Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: the Purgatory

Couple of years ago I speculated that the illustration on fol. 79v of the Voynich manuscript may have been inspired by the Purgatory page of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (MS 65, Condé Museum, Chantilly). It remains a speculation - all similarities maybe coincidental.

 The Purgatory illustration in the Très Riches Heures is believed to be work by Jean Colombe done in 1480s when he was commissioned by the Duke of Savoy to finish the manuscript.

We see couple of women being pulled up by angels towards salvation in heaven. The VMs lady with the cross at the top of VMs fol. 79v maybe reaching for heaven...

...while the woman being swallowed by fish maybe going to hell through the hellmouth...

Example of the hell's mouth being depicted as fish from Vaticana, Pal. lat. 412

 ... and the women in the middle await judgement...

Another example of similar layout is from 14th century Occitan (Provencal) manuscript - British Library Royal 19 C I - Last judgement - on top figure is holding a cross, on bottom is the hellmouth

 Again, this is just a subjective interpretation for the sake of a good story :)


  1. I was wondering when you would get back.

  2. Interesting post! I've seen these purgatory images before but the Voynich connection never occurred to me. They are strikingly similar.

  3. Hi Ellie,
    the image of hell's mouth as that of a big monstrous fish mouth is related to the iconography of the Leviathan.
    You'll find many more images like this if you google: Leviathan hell manuscript for example