For the Friday Office, devoted to the Cross, Jean
Colombe has represented the Revealing of the True
Cross, as told in Jacopo da Voragine's The Golden Legend.
Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, was generally considered responsible for the fourth-century excavations on Mount Calvary which led to the discovery of the Cross. Because there was doubt as to which of the three crosses had served for the crucifixion of Christ, the Bishop of Jerusalem ordered each one to be placed in turn beside a dying woman. When she touched the True Cross, she was miraculously cured.
In the miniature we see the woman, who had been lying prostrate on the Cross, sitting up. Kneeling before her, Saint Helena and the attendants are overcome with astonishment. Among the group on the right is a figure wearing a pointed cap, who probably represents the Jew who knew the secret of the crosses' location.
This pleasant scene painted in harmonious tones offers, as usual, a handsome landscape of mountains and lakes suggested to Jean Colombe by the Savoie region. It is surrounded by an architectural frame similar to those executed by the artist in his other miniatures.
Below, cherubs hold a scroll on which are inscribed the first words of the service for the Revealing of the Cross; like the little angels in the miniature of The Man of Sorrows (folio 75r), they call to mind Jean Fouquet's cherubs in the Heures d'Etienne Chevalier(circa 1455).
small image (31KB) --- large image (255KB) --- Architectural detail (large) (179KB) --- Saint Helena and her attendants (large) (230KB) --- The dying woman (large) (228KB)