Thanks, Steve. That's one of White's sources; it's good to have it available. I see that trumpet-like trunks (as in the trumpets of Fame) were drawn even in the 13th century, at least in England. Unfortunately most of the illustrations are English.
I turn now to the animals associated with Death: horses, cows, bulls, oxen, and Indian buffaloes.
Here Lynn White, Jr.’s essay, “Indic Elements in the Elements of the Iconography of Petrarch's Trionfo della Morte," (Speculum
49:2 (April 1974)), is quite helpful. He presents an impressive survey of the medieval figure of Death, and before the 14th century finds no animal whatever associated with Death besides the horse, which he says is the “pale horse” of the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse. It would have been logical for the illuminator, having painted white horses for Love, to have painted black ones, or perhaps pale ones, for Death. And indeed in 1414 Bologna (I get the date from another source) that is just what we see, horses that White says are colored light violet and pink (p. 212) in the first known illustration of Petrarch’s Trionfi
Yet in 1442 we see what appears to be oxen (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... -death.jpg
).. What is the history of that animal's association with Death?
In 1323 Amiens, France, White finds Death riding a cow.
Of this figure he says:
The motif must have been known before 1323, because in the missal of St John's Premonstratensian Abbey at Amiens, illuminated in that year, among the many fantastic and grotesque figures
in the margins appears Death wielding a spear, carrying a coffin, and riding a very uddery cow (fig. 192).73 No artist would have produced such a lampoon if his audience had not already known the motif of Death riding a bull or ox.
However another scholar (Lilian M. C. Randall in “Originality and Flair in an Early Fifteenth Century Book of Hours: Walters 219,” Gesta
20:1 (1981), p. 238) gives a different explanation of this figure:
The subject of Death riding a bull appears in an amusing variant in two marginal drolleries in a Missal for Amiens dated 1323. In these earliest known Gothic images, the illuminator Pierre de Raimbaucourt may have been inspired by the Fourth Rider of the Apocalypse sculpted in a voussoir of the Last Judgment tympanum at Amiens Cathedral.
But White notes that the bull or ox continues to appear in French illustrations of Death:
Jehan de la Mote's Voie d'enfer et de paradis, speaks of a corpse mounted on a "boeuf chevauchant moult lent." (74) There are other such occurrences, both in literature and art. (75) (Footnotes: (74) Comte A. de Laborde, La Mort chevauchant un boef: Origine de cette illustration de l'Office des morts dans certains livres d'heurs de lafin du XVe siecle (Paris, 1923), p. 16, n. 5... (75) Ibid., pp. 15-21, or his "Origine de la mort chevauchant un boef dans les livres d'heurs de la
fin du XVe siecle," Comptes-rendus des seances de l'Academie des inscriptions et belles lettres (1923),
pp. 100-113; Liliane Guerry, Le theme du "Triomphe de la Mort" dans la peinture italienne (Paris, 1950), p. 37.
Finally in the new century we have Death on an Italian bull. White continues (p. 215):
All are northern, however, until soon after 1415 (78) when Lorenzo Monaco, in a panel of the predella of the high altar of Santa Croce in Florence,showed Death astride a bull charging furiously in pursuit of a mounted and fleeing victim (fig. 13). (Footnote 78: Georg Pudelko, "The Stylistic Development of Lorenzo Monaco, II," Burlington Magazine, LXXVI (1939), p. 77 and Plate Ia.
Here is White’s fig. 13:
From here it is a short step to the oxen pulling Death’s cart in 1442. But what is the connection between bulls and Death? White theorizes that Christian missionaries to Central Asia came into contact with Buddhist monks, who told them of the Hindu god of death Yama riding a water buffalo. Returning to France, the missionaries then told their fellow monks, who used ordinary bulls.
This theory seems to me rather far-fetched. Besides the improbability of Christian missionaries caring that much about Hindu images to pay attention to them, remember them and tell their illuminator brothers, why would an illuminator decide to use such a pagan image?
The other theory, mentioned by both White and Randall, is that Death and the bull were associated in Christian imagery. Randall points to an image in a Book of Hours (Walters 219) done 1410-1420, either by an Italian artist in France or an Italian-trained French artist (due to both French and Italian motifs). Death riding on a bull (upper left of the illumination) intrudes on a garden party of people enjoying themselves. The accompanying text is from Psalm 123:3, “forte vivos deglutissent nos” (p. 238).
But this does not explain the bull.
It seems to me that the bull would have been associated with Death in two ways. First, the bull’s horns suggest the Devil; it is not only Death that is to be feared, but eternal damnation. The horned animal is a reminder of that fact. Second, bullfighting was practiced then (at least in France and Spain), and even apart from that, the bull was a death-dealing animal. White mentions the first of these reasons, but rejects it because at that time “to a Christian, death is a rite of passage that is indeed a crisis but that it inherently neither good nor evil” (p. 212, n. 59). True enough, but death is when unchristian living reeps its reward, making it all the more fearsome.
It is now a small step from Death on a bull, once we have the motif of a cart pulled by animals, to Death’s cart pulled by bulls (as in http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... -death.jpg
). The association would have been reinforced by illustrations to Dante’s Purgatorio
X.56, which showed the Ark of the Covenant on a cart pulled by oxen, which, according to II Samuel 6:6, Uzzah steadied and was struck dead for his concern (mentioned but rejected by White, p. 211, although he describes a Dante illustration in which two brown oxen pull a cart bearing the ark, while Uzzah lies dead and the accompanying priests and Levites are calm).
Then in 1450 there is another change, which White seizes on. The oxen appear to be replaced by Indian water buffaloes (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... -death.jpg
). Such creatures were actually ubiquitous in Italy at that time; Pisanello drew it, c. 1430:
White does not say how Indian buffaloes are to be distinguished from oxen, but it is presumably by their long horns that go straight back but can protrude forward if the head is lowered enough.
White argues that Florentines knew that the Hindu god of death rode a water buffalo and adjusted their depictions of Triumphs accordingly. There were any number of Italians in India, one of whom in particular, the Venetian Niccolo de’ Conti, came to Florence in about 1444 and dictated his adventures to Poggio Bracciolini, who included it in his De varietate Fortunae
. It does not appear that the item about the water buffalo is there, because White would surely have quoted it. He says only “Niccolo was the kind of man who might well have known that Yama, the Hindu god of death, was associated with the buffalo, a beast common in Tuscany” (p. 219). But I can well believe that Indian buffaloes would have made a fine addition, in Petrarchan illustrations, to unicorns (which White says are of Indic origin) and Indian elephants.