Resales Woman and Suitor

Resales Woman and Suitor
Guy Marchant, Resales woman and suitoress

Simon Vostre: The resales woman
Simon Vostre, Resales woman
¶La mort

Approuches vous reuenderesse
Sans plus cy faire demouree
Vostre corps: nuyt et iour ne cesse.
De gaigner pour estre honnouree.
Honneur est de poure duree
Et se part en vng moment deure
Au monde na chose assuree
Tel rit au matin qui au soir pleure.

¶La reuenderesse

Iauoie hier gaignie deux escus
Pour sourfaire subtilement:
Mais ne scay qui les ma tollus
Argent acquis mauuesement
Ne fait ia bien communement
Helas ie meurs cest dautre metz.
Que prestre aye hatiuement
Car il vault mieulx tart que iamais

The picture above doesn't show what the resales woman is selling, but in the books of hours she is shown with her arms full of clothes and belts (picture to the right).

She's boasting that she has earned two ecus (»gaignie deux escus«) by subtle overcharging (»Pour sourfaire subtilement«), but the money has already been taken from her, and she doesn't know by whom.

Simon Vostre: l'amoureuse
Simon Vostre, Suitoress
¶La mort

Femme de petite value
Mal viuant en charnalite
Mene aues vie dissolue
En tous temps yuer et este
Aies le cueur espouente.
Car vous seres de pres tenue
Pour mal faire on est tourmente
Pechie nuist quant on continue

¶La femme amoureuse

A ce pechie me suis soubzmise
Pour plaisance desordonnee
Pendus soient ceulx qui my ont mise
Et au mestier habandonnee
Las se ieusse estoy bien menee.
Et conduite premierement
Iamais ny eusse estoy tournee.
La fin suyt le commencement.

Death accepts a flower from the loving woman, but the text is without mercy: She is a prostitute.

She is a "woman of low value" (»Femme de petite value«), who lives an evil life in carnality (»en charnalite«). The woman regrets her sinful life and wishes that those who have brought her into trouble should be hung (»Pendus soient ceulx qui my ont mise«).

In comparison she gets a better treatment in the books of hours. As she stands there with her flower in hand (picture to the right), l'amoureuse is simply the female counterpart to "l'amoureux", the male suitor.

In Dutch she is called de vrijester, which is the counterpart to de vrier, the suitor. In Latin they are called amator and amatrix respectively.

Is it possible that a chaste woman could assume the rôle of a "suitoress" in the dark Middle Ages? I don't know, but I think this question is irrelevant. Authors in the Middle Ages were able to create male/female counterparts, without being hindered by reality — for instance the tarot cards include a "popess" as a counterpart to the pope.(1) It should also be remembered that in the English translation, Lydgate had no qualms about adding the Gentilwoman amerous as a counterpart to "the amerous Squyere".

Is it possible on the other hand, that there are two "loose women" in the dance? Could the welcoming woman as well as the amourous woman be prostitutes? Yes, that too is possible. The great number of women in the dance in contrast to the limited roles for women in the contemporary society has resulted in great deal of redundancy: There's a spinster, old woman and woman with crutches. There's a newlywed, a bride and a sweet wife. And there's a young woman, virgin and young girl.

This difference in treatment the suitoress gets in la Danse macabre and the books of hours is mirrored in the way the hospitable woman is described.


Various Artists

Guy Marchand (1491)
Guy Marchand 1491: Resales woman and suitoress
Simon Vostre (1498)
Simon Vostre 1498: Resales woman
Simon Vostre (1498)
Simon Vostre 1498: Suitoress
1945-65-13 (1500)
1945-65-13 1500: Resaleswoman
1945-65-13 (1500)
1945-65-13 1500: Suitoress
Claude Nourry (1501)
Claude Nourry 1501: Resales woman and suitoress
Thielmann Kerver (1508)
Thielmann Kerver 1508: Suitoress
Thielmann Kerver (1508)
Thielmann Kerver 1508: Resales woman
Thielmann Kerver (1509)
Thielmann Kerver 1509: Suitoress
Thielmann Kerver (1509)
Thielmann Kerver 1509: Resales woman
Thielman Kerver (1511)
Thielman Kerver 1511: Suitoress
Thielman Kerver (1511)
Thielman Kerver 1511: Resales woman
Nicolas Oudot (1641)
Nicolas Oudot 1641: Resales woman and suitoress
Garnier (1766)
Garnier 1766: Resales woman and suitoress
Leon le Maire (1856)
Leon le Maire 1856: Resales woman
Leon le Maire (1856)
Leon le Maire 1856: Suitoress
d'Aligny (1858)
d'Aligny 1858: Resales woman
d'Aligny (1858)
d'Aligny 1858: Suitoress
Silvestre (1858)
Silvestre 1858: Resales woman
Silvestre (1858)
Silvestre 1858: Suitoress
Baillieu (1862)
Baillieu 1862: Resales woman and suitoress
Miot-frochot (1868)
Miot-frochot 1868: Suitoress

Footnotes: (1)

The popess . . .: Some people argue that there was in fact a female pope viz. Pope Joan.

According to the legend Joan disguised herself as a man and rose to the rank of pope. She was revealed as a woman when she gave birth to a child. After that her career (and life) came to an abrupt end.

But the popess tarot card is not Pope Joan, who is usually portrayed with her baby. Furthermore Joan was not a popess but a pope, and finally the whole story is legendary, which goes to strengthen my point about how authors of the Middle Ages could create such characters without being hindered by reality.