The Battle of Roncevaux (1475-1500). Victoria and Albert Museum, Accession no. T.95-1962. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Item unum pannum storiatum de Francia tenendi retro mensam.

Johannes Ricavi, a member of one of Marseille's pedigreed families, died on 22 November 1410, after having drawn up a testament in which he named his son, Gaspar, as his heir. Gaspar appeared in court on the 18th of December requesting permission to compile an inventory of the estate. His late father, like many of his fellow citizens, had been in the business of producing and selling wine, probably for export. The inventory lists two storerooms, both full of barrels of wine, and an extensive array of wine-making equipment, including a table or stand from which wine could be sold to prospective buyers.

In his private life, Johannes had an eye for the decorative arts and the means to satisfy his taste in bright colors. His bedroom is unusual in the DALME collection in being described as "the painted room" (camera picta), a phrase possibly referring to wall paintings or murals. In the room, his son Gaspar found and described a bed frame "painted in the color green." Draped around the bed were bed curtains in the color slate-blue (lividus). In a nearby bedroom, the curtains were colored green, more usual in the landscape of bed curtains, though these were decorated with lilies and birds, a detail we don't find in other inventories. Nearby, Gaspar found a painted chest, referring perhaps to the type of decorated chest known in Italy as a cassone. The colors go on and on: two houppelandes made of a purple cloth, one of which was lined with fox fur; a hooded cloak in a sky-blue color (celestinus) lined with black; another in turquoise and green; hoods in brown and ruby red; a houppelande in blood red lined with vair; a lady's garment of sendal worked with gold thread. The house also contained bedspreads or quilts in a medley of colors: yellow, ruby red, and green. But undoubtedly the most glorious decoration in the house, unprecedented among the household inventories of Marseille, was a historiated cloth, from France, which appears to have been intended for mounting on the wall behind the dining table. It seems to have been found in a bedroom, though, where it may have been temporarily stored away, perhaps out of recognition of the sad occasion of Johannes's death, perhaps because Gaspar had other plans for it.