Poetry and Patronage

Jean Bénard, Sommaires recueils des querelles et pretentions anciennes des Anglois contre les François, Illuminated manuscript, 1572. © The Morgan Library & Museum, Photography by Janny Chiu.

The new exhibition Poetry and Patronage: The Laubespine-Villeroy Library Rediscovered opens at The Morgan Library & Museum on October 16, 2020, and runs through May 16, 2021. The exhibition brings together some of the most spectacular bindings from the library of Claude III de Laubespine, one of the great collectors of the French Renaissance, for the first time in almost 450 years.

Young, handsome, and highborn, Laubespine lived in luxury after marrying an heiress and obtaining the favor of King Charles IX. His brilliant career at court was cut short in 1570, when he died at the age of 25, leaving behind a splendid library. He bequeathed his books to his sister, Madeleine de Villeroy, a patron of the poet Pierre de Ronsard, who praised her, her husband, and the library of her husband’s country estate. The library was eventually dispersed, and only recently have the books been identified and properly appreciated for their superb quality and fine bindings. Showcasing these exquisite examples of Renaissance ornamental design alongside related artwork and literary memorials of Laubespine will evoke the sensual pleasure and literary connoisseurship implicit in a noble library of that era.

Highlights in the exhibition include a copy of Jacopo Vignola’s Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura (1564) in a magnificent and mysterious binding. Also included in the exhibition is Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), by Francesco Colonna, one of the greatest illustrated books of all time. Three copies are on display, one of which is in a luxurious gold-powdered binding: it was a centerpiece of Laubespine’s library, a fitting representation of his collecting ambitions.

Poetry and Patronage: The Laubespine-Villeroy Library Rediscovered

October 16, 2020 through May 16, 2021
The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016


Other Things You Might Be Interested in:

For more information, please visit the Morgan Library & Museum online.

Discover more exquisitely bound books from the French 18th century.

Learn how things could go terribly wrong in the relationship of patrons and poets in this story from France’s “Other Rousseau”.