäne, sondern Räume der Männer und Frauen gleichermaßen. In Zeiten kriegerischer Auseinandersetzungen werden Geschlechterrollen ausgebildet, konforme und abweichende Verhaltensweisen ausprobiert und Konzepte von Männlichkeit und Weiblichkeit entwickelt. Erstmals für die Epoche des Mittelalters (7.-16. Jahrhundert) werden daraus resultierende Fragestellungen im interdisziplinären und kulturübergreifenden Vergleich untersucht. Die Beiträge erörtern Geschlechterbeziehungen auf Darstellungs- und Handlungsebene und beschreiben Interaktionsformen in Kontexten von Gewalt und Krieg. Über den europäischen Raum mit seinen zahlreichen Fehden und Heerzügen hinaus werden auch die Kreuzzüge in den Blick genommen.

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Attack on the Castle of Love: Flower Power or “Traffic in Women”? An Allegorical Representation in Ivory Analysed from the Perspective of War and Gender (Alexandra Gajewski)

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Alexandra Gajewski

Attack on the Castle of Love: Flower Power

or “Traffic in Women”? An Allegorical

Representation in Ivory Analysed from the

Perspective of War and Gender

Abstract: The Castle of Love, an allegory of sexual intercourse, originates in a medieval conflation of the allegory of the Virtues and Vices and of biblical metaphors for the Virgin. Early 14th-century representations on ivory form a distinct group, which parodies earlier traditions, thus revealing the complexity of medieval attitudes to love and marriage.

In 1978 Georges Duby summed up the results of his research into marriage and the eleventh-century juvenes, the younger sons of noble families, who were excluded from the family heritage: “These bachelors were abductors by their very nature, for they were always tempted to take by force from another household the wife that would make them, at last, into elders (seniores)”.1 Among Duby’s contributions to the study of medieval women, this explanatory model remains one of his most famous but also one of his most controversial. Intended to reveal the mechanisms of his “male” Middle Ages,2 it described what he considered a social phenomenon linking the young knight, the noblewoman and warfare, which was rooted in a crisis of around the year 1000 and persisted into ←381 | 382→the thirteenth century. The model is too well known to need a long introduction. In short: Following the fragmentation of power around the year 1000, the militarisation of northern French society was accompanied by the proliferation of new castles, focal points of independent lordships. Aristocratic families reacted by tightening the broad and horizontal kinship system of large groups of distantly related families. Increasingly, they followed a patriarchal system and especially the custom of primogeniture, according to which the first-born son inherited the entire estate, which funded his existence as a knight. If the family’s fortunes were failing he would seek to marry a woman of higher rank. The typical younger son, however, had to leave the home. If he did not join the Church, he would embrace a life of adventure and warfare in order to conquer, by means fair or foul, an heiress with a castle, the ownership of which allowed him to continue his existence as a knight in warfare.3 Women, according to Duby’s model, were a mere aid in a system aimed at perpetuating battle. The model was based on the anthropologist and ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss’s mid-twentieth-century research into kinship systems, according to which women were the objects of marriage accords.4 They were exchanged or trafficked, as Gayle Rubin put it, in ←382 | 383→order to serve a political and economic system that was beyond their influence and that, in the high Middle Ages, was based on warfare.5

Forty years later, Duby’s theory has left a fault line running through scholarship. Although towards the end of his life Duby himself mitigated what is now perceived as the misogynism of his model, and despite the general agreement among today’s scholars that the system of marriage alliances was far more complex than Duby admitted,6 some historians, especially on the French side, remain reluctant to dismiss Duby. “What is marriage in the Middle Ages”, Martin Aurell asked recently, “if not the pursuit of war by other means”.7 American historians, however, including Theodor Evergates, Amy Livingstone and Constance Bouchard, have strongly objected to what they perceive as the characterisation of medieval women as victims and confronted the model with documentary evidence for a great variety of different cases in which noblewomen acted as agents with power and authority or were allowed to inherit even when they had brothers.8 The number of exceptions these historians highlighted demonstrates that what Duby took to be a standard occurrence was, in fact, far from being common practice. Like other modern modelisations, Duby’s theory proved too rigid for the complex reality of medieval life. Nonetheless, the many cases in which the sources show that women were taken by force still deserve attention. One way to address this question is to ask how medieval society itself reflected on the idea of love and marriage. Evidence for this can be found in the fourteenth-century ivory representation of the Castle of Love, an allegory of erotic conquest as combat, which sheds light on the question from an oblique angle, by looking at the “imaginative universe” of medieval society.9

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The Castle of Love on ivory mirror backs

In the early fourteenth century, exactly at a time when according to Duby’s model marriage practices changed and the abduction and rape of noble women were no longer acceptable,10 the Castle of Love became a popular image in art. It shows knights besieging and invading a castle where they make love to its female inhabitants. Depictions of the subject can be found in manuscripts and on ivory mirror backs and caskets,11 occasionally also in other media, and in the later Middle Ages especially on tapestries.12 The question of the origin of the image remains unresolved, as no specific source has been identified. In the past, the seemingly light-hearted image has been interpreted as an allegory of the conquest of a lady’s heart. More recently, historians of gender have recognised it more specifically as a representation of sexual conquest with the storming of the castle serving as a “thinly veiled sexual pun”.13 Women are traditionally considered to have been the principal intended audience and the question of the function of the image with respect to this group of viewers has received scholarly attention, especially for the mirror cases, although the evidence of mirrors as a gendered object remains debated.14 The complexity of the image prompts us to raise further questions about the society that invented it. If medieval allegory, defined by its symbolic setting and use of personifications, “says one thing to ←384 | 385→mean another”, especially something of a deeper level of meaning,15 then it could be argued that the Castle of Love shows how, in the fourteenth century, medieval society itself perceived the association of warfare with love, sex and therefore also marriage. In order to pursue this question, I will concentrate on the depiction of the Castle of Love on a group of ivory mirror backs produced in northern France, probably in Paris, in the first half of the fourteenth-century.16 Comprising pieces of high-quality carving, they are among the earliest objects on which the subject is fully developed and they form a cohesive group in terms of material, iconography and style. The depictions of the Castle of Love on these mirrors will be compared to those found on a group of closely related ivory caskets.

The objects and their users

Ivory mirror cases consisted of a front and a back disk that could be closed by fitting the disks together with a screw thread to protect the mirror contained inside. The latter was usually made from polished metal.17 The disks were often attached to each other. An illumination in the late thirteenth-century Bute Psalter shows a well-dressed, elegant woman holding a mirror disk from which hangs the protective covering disk, joined with what could be a double cord (Fig. 1).18 ←385 | 386→The Duke of Berry’s inventory mentions a pair of mirror disks connected with a pirouecte, a kind of hinge.19 A mirror case from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London, has an original hole, decorated with a rose, on the narrow side of the frame, above the main scene, possibly for such a purpose.20 The front and back disks are often intricately carved with figurative scenes and four dragons, lions or foliage leaves adorning the corners. The subject matter of the carvings is relatively consistent: they are scenes of courtly life or romance that can be read as metaphors for lovemaking and, in particular, for erotic love. Apart from the Castle of Love, other typical subjects are a couple playing chess, amorous encounters in which the lady bestows a chaplet on her suitor or hawking parties; episodes taken from romance on mirror backs include stories from Tristan and Gawain. The details shown in these scenes, such as gloves, falcons and chaplets, are attributes of the figures’ courtly status but also symbolise the promise of sexual intercourse.21 Some mirror backs show mythical scenes, such as the Fountain of Youth, which is related to the theme of love because the rejuvenating fountain prepares the old once more for amorous adventures.22 Iconographically the most complex among these images is the Castle of Love. Comprising ←386 | 387→various sub-scenes taking place in the foreground and on the battlements, it has a narrative quality, which defines it as a dynamic allegory.23 All these scenes are also found on a group of ivory caskets that Koechlin has described as composite caskets, on which the Castle of Love is usually shown on the lid. As Susan L. Smith and Paula Mae Carns have explained, on the caskets the various scenes are combined to “express a medieval survey of the subject of love” and the Castle of Love on the cover “establishes the overall theme”.24

Although the owners of the surviving mirror cases remain unknown, inventories and accounts show that such objects were owned by and bought for great nobles, including the dukes of Berry and Burgundy and Mahaut, duchess of Artois. The mirrors formed part of dressing sets in leather cases, containing mirrors, combs, razors and gravoirs (hair parters).25 As these sources show, among the nobility ivory mirrors were owned by men and women, and since the inventories generally do not indicate the subject of the mirror-back,26 it is impossible to associate specific subjects depicted on mirrors with either male or female owners. Scholars have, nonetheless, associated mirrors more closely with women. As Koechlin pointed out, such courtly literature as Eustache Deschamps’s late fourteenth-century Le Miroir de Mariage suggests that husbands presented mirrors as gifts to their wives.27 Equally, Ross and Smith have argued that the caskets served as wedding gifts, representing the lover’s or giver’s heart. Gift-giving scenes are described in romance and sometimes ←387 | 388→depicted on the caskets themselves.28 But more than caskets, mirrors were an object group particularly associated with women and with female vanity. Medieval manuscript illuminations often show women holding mirrors, sometimes with strongly negative resonances, as for example when they are found in the hands of sirens or Luxuria, the personification of indulgence and lust.29 However, since Antiquity mirrors have also had positive connotations; in the Middle Ages the classical association of mirrors with catoptromancy or divination persisted in the connection that was made between mirrors and the contemplation of spiritual truth.30 Recently, Stephen Campbell has reinterpreted Giovanni Bellini’s late fifteenth-century painting showing a woman holding a mirror, which probably formed part of a restello or mirror stand, as Prudence rather than Vanitas or Luxuria. Emphasising that mirrors could serve as a metaphor for ethical reflection or self-knowledge, he noted that some mirror frames were inscribed Nosce te ipsum.31 In the case of the elegant women in the Bute Psalter, rather than a symbol of vanity the mirror is more likely to be an illustration of the first words of psalm 27 Dominus illuminatio mea, introduced on that page. The woman represents the actions of hearing, in putting her hand behind her ear, and seeing, indicated by the mirror. However, a certain ambivalence as to how this image should be read may well be intentional.32 Nonetheless, as the textual sources demonstrate, men cannot be excluded as owners and viewers of ivory mirrors and, as Alexa Sand has emphasised, there is no proof that images on ivory mirrors were gendered or made specifically by men for women.33 In the case of the Castle of Love, both women and men may have figured among the intended viewers.

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The (non-)narrative of the Castle of Love

Although depictions of the Castle of Love often differ in their details and emphasise different aspects of the attack on the castle, the compositions on the mirrors contain a number of typical elements and recurring features. The most complex depictions of the subject, such as the one on a mirror from the Musée du Louvre, Paris, are divided into three registers (Fig. 2).34 In the foreground several knights on horseback engage in a fierce battle. The knights are in full armour, wearing chainmail and surcoats, their helmets are closed and their horses are caparisoned. Whereas most of them are fighting with swords and lances, one is brandishing flowers. In the background a castle can be seen, built from carefully hewn ashlar stones with complex towers, battlements and parapets that provide separate tiers on which its inhabitants are standing. Usually, as here, the portcullis of the portal is raised; however, some of the more detailed ivories clearly show a closed portal behind. Above, appearing behind the crenellations are young women hurling five-petalled flowers, probably roses, at the knights.35 Meanwhile, in some depictions, for example, on an ivory from the V&A, some of the knights have abandoned the fight and are scaling the castle walls (Fig. 3).36 On a number of ivories, as here, one knight scales a rope-ladder to reach the upper battlements of the castle. Alternatively, a knight may have mounted on the back of a horse or climbed on a nearby tree as on the Louvre mirror. On the battlements they are usually ardently received by the women. A typical gesture is the one seen on the left of both the Louvre and the V&A mirror backs, where the knight hands over his sword to the lady on the parapet as a sign of submission. In many cases, one or more knights are already in the castle with the ladies. On the Louvre mirror a courting couple is shown standing on the highest parapet of the castle, which is the top tier of the scene. While the woman is still throwing roses, the knight is embracing her, his chain-mailed hands reaching for her breasts and ←389 | 390→groin. On a mirror from the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence (Fig. 4)37 and on the one from the V&A the highest tower is occupied by the winged God of Love, thrusting arrows in the hearts and eyes of the young men.

There is some variety in the way the warring parties in the foreground are depicted. Occasionally, as on the V&A mirror, the fighting seems to have ceased and the knights are scaling the castle walls. In many cases, as for example on the mirrors from the Louvre and the Bargello, the two groups of charging knights are placed symmetrically in front of the castle. Elsewhere, one group of knights storms out from inside the castle. Sometimes it is not knights that emerge from the castle but the women themselves brandishing flowers. And while the women always fight with flowers, the men mostly carry arms. On some of the mirror cases that show two groups of knights attacking each other outside the castle, the knights are fighting in a tournament. On a mirror case now in the Musée-château de Villevêque, Angers, two knights on chargers confront each other (Fig. 5).38 The steel points of their lances are topped with crown shaped coronals, used in tournaments from the thirteenth century onwards.39 Behind the tournament scene rises the castle and the joust is observed by two women and a youth holding a falcon from behind the parapet of a twin-towered gate-house, while two trumpeters in the trees encourage the assailants. Among the upper crenellations, two couples are courting and exchanging amorous caresses. On the left, a woman is cupping a young man’s chin in her hand – a medieval gesture of romantic love, indicating erotic intent.40 The gesture of the man on the right, who places his hand on the woman’s breast, as on the Louvre mirror back, leaves no doubt that the intent is both erotic and physical.

There are clearly a number of sub-scenes to the Castle of Love that could be combined in different ways on the restricted surface of the mirror cases. It is likely that the scenes on the front and the back of the mirrors complemented each other but, unfortunately, the evidence for surviving front and back disks belonging to the same mirror is rare.41 However, even on the surviving single ←390 | 391→disks, the different registers of the castle setting suggest a hierarchy, which implies at least a loose chronological order: the story then starts in the lower military zone with the tournament or battle outside the castle gates, it moves upwards with the siege and the knights climbing the castle walls and, finally, the knights engage with the ladies on the crenellations. The courting scenes represent a denoument. The couples are united and, often, all military costume and armour have disappeared, but there is still another possible stage, in which the scene is presided by the God of Love. The suggestion of a narrative chronology is even stronger in the case of the Castle of Love scenes that figure on the lids of the ivory caskets from the same period. Separated into a central scene and two flanking scenes by the metal straps, the tournament usually occupies the main scene in the centre, whereas the siege of the castle is shown on one of the lateral plaques. The third section can depict, for example, an elopement from the castle (also shown on mirror backs) or a knight greeted by the lady of the castle.42 The rectangular format of the casket lids offered a more convenient space for organising the sub-scenes of the subject. Some caskets seem to imply that the narrative can be read from left to right. On a casket in the V&A, the scene on the right is the elopement and on a casket in the British Museum, London (Fig. 6), it is a lady handing over the key to the castle to a kneeling knight.43 The positioning of these scenes gives a sense of a climax and of the story coming to an end. However, on many other caskets, for example on a lid surviving from a casket at the Château-musée, Boulogne-sur-Mer, the elopement takes places on the left panel, thus inverting the supposed narrative. In the case of the mirror backs, the circular format represented another challenge, which was met by the carvers in different ways with always new and different combinations of the sub-scenes. In fact, the sub-scenes can also be read synchronically, as occurring at the same time, with several knights seen at different stages.44 It seems, therefore, that this was not a fixed, single narrative but one that was appreciated in particular for its loose, non-specific character, which left the artists creative freedom and gave the patrons a number of different versions of the story to choose from.

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The comparison with the caskets may help explain the conflation between the siege and the tournament scene on the mirror backs, which bewildered Koechlin. As Smith explained, both activities display martial prowess with the aim of winning the lady.45 And Paula Carns was able to identify a commonality between the siege and the tournament, explaining that both types of combat occur frequently in medieval romance. Whereas on the casket lids both siege and tournament can be represented and even understood as part of the same larger story of sexual conquest, on the smaller mirror backs the artist usually had to choose one of the two.

The allegorical meaning and the origin of the image

A problem scholars faced in discussing how this image may have functioned in society is the fact that the light-hearted lovemaking depicted on the ivories not only appears to defy the strict moral codes of the time,46 it also seems to conceal an act of violation committed by the knights who wield real arms against women defending themselves with flowers. Writing in the early twentieth century, Koechlin reckoned that ivory mirrors were generally intended to delight and entertain a select aristocratic audience, in particular – but not exclusively – women. The courtly scenes, such as couples playing chess or hunting with a falcon, reflected their daily life of leisure at court and the Castle of Love offered stories of heroism into which the owners could project themselves. Koechlin therefore considered the inclusion of real combatants in this “battle of the ladies” and the resulting aggression conveyed by the image as “unintelligent and unfortunate”. He much preferred the rare depictions of the Castle of Love without real arms, which were full of the spirit of gallantry and the “jolie histoire”.47 Towards the end of the twentieth century, and writing within a cultural context in which feminism had been accepted as an academic discipline, Thomas Greene bemoaned the “sombre shadow of rape [that] darkens [the] range of appropriate interpretations”. Greene argued that the Castle of Love represented the “struggle [between the sexes] for erotic control” and was evidence for tensions between genders in fourteenth-century society.48 In fact, for Susan L. Smith the depiction ←392 | 393→of amorous images on mirror backs had a didactic purpose and was intended to control and domineer women. She argued that in these seemingly cheerful erotic encounters the female gaze is responsive to the male gaze and, thus, “by implication” female viewers are subordinated to the demands of male sexuality. Excluded from this interpretation are only a small group of “atypical mirror valves” in which the women depicted control the ocular encounter by either ignoring or dominating the male partner.49 Since then, however, and perhaps reflecting the more sex-positive culture of recent years, Elizabeth L’Estrange has challenged the idea that the gaze is the property of the male figures on these mirror backs. Neither the women depicted on the ivories nor their female owners gazing alternatively at themselves in the glass of the mirror or at the reverse ivory image, she argued, were necessarily only desired object but also acted as desiring subject.50 L’Estrange thus returned to an interpretation closer to that of Koechlin of the mirror case as an object of delight for both sexes, although in her interpretation especially of erotic delight. However, her discussion focused on tournament scenes rather than on images of the assault of the castle, and it is in the latter that male force is depicted as part of the erotic encounter with women. Without the evidence of this aspect of the Castle of Love, the question whether such scenes were intended to (erotically) delight its aristocratic viewers or to control and coerce its female owners remains open.

If the question how medieval society understood the image cannot be convincingly answered it is partly because a central problem concerning the interpretation of the image remains unresolved. Although much discussed by earlier scholars, there is no clear consensus about the origin of the allegory, images of which seem to have appeared quite suddenly in the early fourteenth century. For Roger Loomis, the origin was rooted in medieval pageant. As several sources report, in 1214 festivities in Treviso included a mock-siege of a castle built with skins of veir and sable, precious tissues and brocade from Baghdad. According to the chronicler Rolandino of Padua, it was defended by women without the help of men, wearing bejewelled headgear for their defence. The men assaulted the castle with flowers, food, such as quinces, pomegranates and spices, and with vases filled with balsam or rosewater. The event was recorded by Rolandino and others ←393 | 394→because it incited a war between Venice and Padua.51 Pageants like this may have taken place in other rural communities because in 1543 an edict of the Bern government proscribed such plays in the regions of Vaud and Fribourg.52 Loomis linked this evidence with sixteenth-century performances at the English court to suggest a lasting tradition, arguing that “all stages of this elaborate medieval game were represented on the ivory mirror cases”.53 Although Koechlin admitted that there must have been a link between the play and the image, he doubted that the performance of the spectacle, known to have taken place only in remote locations before the sixteenth century, could have been the basis of what became a major inspiration for luxury art at the medieval French court. However, like Loomis, he also rejected earlier proposals that the ivories represented a scene from courtly literature, such as the poem Roman de la Rose, begun by Guillaume de Lorris around 1230 and completed by Jean de Meun in the second half of the thirteenth century. The poem enjoyed a great reputation at the time the ivories were created but Koechlin could find no specific moment in the Roman – or any other work – that compared directly to the Castle of Love.54 He suggested, therefore, that the origin was to be found in legends that were transmitted orally.55

Since then, the connections with courtly literature have been further elucidated by Carns, who has shown that the images represented on ivory boxes, such ←394 | 395→as Aristotle and the Maiden or episodes from the romances of Gawain and Lancelot, are not illustrations of scenes in texts but responses to these stories adapted to the medium. Together, the scenes on the boxes “form part of a worldview of love in which [. . .] every form of love is present”. On the question of the origin of the Castle of Love, which takes pride of place on the lid, she remained non-specific, arguing that “it is most likely a play on the romance topos of knightly feats in the service of love”.56 Carn’s conclusions invite a reconsideration of the relationship between the Castle of Love and the Roman de la Rose in the light of the fact that the scene might be a response to or adaptation of ideas from the Roman rather than a depiction of a specific scene.57 The poem tells the story of a young man’s dream. Having entered a secret garden and gazed into Narcissus’s well, Amant (Lover) falls in love with a Rose and becomes liegeman of the God of Love. He contrives to kiss the Rose but is maligned by Male Bouche (Foul Mouth), inciting Jalousie (Jealousy) to build a strong castle (li chastiaus riches et forz) in order to protect the Rose from the advances of Amant. However, Venus calls on Amor’s army to storm the castle, allowing Amant to enter and take possession of the Rose.58 In the famous last scene, clearly written with relish by Jean de Meun and often described as obscene by scholars, the author uses Amant’s act of entering the castle as a metaphor of sexual penetration.59 The parallel with the Castle of Love is obvious: in both narratives the conquest of the castle stands for the overcoming of female resistance to sexual intercourse. Nonetheless, as Koechlin noted, the differences are also significant. For example, Amor’s army of barons are not described as knights whereas in the ivories the detailed depiction of their armour clearly identifies the male protagonists as such. Moreover, nowhere in the text are mentioned the numerous women that populate the Castle of Love, and in the last scene of the Roman Amant is dressed as a pilgrim, a figure that appears nowhere on the ivories.60

Nevertheless, although the Castle of Love clearly does not illustrate a scene from the Roman, some of the details of the depiction suggest associations with the poem. Koechlin himself noted that the description of Rose’s castle by Jean de ←395 | 396→Meun as a wall of dressed stones (un mur de quarriaus taillaïz) corresponds perfectly to the castle on the ivories with its carefully delineated courses of masonry.61 It is possible, however, that both the text and the image independently intended a reference to the Old Testament description of the Temple of Solomon built from squared stone.62 Yet another link is even more specific. Some mirror backs, including the one from the Bargello, depict a figure on horseback, not wearing a helmet and wielding a club.63 As Timothy Husband pointed out, this is hardly a characteristic weapon of chivalry; he suggested that in later depictions this enigmatic figure would develop into the wild man storming the Castle of Love.64 The club is also the key attribute of Dangier (Danger), the guardian of the roses in the Roman, who is described as holding in his hand a thorny club (en sa main un baston d’espine).65 This identification is supported by the fact that a now lost early sixteenth-century Flemish tapestry of the Castle of Love showed a figure identified by inscription as ‘Dangier’, among the group of male personifications besieging the castle.66 If this interpretation is correct, however, Dangier’s presence on the ivories raises the question why from being the protector of the Rose he has developed into one of the attackers of the castle. In scholarship, Dangier has been defined as the personification of a complex moral or psychological state, a sentiment that lies somewhere between rational sexual restraint and a rude rebuff.67 As Greene explained in connection with the lost tapestry, depicting ←396 | 397→Dangier as an aggressor suggests that female resistance itself colludes with the seducers and that the conflict was not only between women and men but also within the women themselves.68 Emerging from a creative context in which literary sources were so familiar that they could be creatively adapted, the idea of resistance itself assaulting a women’s chastity may have served as an in-joke for owners familiar with the Roman.

However, the element that most closely links the Castle of Love with the Roman de la Rose is their shared inspiration by Ovid. Ovidian sources have long been recognised as fundamental to the poem, which adapts the stories of Narcissus and Pygmalion, known from the Metamorphoses. Moreover, like Ovid in his Ars amatoria, the authors of the Roman assume a deliberately provocative role of instructing their readers in the art of sexual conquest.69 Thus, at the beginning of the poem Jean de Meun’s narrator states that the whole art of love is contained in the poem.70 Although a different medium, the ivory mirror backs are also clearly inspired by Ovid. The knights, who are climbing up the castle walls, move from a war zone into a world where love reigns; the sweet pleasures of lovemaking are shown to be the recompense for military combat. This idea can be traced back to Ovid’s Amores (1.9.1), where Cupido had his camp of tents, in Latin sua castra, which could also be translated as “his castles”.71 On the ivories, it is from the top of a castle that the God of Love is pointing his arrow at the knights or at those standing next to him, touching their eyes and their hearts. Indeed, line 3 of Amores 1.9 could be a motto for the Castle of Love: The age which is apt for war, is also suitable for love.72 Ferocious battle action in the foreground makes way for flirtation and physical love in the upper registers of the ivories. But, according to Ovid, the two activities belonged together, not only because love is a kind of war but also because they were the two parts of the active life of famous men from mythology, such as Mars, Achilles and Hector. The role of women therein ←397 | 398→is twofold: they are the motivation for the real battle, but they also entice the men into another, equally worthy kind of battle.73

Several conclusions can be drawn from the identification of Ovid as a shared source for both the Roman and the Castle of Love. To start with, as far as the Castle of Love is concerned, the conflation or combination of siege and tournament scenes is not only a reflection of the ubiquity of both types of scenes in romance, as Carns highlighted, but also of the fact that both types of battle serve to exemplify medieval warfare and can therefore be employed for the Ovidian comparison with love. Furthermore, Carns identified the objective of the love scenes on the ivory caskets as presenting a “worldview of love”. She traced this back to the practice of compilation and compared the caskets to medieval anthologies. But, clearly, the model for this “worldview” was not so much anthologies but the Roman’s teaching of the “whole art of love” and, ultimately, Ovid. As has been pointed out, Ovid’s often overtly erotic texts, some of which were taught in medieval schools since the eleventh century, challenged moral conventions in the Middle Ages.74 This challenge was met in both the final scenes of the Roman and the Castle of Love by exploiting the narrative and pictorial possibilities as well as the theological connotations of the medieval castle.

The castle as an allegorical device

For Loomis and Koechlin it was beyond doubt that the origin of the image must be found in the secular world. Neither of the authors felt it necessary to defend this position, but their reasons are easy to discern: the mirrors and boxes were made for use in a secular context, the castle was a military development and, on the boxes, other images had their origin in secular texts. Loomis argued that, in the later Middle Ages, the Church adapted this originally secular image to religious use.75 Roberta Cornelius and more recently Abigail Wheatley, however, have highlighted the importance of castle allegories in theological texts dating to ←398 | 399→well before 1300 and predating the pageant at Treviso.76 Wheatley proposed that the idea of the secular Castle of Love was a counterpart to the religious allegory of the castle as the Virgin. Therefore, next to the sources in secular literature discussed above, the religious and spiritual origin of the Castle of Love deserves closer investigation.

By the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the image of the castle had become a widespread device in both secular and spiritual literature and in art and often served to illustrate the confrontation of two opposing worlds of value. Most commonly, true virtue resides inside while danger threatens from the outside.77 The castle was, however, not the first structure that was used to illustrate that confrontation. Within a Christian context, one of the earliest examples could be found in the Old Testament. For the twelfth-century theologian Honorius Augustodunensis, for example, the Garden of Eden could be identified with the enclosed garden (hortus conclusus) of the Song of Songs, an idea that had a long tradition in biblical exegesis.78 Ultimately, scripture taught that the human body itself was a temple inhabited by God, for example in such passages as: Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16–17). Medieval writers, including Honorius Augustodunensis himself or the author of the Castrum humani corporis, replaced the image of the temple with that of the castle with its defensive features in order to describe the body inhabited by the soul.79 The “inside-outside structure” of the garden or castle could also be usefully employed to explain the Christian mystery of ←399 | 400→the Incarnation.80 Since the early Middle Ages, the Virgin Mary was identified not only with the enclosed garden of the Song of Songs but also with a fortification, as suggested by Luke (10:38), a passage that reads in the Vernacular: et ipse [Jesus] intravit in quoddam castellum.81 Writers, such as Anselm of Canterbury in his Homilia IX or Aelred of Rievaulx in his Sermon on the Assumption of the Virgin, interpreted the castellum as the Virgin Mary’s body in which Christ found refuge. This theological allegory was widely employed by religious authors, notably by the bishop of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste, in his Anglo-Norman poem Château d’amour, written between 1215 and 1253. Grosseteste described in detail a castle that is the Virgin and he linked each of the castle’s features, such as the towers, the baileys and the keep, with a specific Virtue. The castle has a closed gate through which Christ entered and left.82 Copies of Grosseteste’s text were read in France and England, but the idea of the Virgin as a castle was already widespread. It was illustrated by artists, for example, in the decoration of the east cloister range of the abbey of Saint-Aubin at Angers, probably from the third quarter of the twelfth century, where a double-arched opening flanking the chapter-house associates sculpture and painting.83 The spandrel of the two rounded arches contained within a larger arch depicts a sculpted Virgin and ←400 | 401→Child, flanked by censing angels (Fig. 7). Surrounding the Virgin on the main arch are carved angels. The voussoirs of the double arches, however, are painted and show scenes from the life of Christ, including the Magi before Herod, the Adoration of the Magi, the Massacre of the Innocents and the figure of King Herod on a throne, as well as a fortified castle with a closed gate at the centre. This massive keep can be read with the scenes from the Life of Christ as the Jerusalem of King Herod but equally, depicted immediately underneath the Virgin, as a symbol of the Virgin and metaphor of the Incarnation.

The earliest image that combines all the elements of the allegorical Castle of Love is usually considered to be a miniature in the Peterborough Psalter, made for Abbot Geoffrey of Crowland (Fig. 8). The psalter must date to before 1318 when Abbot Geoffrey died.84 The miniature includes many of the features that can be found on the ivories: a castle built from squared stone with a central tower, battlements and a gate with a raised portcullis is besieged by knights in armour with swords. The knights are climbing the sides of the castle on ladders and the women defend themselves by hurling five-petalled flowers, one is shooting a flower instead of an arrow from a bow. In the centre of the highest tower sits a crowned female figure, holding a flower in each of her hands. In contrast to the women on the ivory images, however, these women do not welcome the knights but defend themselves valiantly. It is no coincidence that the ladder, which one of the knights scales, is not a rope ladder, which would have had to been lowered by the women above, as on the ivory from the V&A. And the roses of these women are no pointless ammunition. A single flower has stunned a knight, who collapses with twisted legs. With such potent flowers showering from the battlements the knights scaling the castle walls have no chance. They are overpowered and all have lowered their swords. The knight climbing the castle on the left is in a position of submission, the knight on the right is being pushed away by one of the women.

Despite the similarities with the ivory Castle of Love, owing to the combative, hostile attitude of the women, the miniature conveys a different message. This scene does not depict amorous encounters and the sweet pleasures of lovemaking but a battle between two deadly antagonists. Moreover, the crowned figure at the ←401 | 402→top of the castle, albeit in the traditional position of the God of Love, is not a winged boy but clearly a woman with long flowing hair. Within the psalter, the miniature is located at the end of the section that contains the collects (fols. 90r–91v), short prayers with requests for help. Wheatley has shown that a related and probably only slightly later depiction of a castle held by women who stridently repel a group of attacking knights, contained in the Luttrell Psalter from c. 1325–1340, accompanies and elucidates psalm 37, 20–30, written on that same page, which is a cry for help against enemies.85 It is likely, therefore, that the miniature in the Peterborough Psalter is intended to illustrate and reinforce the message of the collects by showing a battle between good and evil.86 Virtue was described as regina by Prudentius and was often shown with a crown, which explains the presence of the crowned woman on the upper battlements.87 However, because such compositional features as the castle, and in particular the flowers used as weapons and the siege are typical of the Castle of Love ivories, it seems likely that the illuminators adapted and transformed a Castle of Love scene into a battle of the Virtues fighting the Vices. This suggests, as Ross and Wheatley argued, that the theme of the Castle of Love already existed at the time when the psalter was illuminated. None of the ivory Castles of Love is firmly dated and early ones may be lost. But the question raised by the Peterborough Psalter miniature is not only how the Castle of Love influenced its battle of the Virtues and Vices but also whether the Castle of Love was not itself part of a pictorial tradition that related to the Virtues and Vices, the most influential of medieval theological allegories.

The central problem in trying to establish a connection between the Castle of Love and earlier representations of the Virtues and Vices is that there is scant evidence of a castle being used as the setting for the spiritual combat before in 1215 at Treviso the castle appeared in the context of the secular battle of the sexes. Prudentius’s Psychomachia had been illustrated since the early Middle Ages ←402 | 403→and the fight was usually depicted as two opposing women or groups of people, dressed in tunics, mantles or Roman armour, engaging in direct battle in an open field.88 At the end of the poem, the Virtues build a temple, but by that stage the Vices are already vanquished. Jennifer O’Reilly suggested that the idea of placing the Virtues in a defensive structure might derive from the vertical architectural frameworks into which the Virtues were set in Carolingian ivories of the Ada group.89 A further piece of evidence is a full-page image on a leaf added c. 1100 to a late tenth-century text of Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae in a manuscript from Fleury (Fig. 9). It shows a seated, female figure in a diamond-shaped frame, illuminated in striking reds and greens, in the centre of the page.90 She is holding an oil lamp and the head of a serpent, whose body slithers out of her breast. It has been argued that she represents Lady Philosophy, who appears to Boethius in a dream at the beginning of his text, although that scene is represented by an earlier miniature in the manuscript (fol. 5v). Her attributes, the serpent and the oil lamp, could also suggest that she is a personification of the virtue of learning, which plays such an important role in De consolatione.91 She is surrounded by knights in chainmail, who attack the female figure with long spears. But the assault is pointless; the spears break off as they strike the diamond-shaped structure. The artist has conveyed a sense of a three-dimensional space by showing the knights standing on grass at the bottom of the page and birds in the sky at the top of the page and by depicting some of the knights much larger than others. The compositional advantage of interposing the diamond-shaped a structure between the woman and the knights is that it singles out, encloses and separates the central figure: danger can be shown coming from all around.92 It was only another step to replace the diamond-shaped structure with the depiction of the recognisable, contemporary structure of a castle.

←403 | 404→

The illumination in the Fleury manuscript is crucial for understanding the development of the Castle of Love because it shows that the motif could draw from traditions of using a structure in order to illustrate the allegory of the battle between good and evil that predate Treviso in 1215. The Fleury miniature is, moreover, important in another respect. The knights, who attack the central figure, are dressed in contemporary armour. In this respect the scene pre-empts developments that took place much later, in the thirteenth century, when the depiction of the Psychomachia underwent fundamental changes. As Adolf Katzenellenbogen noted, the sinners of the Virtue and Vices cycle on the plinth and jambs of the western façade of Notre-Dame in Paris are represented as figures of contemporary life, perhaps based on codes of punishment, and a manuscript from 1298 in the Bibliothèque nationale shows some of the Virtues dressed as nuns and as warriors in contemporary armour.93 As Katzenellenbogen and O’Reilly have shown, in the fourteenth century the illustrations of the spiritual combat moved away from Prudentius’s text and were recast as representations of Virtues defending a castle against the Vices, as on a tapestry in the Historisches Museum, Regensburg.94

Further evidence for the suggestion that the Castle of Love developed out of Virtues and Vices imagery is provided by the women’s use of roses as weapons on the ivories. The medieval symbolism of the rose had multiple layers. Roses could of course represent the Virgin. In the Roman de la Rose, on the other hand, the rose stands for a virginal women, who is about to be deflowered, and, more specifically, for her genitals. Accordingly, the roses of the Castle of Love have been interpreted as symbols of physical love and sexual intercourse.95 However, roses also play a role in Prudentius’s Psychomachia. In a key scene of the poem Luxuria confounds men by fighting with violets and rose petals instead of arms.96 The image of Luxuria throwing flowers was part of the traditional illustrations of Psychomachia manuscripts and was depicted in the Hortus Deliciarum, ←404 | 405→where a long-haired, richly dressed Luxuria is shown throwing flowers from a bejewelled chariot with the Vices standing behind her, led by Amor whose quiver is empty because his arrows have already been shot.97 That the women on the battlements of the Castle of Love can be understood as representations of Luxuria is supported by the fact that, prior to restoration, Luxuria was depicted holding a mirror on the western façade of Notre-Dame, Paris, and on the façades of Amiens and Chartres Cathedral she is represented by a pair of lovers.98 This interpretation also provides a further explanation for the presence of Dangier on the mirror backs. The defender of the Rose represents a clue to a different level of meaning, inviting the medieval viewer to question the apparent playfulness conveyed by the scene. Clearly, therefore, the Castle of Love stands within the long, continuing and dynamic tradition of depicting the spiritual battle of the Virtues and Vices.

Although the evidence remains sparse, a tentative account of the origin of the image can now be offered. At the root of the image is a mixture of literary and pictorial devices taken from both biblical exegesis and early Christian writings. Biblical exegesis identifies such structures as the hortus conclusus of the Song of Songs or the castellum of Luke’s gospel as the Virgin; the early Christian allegory of the Virtues and Vices represented good and evil as two groups locked into battle, especially as depicted in the manuscripts of Prudentius’s Psychomachia. The exact point when these two traditions were conflated remains unclear but the miniature in the Fleury manuscript depicting knights attacking a women representing Lady Philosophy or the virtue of learning, who is sitting within a diamond-shaped structure, shows that around 1100 it had already taken place. In 1215, at Treviso, the idea of a castle as the battleground for good and bad forces fighting for man’s soul was parodied in a secular context by enacting a mock confrontation between young men and women in a replica castle. The miniature in the Peterborough Psalter retranslated the parody into a battle of the Virtues and Vices, and the details suggest that it was based on an image very much like the ivory Castles of Love. However, the lack of precise dates for the ivories makes it difficult to say which of them might have pre-dated the Peterborough Psalter and it is conceivable that there are early examples that do not survive. Certainly, the first surviving depictions of the Castle of Love, defined by its references to Ovid and the Roman de la Rose, the acquiescence of the women and their use of roses for a pretended defence, are found on ivory mirror backs and it is ←405 | 406→possible that the origin of the image, goes back no further than the workshops of the ivory carvers around 1300 and represents an invention on the basis of the earlier traditions, both religious and secular.

Having defined the origins of the image, it is possible to probe further into its visual and psychological mechanism and to raise once more the question of its function in society. At first glance the scene shows the knights as aggressors in confrontation with the women in the castle but on second glance it confounds these impressions by depicting the sexual compliance and even eagerness of the women on the battlements. The idea is again derived from Ovid, who in Ars amatoris asserted that women are just as keen on lovemaking as men: Sooner would birds be silent […] than a women persuasively wooed resist a lover: nay, even she whom you think cruel will be kind.99 Owing to the women’s compliance, the image eschews the dualistic opposition between good and evil that characterised the traditional images of the Virtues and Vices. It is part of the subtlety of these carvings that the moralising message is in the eyes of the beholder. In the sense of Nosce te ipsum, particularly appropriate for mirror backs, the Castle of Love left it open to its users whether or not they wanted to enjoy its evocation of erotic pleasure or perceive the underlying admonition. Vanquisher and vanquished, the strong and the weak are not clearly distinguished. If the knights in armour are the perpetrators of violence, why are the women acquiescing so readily? Are they, in fact, representations of Lust, leading the virtuous knights astray? In contrast to Greene’s and Smith’s interpretations, what the image conveys is not primarily gender struggle and if the image is didactic, the coercion of women is not its main aim.100

Moreover, like Ovid’s text itself, the ivory scene plays with the inversion of social codes and moral conventions with regard to sex and marriage. Yet the parodic inversion does not stop there: behind the raised portcullis of the secular Castle of Love resonates the closed gate of the Virgin as a castle. The image reproduces the religious trope of the castle as a symbol of virginity to comic and erotic effect. This technique had a tradition in the fourteenth century and was already known from Goliard poetry, in particular from the Carmen de Rosa, where the author starts a sentence by quoting St Paul’s first epistle to the ←406 | 407→Corinthians but finishes it with a tribute to his Rose, or from the Roman de la Rose, where the Garden of Delight that the Lover encounters is an inversion of the enclosed garden that stands for the Virgin and for paradise.101

The popularity and longevity of the Castle of Love suggests a pervasive approval of or at least fascination with the abstract idea that is conveyed by the concrete image. The mischievous irreverence and naughty transgression of social codes was undoubtedly not intended as a challenge to the norms of the elite society for which it was made. In fact, it could be argued that it reinforced societal norms by implication because the inverted reality was clearly a false one that should not exist.102 C. Stephen Jaeger argued that society’s norms are inverted when there is a conflict of ideologies; thus, for example, the idea of the adulation of women in courtly love developed exactly because of their wretched treatment.103 It is possible that in the case of the ivories there was also a conflict of ideologies, despite the leisure function of the medium. The point of friction here was not the treatment of women, at least not primarily, but the place of women and men in a world that had transitioned from warrior society to courtly society. What was inverted here by turning it into a superficially light-hearted scene was the same social phenomenon of a knight seizing a young woman with a castle through warfare that Duby elaborated into an explanatory model. As the ivories demonstrate the connection between love, women and warfare was present in the imagination of fourteenth-century artists and their patrons looking back at an earlier age. Despite the evidence suggesting that noblewomen of that age cannot be reduced to passive enablers of warfare, the fact that a large number of noblewomen had been being taken by force, highlighted by Duby, remained stamped on the memory and social conscience, needing as an outlet the playful inversion of the Castle of Love. Therefore, late medieval society created the topos long before Duby.

←407 | 408→

Fig. 1: Detail from Bute Psalter, Initial D with anointing of David and a woman with a mirror. J. Paul Getty Museum, MS 46, f. 32v.

←408 | 409→

Fig. 2: Ivory mirror back. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

←409 | 410→

Fig. 3: Ivory mirror back. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

←410 | 411→

Fig. 4: Ivory mirror back. Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.

Fig. 5: Ivory mirror back. Musée-château de Villevêque, Angers.

←411 | 412→

Fig. 6: Lid of ivory casket. British Museum, London.

Fig. 7: Virgin and Child, Saint-Aubin at Angers, entrance to chapter-house. Photo: John McNeill.

←412 | 413→

Fig. 8: Detail from Peterborough Psalter, Castle of Love. Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, Brussels, MS 9961–62.

←413 | 414→

Fig. 9: Page from Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, MS lat. 6401, f.13v.

* I owe particular thanks to Michaela Zöschg, curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, for not only allowing me to closely inspect some of the museum’s ivory mirror backs but also offering generous advise and help with literature. I am also indebted to Lesley Milner, Lucy Freeman-Sandler, Michael Carter, John McNeill and Daniel Prigent for their crucial help with the text, literature or images. Finally, I would like to thank Amalie Fößel for her encouragement to pursue this study.

1 Georges Duby: Medieval marriage: two models from twelfth-century France (translated by Elborg Forster), Baltimore, London 1978, p. 13. See also idem: The Knight, the Lady, and the Priest: The Making of Modern Marriage in Medieval France (translated by Barbara Bray), London 1984; see also Dominique Barthélemy: Kinship, in: Philippe Ariès, Georges Duby (eds.): A History of Private Life, vol. 2: Revelations of the Medieval World, Cambridge MA, London 1988, pp. 85–155.

2 Male Middle Ages was the title of Duby’s book: Mâle Moyen Âge: de l’amour et autres essais, Paris 1988; it was translated into English as: Love and Marriage in the Middle Ages (translated by Jane Dunnett), Cambridge 1994.

3 On the emergence of medieval knights as a social group, see Georges Duby: La diffusion du titre chevaleresque sur le versant méditerranéen de la Chrétienté latine, in: Philippe Contamine (ed.): La noblesse au moyen âge. XIe–XVe siècles. Essais à la mémoire de Robert Boutruche, Paris 1976, pp. 37–70; and, among the recent literature, Constance B. Bouchard: “Strong of body, brave and noble”. Chivalry and Society in Medieval France, London 1998, pp. 10–27.

4 Claude Lévi-Strauss: Les Structures élémentaires de la parenté, Paris 1949. The model goes back to Marcel Mauss’s influential text: Essai sur le don: forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques (first published 1925), Paris 2012. As Alfred Gell: Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory, Oxford 1998, put it: “Lévi-Strauss’s kinship theory is Mauss with ‘prestations’ replaced by ‘women’ ”, p. 9. For Duby’s use of the Lévi-Strauss model, see Michelle Perrot: Georges Duby et l’histoire des femmes, in: Annie Bleton-Ruget, Michel Rubellin (eds.): Regards croisés sur l’œuvre de Georges Duby. Femmes et féodalité, Lyon 2000, pp. 61–73 (68); Steffen Seischab: Georges Duby. Geschichte als Traum, Berlin 2004, p. 60; and Simon Denniger: Der Widerhall des Mittelalters: Georges Duby als Mediävist, Schriftsteller, ‘Annales’ und Mentalitätshistoriker, Hamburg 2012, p. 53. For the wider problems of Duby’s views on marriage, which formed part of his idea of a ‘mutation familiale’ in the eleventh century, and for differences between the approaches of Duby and Lévi-Strauss, see David Crouch: The Birth of Nobility: Constructing Aristocracy in England and France, 900–1300, Harlow, New York 2005, pp. 99–124.

5 Gayle Rubin: The Traffic in Women. Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex, in: Rayna R. Reiter (ed.): Toward an anthropology of women, New York, London 1975, pp. 157–210.

6 See Crouch: Birth of Nobility (see note 4), pp. 312–313.

7 Martin Aurell: Rapport introductif, in: idem (ed.): Les stratégies matrimoniales (IXe–XIIIe siècle), Turnhout 2013, pp. 7–22 (for the quote see p. 14); see also Constance B. Bouchard’s review of the book in The Medieval Review, 14.09.30 (, accessed 18th September 2018).

8 Amy Livingstone: Pour une revision du “mâle” Moyen Âge de Georges Duby (Etats-Unis), Clio 8 (1998) (, accessed 18th August 2018).

9 For the quote, see Paul Binski: Becket’s Crown: Art and Imagination in Gothic England, 1170–1300, New Haven, London 2004, pp. xi–xii, who quotes Clifford Geertz: Interpretation of Cultures, New York 1973; the approach was pioneered by Jacques Le Goff: L’imaginaire médiéval: essais, Paris 1985.

10 For the reasons behind the change, see Barthélemy: Kinship (see note 1), p. 136.

11 The classic studies are Roger S. Loomis: The Allegorical Siege in the Art of the Middle Ages, in: Journal of the Archaeological Institute of America 23 (1919), pp. 255–269; Raymond Koechlin: Le dieu d’amour et le château d’amour sur les valves de boîtes a miroirs, in: Gazette des Beaux-Arts 63 (1921), pp. 279–297; and idem: Les Ivoires Gothiques Français, 3 vols., Paris 1924; more recent studies will be cited in the notes below, but see especially Michael Camille: The Medieval Art of Love: Objects and Subjects of Desire, London 1998, pp. 87–93.

12 Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 1, pp. 403–404.

13 Martha Easton: “Was It Good For You, Too?” Medieval Erotic Art and its Audiences, in: Different Visions: A Journal of New Perspectives in Medieval Art 1 (2008), p. 18.

14 See Easton: Medieval Erotic Art (see note 13); Susan L. Smith: The Gothic Mirror and the Female Gaze, in: Jane L. Carroll, Alison G. Stewart (eds.): Saints, Sinners, and Sisters: Gender and Northern Art in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, London 2016, pp. 73–93; and Elizabeth L’Estrange: Gazing at Gawain: Reconsidering Tournaments, Courtly Love, and the Lady Who Looks, in: Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 44, 2 (2008), pp. 74–96.

15 Margaret J. Ehrhart: Machaut’s Allegorical Narratives and the Roman de la Rose, in: Reading Medieval Studies 25 (1999), pp. 33–58 (for the quote see p. 33); see also Clive Staples Lewis: The Allegory of Love, New York 1958; Hans Robert Jauss: Form und Auffassung der Allegorie in der Tradition der Psychomachia, in: idem, Dieter Schaller (eds.): Medium Aevum Vivum. Festschrift für Walther Bulst, Heidelberg 1960, pp. 179–206; and Paul Zumthor: Langue, Texte, Énigme, Paris 1975, pp. 253–256.

16 Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 1, pp. 363–366; although the ivories are generally thought to have been produced in Paris, there are exceptions and Danielle Gaborit-Chopin: Ivoires du Moyen Âge, Fribourg 1977, p. 483, suggests a Rhenish origin for a mirror back in the Louvre (inv. no. OA 6933). For medieval ivories more generally, see for example Sarah Guérin and Glyn Davies: Introduction, in: Sarah Guérin, Glyn Davies (eds.): New Work on Old Bones: Recent Studies in Gothic Ivories, in: Sculpture Journal 23,1 (2004), pp. 7–12. All the ivories discussed in this essay are catalogued on the website of the Gothic Ivories website (, accessed 1st April 2019).

17 Camille: Art of Love (see note 11), pp. 54–61; and Danielle Gaborit-Chopin: Les valves des mirroirs d’ivoire gothiques et les themes profanes, in: Miroirs: jeux et reflets depuis l’Antiquité, Paris 2000, pp. 120–123.

18 Bute Psalter, John Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 46, fol. 32v. See Alison Stones: Stylistic Associations, Evolution, and Collaboration: Charting the Bute Painter’s Career, in: The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 23 (1995), pp. 11–29, who notes that the object could also represent spectacles; Maurits Smeyers: Flemish Miniatures from the 8th to the mid-16th Century: The Medieval World on Parchment, Turnhout 1999, pp. 121–22; Richard A. Leson: The Pathways of Salvation: Spatiality and Devotion in the Bute Psalter, in: Gesta 53 (2014), pp. 129–154, who argues (p. 131) that the woman originally held a chaplet; and Margaret Scott: Fashion in the Middle Ages, Los Angeles 2018, pp. 46–47.

19 Jules Guiffrey: Inventaires de Jean Duc de Berry (1401–1416), 2 vols., Paris 1894–96, vol. 1, p. 81.

20 Victoria and Albert Museum, London, inv. no. 9–1872; see Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 2, pp. 395–396, no. 1092.

21 See the chapter ‘Love’s Signs’ in Camille: Medieval Art of Love (see note 11), pp. 95–119; see also, for the gloves, John V. Fleming: The Roman de la Rose: A Study in Allegory and Iconography, Princeton 1969, pp. 76, 84–85; for the falcon Mira Friedman: The Falcon and the Hunt: Symbolic Love Imagery in Medieval and Renaissance Art, in: Moshe Lazar, Norris J. Lacy (eds.): Poetics of Love in the Middle Ages: Texts and Contexts, Fairfax VA 1989, pp. 157–175; Smith: Gothic Mirror (see note 14), p. 81; and Alexa Kristen Sand: The Fairest of Them All: Reflections on Some Fourteenth-Century Mirrors, in: Sarah Blick, Laura D. Gelfand (eds.): Push me, pull you: Imaginative and Emotional Interaction in Late Medieval and Renaissance Art, Leiden, Boston 2011, pp. 529–559 (541–542); for the chaplet, Easton: Medieval Erotic Art (see note 13), p. 19.

22 For an overview of subjects depicted on the ivories, see Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 1, pp. 373–415; as Koechlin points out, there are also rare cases of religious scenes on mirror backs. See also Gaborit-Chopin: Les Valves (see note 17), p. 121.

23 See Ehrhart: Machaut’s Allegorical Narratives (see note 15), p. 34.

24 Susan L. Smith: The Power of Women: a topos in medieval art and literature, Philadelphia 1995, p. 174; and Paula M. Carns: Compilatio in Ivory: The Composite Casket in the Metropolitan Museum, in: Gesta 44 (2005), pp. 69–88 (quote on p. 69). See also David J. A. Ross: Allegory and Romance on a Mediaeval French Marriage Casket, in: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 11 (1948), pp. 112–142.

25 A fourteenth-century leather case survives in the Ledermuseum, Offenbach; see Richard H. Randall: Masterpieces of Ivory from the Walters Art Gallery, London, Baltimore 1985, p. 179, fig. 35.

26 Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 1, p. 371; and Gaborit-Chopin: Les Valves (see note 17), pp. 120–123.

27 Encor voy je que leurs maris, Quant ilz reviennent de Paris […] Leur apportent gans ou courroyes […] Et miroir, pour moy ordonner, D’yvoire me devez donner, ed. Queux de Saint-Hilaire and Gaston Raymond, in: Œuvres completes de Eustache Deschamps, 11 vols., Paris 1878–1903, vol. 9, Paris 1894, p. 45. See Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 1, pp. 361–362; Bruno Roy: Archéologie de l’amour courtois. Note sur les miroirs d’ivoire, in: Fabienne Pomel (ed.): Miroirs et jeux de miroirs dans la littérature medieval, Rennes 2003, pp. 233–252; Smith: Gothic Mirror (see note 14), pp. 73–75.

28 Ross: French Marriage Casket (see note 24); and Smith: Power of Women (see note 24), pp. 169–173.

29 See John B. Friedman: L’iconographie de Vénus et de son mirroir à la fin du Moyen âge, in: Bruno Roy (ed.): L’Érotisme au Moyen Age: études présentées au troisième colloque de l’Institut d’études médiévales, Montréal 1977, pp. 51–82; and Earl J. Richards: Reflections on Oiseuse’s Mirror: Iconographic Tradition, Luxuria and the Roman de la Rose, in: Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie 98 (1982), pp. 296–311.

30 Lilian Balensiefen: Die Bedeutung des Spiegelbildes als ikonographisches Motiv in der antiken Kunst, Tübingen 1990; and Sand: Fairest of Them All (see note 21), pp. 539–547.

31 See Stephen Campbell’s entry in Thomas Kren with Jill Burke and Stephen J. Campbell (eds.): The Renaissance Nude, Los Angeles 2018, pp. 108–109.

32 See above, note 18. Fleming: Roman de la Rose (see note 21), p. 76 and fig. 18, draws attention to an image of Christ holding a mirror depicted in a late fourteenth-century manuscript of the Roman de la Rose (Pierpoint Morgan Library & Museum, MS M 132, fol. 130v).

33 Sand: The Fairest of Them All (see note 21), pp. 532–533.

34 Musée du Louvre, Paris, OA 7279; Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 2, pp. 394–395 (1089); Gaborit-Chopin: Ivoires du Moyen Âge (see note 16), p. 415, cat. no. 172.

35 In illuminations of the Roman de la Rose, roses are often depicted as five-petalled flowers. See, for example, Bibliothèque National de France, Paris, MS Français 1572, fol. 3r.

36 Victoria and Albert Museum, London, inv. no. 1617–1855; Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 2, pp. 397–398, no. 1098; Paul Williamson, Glyn Davies: Medieval Ivory Carvings (1200–1550), 2 vols., London 2014, vol. 2, pp. 595–597, cat. no. 204. A mirror back with a similar scene can be found in the Louvre, see Gaborit-Chopin: Ivoires du Moyen Âge (see note 16), pp. 437–438, cat. no. 189.

37 Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, inv. no. 126 C; Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 2, p. 396, no. 1093; it is almost identical with Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 2, pp. 395–396, no. 1092; Williamson and Davies: Medieval Ivory Carvings (see note 36), vol. 2, pp. 590–593, cat. no. 203.

38 Musée-château de Villevêque, Angers; inv. no. 2003.1.401.

39 Werner Paravicini: Die ritterlich-höfische Kultur des Mittelalters, Munich 2011, p. 13

40 Roy: Armour Courtois (see note 27), p. 239.

41 For an example, see Miroirs: jeux et reflets depuis l’Antiquité (see note 17), p. 152, cat. no. 93; and see Gaborit-Chopin: Les Valves (see note 17), p. 120.

42 Ross: Marriage Casket (see note 24), pp. 135–139, argued that a development took place, in which the Castle of Love was gradually crowded out by other scenes on the box lids.

43 British Museum, London, inv. no. 1856,0623.166; Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 2, pp. 452–453, no. 1283.

44 See Stuart Whatling: Narrative art in northern Europe, c.1140–1300: A narratological re-appraisal, unpublished Ph.D. diss. (Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 2010), pp. 37–53.

45 Smith: Power of Women (see note 24), p. 176.

46 See James A. Brundage: Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe, Chicago, London 2009, pp. 417–486.

47 Koechlin: Le Dieu d’Amour (see note 11), p. 291; and idem: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 1, pp. 406–407.

48 Thomas M. Greene: Besieging the Castle of Ladies (Center for Medieval & Early Renaissance Studies, Occasional Papers 4), Binghamton, New York 1995, pp. 6 and 19; and Camille: Medieval Art of Love (see note 11), p. 88.

49 Smith: Gothic Mirror (see note 14), pp. 84 and 86.

50 L’Estrange: Reconsidering Tournaments (see note 14); for the effect of sex-positivism on the interpretation of these objects, see Easton: Medieval Erotic Art (see note 13), p. 26.

51 Rolandini Patavini de factis in Marchia Tarvisina libri II, in: Lodovico Antonio Muratori (ed.): Rerum Italicarum scriptores, Milan 1976, vol. 8, pp. 180–81; for an English translation, see G.G. Coulton (ed.): Life in the Middle Ages, 2 vols., Cambridge 1967, vol. 2, pp. 47–48; for other sources reporting the event, see A. Marchesan: L’Università di Treviso nei secoli XIII e XIV e cenni di storia civile e letteraria della città in quei tempi, Forni 1974, pp. 60–66.

52 See Le siège du château d’amour, Mémoires de la Société Royale des Antiquaires de France, 1 (1817), pp. 184–87, quoted by Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 1, p. 404 note 6. The anonymous author does not name his sources. Greene: Besieging the Castle (see note 48), pp. 6 and 37–39 cites the twelfth-century description of the foundation of Prague by Cosmas of Prague as the earliest Castle of Love occurring in a text.

53 Loomis: Allegorical Siege (see note 11), pp. 255–258, for the quote see p. 258.

54 For a summary and recent literature on the Roman de la Rose, see J. Morton: Etat Présent, Le Roman de la Rose, in: French Studies 69 (2014), pp. 79–86, esp. pp. 82–83; for a bibliography of older literature Karl August Ott: Der Rosenroman (Erträge der Forschung 145), Darmstadt 1980; and for the success of the Roman in the Middle Ages, see Félix Lecoy (ed.): Guillaume de Lorris et Jean de Meun: Le Roman de la Rose (Les Classiques Français du Moyen Âge 92, 95, 98), Paris 1965–1970, vol. 1, Paris 1983 (repr.), pp. xxviii–xxxv.

55 Koechlin: Le Dieu d’Amour (see note 11), pp. 287–288.

56 Carns: Composite Casket (see note 24), pp. 83 (for the quote) and 84.

57 See also Easton: Medieval Erotic Art (see note 13), p. 21.

58 Lecoy: Roman de la Rose (see note 54), vol. 1, Paris 1983 (repr.), line 3485, p. 107 (for the quote), lines 3779–3892, pp. 116–119 (for the description of the castle).

59 Lecoy: Roman de la Rose (see note 54), vol. 3, Paris 1982 (repr.), lines 21316–21748, pp. 141–154, p. 107.

60 Koechlin: Le Dieu d’Amour (see note 11), p. 288; Loomis: Allegorical Siege (see note 11), pp. 266–269.

61 Lecoy: Roman de la Rose (see note 54), vol. 1, Paris 1983 (repr.), line 3789, p. 116; and Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 1, p. 405.

62 3 Kings 5, 17: […] lapides […] et quadrerent eos.

63 Two others are in the V&A, see Williamson and Davies: Medieval Ivory Carvings (see note 36), pp. 590–593, no. 203, and pp. 598–599, no. 205; and Koechlin: Les Ivoires (see note 11), vol. 2, pp. 395–396, no. 1092, and pp. 393, nos. 1082 and 1083.

64 See the catalogue entry by Timothy Husband: 12 Storming the Castle of Love, in: Timothy Husband with G. Gilmore-House: The Wild Man: Medieval Myth and Symbolism, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1980, pp. 71–74.

65 Lecoy: Roman de la Rose (see note 54), vol. 1, Paris 1983 (repr.), line 3141, p. 97.

66 The tapestry is illustrated in Loomis: Allegorical Siege (see note 11), Plate IV; it was bought by Richard Wallace in 1872 and described in: Commission des monuments historiques: Catalogue des dessins, photographies et moulages exposés au palais de l’Industrie, Paris 1876, no. 269, pp. 209–210; it is since lost, see Cecil Robert: The Hertford-Wallace Collection of Tapestry, in: The Burlington Magazine 98 (1956), pp. 116–118; and Greene: Besieging the Castle (see note 48), pp. 27–29.

67 See Lecoy: Roman de la Rose (see note 54), vol. 3, Paris 1982 (repr.), p. 196; Lewis: Allegory of Love (see note 15), pp. 155–156 and 457–460; and Fleming: Roman de la Rose (see note 21), pp. 188–189.

68 Greene: Besieging the Castle (see note 48), pp. 27–29.

69 Alastair Minnis: Magister Amoris: The Roman de la Rose and Vernacular Hermeneutics, Boulder CO 2002, pp. 1–34.

70 Ci est le Romanz de la Rose, où l’art d’Amors est tote enclose, Lecoy: Roman de la Rose (see note 54), vol. 1, Paris 1983 (repr.), lines 37–38, p. 2.

71 Roy: Armour Courtois (see note 27), pp. 240–241; and Paul Murgatroyd: The argumentation in Ovid Amores 1.9, in: Mnemosyne, 4th series, 52 (1999), pp. 569–71.

72 Quae bello est habilis, Veneri quoque convenit aetas, Ovid: Heroides and Amores, with an English translation by Grant Showerman (Loeb Classical Library), New York, London 1912, p. 354.

73 Quos petiere duces animos in milite forti, hos petit in socio bella puella viro, ibid., p. 354. On Ovid’s amatory works, see Alison Sharrock: Ovid and the discourses of love: the amatory works, in: Philip Hardie (ed.): The Cambridge Companion to Ovid, Cambridge, New York 2002, pp. 150–162; on Ovid in the Middle Ages, see Jeremy Dimmick: Ovid in the Middle Ages: authority and poetry, ibid., pp. 264–287.

74 See Gerald A. Bond: “Jocus Amoris”: The Poetry of Baudri of Bourgueil and the Formation of the Ovidian Subculture, in: Traditio 42 (1986), pp. 143–193; and Minnis: Magister Amoris (see note 69), pp. 1–34.

75 Loomis: Allegorical Siege (see note 11), p. 264.

76 Roberta D. Cornelius: The Figurative Castle: A Study in the Mediaeval Allegory of the Edifice with Especial Reference to Religious Writings, Bryn Mawr PA 1930, pp. 1–9 and 37–48; and Abigail Wheatley: The Idea of the Castle in Medieval England, York 2004, pp. 28–30, 80–81, 102–111; see also Jill Mann: Allegorical Buildings in Mediaeval Literature, in: Medium Aevum 63, 2 (1994), pp. 191–210; Ross: Marriage Casket (see note 24), p. 114 with note 2; Paul Binski: The Imagery of the High Altar Piscina of Saint-Urbain at Troyes, in: Zoe Opačić, Achim Timmermann (eds.): Architecture, Liturgy and Identity, Turnhout 2011, pp. 263–273.

77 Jonathan Saville: The Medieval Erotic Alba: Structure as Meaning, New York, London 1999, pp. 19–36.

78 Ibid., pp. 22–24.

79 Cuiusque autem fidelis corpus huius civitatis castellum, Honorius Augustodunensis: Speculum Ecclesiae, ed. Jacques-Paul Migne, in: Patrologia Latinae Cursus Completus. Series Latina, 172, column 1097C; the Castrum humani corporis survives in a manuscript from the thirteenth or fourteenth century, Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe, MS Aug. pap. 137; see also Cornelius: Figurative Castle (see note 76), pp. 17–18.

80 The term is from Saville: Medieval Erotic Alba (see note 77), p. 24.

81 And he [Jesus] entered into a certain town; see Cornelius: Figurative Castle (see note 76), pp. 37–48; G. Constable: Three Studies in Medieval Religious and Social Thought: The Interpretation of Mary and Martha, the Ideal of the Imitation of Christ, the Orders of Society, Cambridge 1998, p. 9; and Wheatley: Idea of the Castle (see note 76), pp. 28 and 80.

82 Le Château d’amour de Robert Grosseteste, ed. J. Murray, Paris 1918. See also S. Harrison Thomson: The Writings of Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln 1235–1253, Cambridge 1940, pp. 152–155; and Kari Sajavaara (ed.): The Middle English translations of Robert Grosseteste’s ‚Château d’Amour‘, Helsinki 1967; R.W. Southern: Robert Grosseteste: the Growth of an English Mind in Medieval Europe, Oxford 1986, pp. 225–230; and Wheatley: Idea of the Castle (see note 76), pp. 94–98.

83 Jean-Pierre Caillet: Essor monumental et exaltation hagiographique à Saint-Aubin d’Angers, du XIe au XIIe siècle, in: Barbara Franzé (ed.): Art et réforme grégorienne en France et dans la péninsule Ibérique, Paris 2015, pp. 194–209; Eric Palazzo: Exégèse, liturgie et politique dans l’iconographie du cloître de Saint-Aubin d’Angers, in: Der mittelalterliche Kreuzgang. Architektur, Funktion und Programm, Regensburg 2004, pp. 220–240; and Christian Davy: La peinture murale romane dans les Pays de la Loire: l’indicible et le ruban plissé, Laval 1999, pp. 156–161; for the architecture see also John McNeill: The East Cloister Walk of Saint-Aubin at Angers: Sculpture and Archaeology, in: John McNeill, Daniel Prigent (eds.): Anjou: Medieval Art, Architecture and Archaeology, Leeds 2003, pp. 111–137.

84 Peterborough Psalter, KBR, Brussels, MS 9961–62, fol. 91v. The date is known because the abbot presented the manuscript to the papal legate, Gaucelin d’Euse, in his life-time; see Lucy Freeman Sandler: The Peterborough Psalter in Brussels and other Fenland manuscripts, London 1974; and the commentary by idem with Bernard Bousmann in: Der Peterborough-Psalter = The Peterborough psalter = Le psautier de Peterborough, Luzern 2015–2016, p. 132.

85 Luttrell Psalter, British Library, London, Additional MS 42130, fol. 75v. Wheatley: Idea of the Castle (see note 76), pp. 105–106; see also Michael Camille: Mirror in Parchment: the Luttrell Psalter and the making of Medieval England, London 1998, pp. 118–119; and idem: Medieval Art of Love (see note 11), pp. 87–93.

86 On the same page as the miniature are the collects with the incipits A domo tua, Deus a quo, Ecclesie tue, Animabus quesumus, Deus qui es sanctorum, Sandler and Bousmanne: Commentary to Der Peterborough-Psalter (see note 84), pp. 54–55.

87 Jauss: Form und Auffassung der Allegorie (see note 15), p. 189; for examples, see Adolf Katzenellenbogen: Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Mediaeval Art from Early Christian Times to the Thirteenth Century (first published 1939), Toronto, Buffalo, London 1989, fig. 19 (jamb figures, western façade, Strasbourg Cathedral) and 21 (reliquary, Troyes).

88 Katzenellenbogen: Virtues and Vices (see note 87), pp. 1–13; see also Richard Stettiner: Die illustrierten Prudentius-Handschriften, 2 vols., Berlin 1895–1905; and Helen Woodruff: Illustrated Manuscripts of Prudentius, Cambridge 1930.

89 Jennifer O’Reilly: Studies in the Iconography of the Virtues and Vices, New York, London 1988, pp. 61–62.

90 Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, MS lat. 6401, f.13v. Claire Breay, Joanna Story: Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, London 2018, pp. 256–57; with references to earlier literature.

91 For the attributes of lamp and serpent, see Psalm 119,105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path; and Matthew 10,16: Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves.

92 See also Saville: Medieval Erotic Alba (see note 77), p. 25.

93 Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 15158; see Stettiner: Prudentius-Handschriften (see note 88), vol. 1, Berlin 1895, pp. 144–148; Woodruff: Prudentius (see note 88), pp. 47–48; Katzenellenbogen: Virtues and Vices (see note 87), p. 7.

94 Katzenellenbogen: Virtues and Vices (see note 87), pp. 75–81; O’Reilly: Studies in the Iconography (see note 89), pp. 53–65.

95 Camille: Medieval Art of Love (see note 11), pp. 107–111; Roy: Armour Courtois (see note 27); and Easton: Medieval Erotic Art (see note 13), p. 21.

96 […] sed violas lasciva iacit foliisque rosarum dimicat, Prudentius, ed. and trans. Henry John Thomson, 2 vols., Cambridge MA 1949–1953, vol. 1, p. 300. See also O’Reilly: Studies in the Iconography (see note 89), p. 65.

97 Herrad von Landsberg: Hortus Deliciarum, ed. Rosalie Green, 2 vols., London 1979, vol. 2, plate 114, fol. 201v.

98 Katzenellenbogen: Virtues and Vices (see note 87), p. 76; and Camille: Medieval Art of Love (see note 11), p. 133.

99 Vere prius volucres taceant […] Femina quam juveni blande temptata repugnet: haec quoque, quam poteris credere nolle, volet. Ovid. The Art of love and other poems, ed. by Jeffrey Henderson with an English translation by J.H. Mozley, revised by G. P. Goold (Loeb Classical Library), Cambridge MA 1979, pp. 30–32.

100 See Bea Lundt: Das Geschlecht von Krieg im Mittelalter. Der Ritter – eine Ikone heldenhafter Männlichkeit, in: Andreas Obenaus, Christoph Kaindel (eds.): Krieg im mittelalterlichen Abendland, vol. 2, Wien 2010, pp. 211–235.

101 Si linguis d’angelis loquar et humanis, non valeret exprimi palma et humanis, in: Johann Andreas Schmeller (ed.): Carmina Burana: Lieder und Gedichte, Breslau 1883, p. 156; the first phrase is taken from 1 Cor 13,1, see Jean-Charles Payen: L’art d’aimer chez Guillaume de Lorris, in: Jean Dufournet (ed.): Etudes sur le Roman de la Rose de Guillaume de Lorris, Geneva 1984, pp. 105–144, esp. 107–108.

102 See Sebastiaan Ostkamp: The world upside down. Secular badges and the iconography of the Late Medieval Period: ordinary pins with multiple meanings, in: Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 1–2 (2009), pp. 107–125.

103 C. Stephen Jaeger: The Origins of Courtliness: Civilizing Trends and the Formation of Courtly Ideals, 939–1210, Philadelphia 1985, pp. 205–210, 213, 267–268; see also Joachim Bumke: Literatur und Gesellschaft im hohen Mittelalter, Munich 21986, pp. 503–571.