The Order of Saint Michel was founded by Louis XI in 1469 and was intended as a competitive response to the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece. The Archangel Michael was chosen for the French chivalric order because he was seen as the “first knight” who fought the devil, the enemy of mankind. The Collar of the Order consists of scallop shells and a pendant with the Archangel Michael.
The full-page miniature depicting Louis XI surrounded by his knights is attributable to Étienne Colaud and his associates, who adopted the master’s distinctive manner perfectly. Colaud's style was highly appreciated by the French King François Ier, who ordered at least twelve copies of the Statutes of the Order of St. Michel, for which Colaud and his collaborators provided the frontispieces and very likely all of the secondary decoration.
Colaud’s typical style is the result of a shift in aesthetics that was brought about at the very end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th centuries. At that time, book illumination stood in fierce competition with printed illustration. Thus, miniatures became crisper and more graphic in style, showcasing solid contours, sharply delineated colour patches, and vivid, contrasting hues.
The manuscript at hand was likely made for René of Savoy, uncle to François Ier and a member of the Order of St. Michel from 1517 until his death in 1525 The full-page armorial shows two standing lions that hold René of Savoy’s escutcheon, surrounded by the collar of the Order of St. Michel.
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