ROME – Between 2012 and 2017 the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican Library) joined efforts in a landmark digitization project with the aim of opening up their repositories of ancient texts. More than 1.5 million pages from their remarkable collections have been made freely available online to researchers and to the general public. The initiative was made possible by a £2 million award from The Polonsky Foundation. Dr Leonard Polonsky, who is committed to democratizing access to information, sees the increase of digital access to these two library collections — among the greatest in the world — as a significant step in sharing intellectual resources on a global scale.
To mark the end of the project, a ground-breaking conference on digitization and libraries is being held in Rome on 30 May 2018. The venue is the Conference Centre at the Augustinian Patristic Institute, which is situated just off St Peter’s Square. In the context of the Polonsky project this free conference will look at the future of digitized collections and their funding, with prominent speakers from different libraries and funding bodies across Europe.
The conference will be in English, with simultaneous translation into Italian.
Welcome from Msgr. Cesare Pasini, Prefect, Vatican Apostolic Library
Opening plenary: From Mabillon to Munich Digital: access, technology and scholarship
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
Session one: Oxford, the Vatican and the Polonsky Project
The Morgan Library & Museum in New York announced the acquisition of an extremely rare manuscript leaf by the finest and most original illuminator of the Dutch Middle Ages, the Master of Catherine of Cleves. The work is from an otherwise lost Book of Hours and is the first to be discovered by the artist since 1980.
The Master of Catherine of Cleves was active in Utrecht, the Netherlands, from around 1430 to 1460. He is named after his masterpiece, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, which is part of the Morgan’s collections, and only fifteen of his illuminated manuscripts survive. The newly discovered page contains the beginning of the Seven Penitential Psalms, written in Dutch, and the artist framed the text in an elaborate gold and foliate border. Figures depicted in the leaf include the Virgin Mary offering her milk
to St. Bernard, David playing the harp, and two fighting birds.
Beginning April 17th, the illumination will be added to the current exhibition on view at The Morgan, Now and Forever, The Art of Medieval Time, which runs through April 29. The show is curated by Roger S. Wieck, the Morgan’s Melvin R. Seiden Curator and Department Head, who recently discovered the new leaf at a European auction house, which did not recognize that it was the work of the Cleves Master. In 2010, Mr. Wieck organized a critically acclaimed exhibition at the Morgan on the Hours of Catherine of Cleves. Visitors will be able to compare the new leaf to the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, two volumes of which are on view in the current exhibition.
“This is an extraordinary addition to the collections of our Department of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and testimony to the connoisseurship and eagle eye of department head Roger Wieck,” said Morgan Director Colin B. Bailey. “The work of the Master of Catherine of Cleves is exceptionally scarce and any new discovery is an important development for art history. We are delighted that we can share the leaf with the public almost as soon as it arrives at the Morgan, and we are deeply grateful to the anonymous donor to the manuscript department who made the purchase possible.”
The Master of Catherine of Cleves decorated books of private devotion for wealthy and noble families and illustrated liturgical books and Bibles for members of the high-ranking clergy. Stylistically, the new leaf suggests the late phase of the artist’s career. This is evident in the thick, angular drapery, the muscular facial features of the Virgin Mary, and the border design and layout.
HEIDELBERG (GERMANY) – After centuries of separation, one of the most valuable collections of manuscripts from the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age – the Bibliotheca Palatina – has been virtually reunited. Heidelberg University Library digitised not only the German manuscripts in its own holdings but also the Latin codices of this “mother of all libraries”, housed in Rome for nearly 400 years within the walls of the Vatican Library, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. The Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation provided the long-term financing that made possible this landmark project in scholarly research. A ceremony has been held on 15 February 2018 at Heidelberg University to commemorate the completion of the digitisation. Project is sponsored by Honorary Senator of Ruperto Carola, Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger.
The technical capabilities of digitisation and the Internet gave the University Library the opportunity to reunite this “treasure of Western culture”, now split between Rome and Heidelberg, into a single virtual library. To this end, Heidelberg University and the Vatican established a cooperation extending over several years. “We are extremely grateful to our Honorary Senator for funding this ambitious idea,” says Heidelberg University President Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel. The Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation supported not only the digitisation of the German-language manuscripts in Heidelberg. Thanks to the Foundation’s financial support, a University Library digitisation studio was set up in the Vatican to capture the Latin codices. “For us, the virtual reunification of the German and Latin Palatina manuscripts is a dream come true,” emphasises Dr Veit Probst, Director of the Heidelberg University Library.
The Bibliotheca Palatina had a long history even before Pope Gregory XV confiscated it in the Thirty Years’ War and transferred it to the Vatican in 1623. For nearly 250 years, it had grown from two sources – the royal collections of the Heidelberg Castle and the libraries of Heidelberg University founded in 1386. With the exception of the German-language codices, which were permitted to return to Heidelberg in 1816, the Palatina remains a foundation of the Vatican Library in Rome. At the beginning of the 17th century, it was known as “the greatest treasure of Germany’s learned”. As a universal library, it contains not only theological, philological, philosophical, and historical works but also medical, natural history, and astronomical texts. It therefore remains of great interest for a number of academic disciplines. The digitised core inventory of approximately 3,000 manuscripts is now available to everyone over the Internet.
(via RTE) Archaeologists in Scotland believe they have located the site of a monastery where a renowned manuscript may have been written in the 10th century. The manuscript known as the Book of Deer, or Leabhar Dhèir, contains the oldest examples of written Gaelic in Scotland. The manuscript belongs to the same Irish monastic tradition as the Book of Kells. It contains the Gospel of St John in full, as well as extracts from the other gospels.
It is written primarily in Latin with notes in Gaelic in the margins. The Gaelic notes are believed to have been written in the 12th century.
The remains of the monastery are located 45km to the northeast of Aberdeen. Artefacts found at the site include a stone hearth, charcoal and pottery fragments.
Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha, Professor of Old and Middle Irish in NUI Galway, said the Gaelic notes contain information on land grants made to the religious community. She added that the discovery of the site of monastery will lead to a greater understanding of its founding, possibly by St Columba, centuries before the manuscript was written.
LOS ANGELES – Medieval manuscripts preserve stories of faith, romance, and knowledge, but their luxurious illuminations can sometimes reveal hidden prejudices as well. Outcasts: Prejudice & Persecution in the Medieval World, on view January 30—April 8, 2018 at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, presents individual case studies that examine the way art, like language, was used to articulate a rhetoric of exclusion. Whether for reasons of race, class, gender, religious identity or sexual difference, medieval society was far more diverse than is commonly understood, but diversity did not necessarily ensure tolerance. Drawn from the Getty’s permanent collection of illuminated manuscripts, this exhibition explores the obstacles faced by those who were perceived as “others.” For today’s viewer, the vivid images and pervasive subtexts in illuminated manuscripts can serve as stark reminders of the power of rhetoric and the danger of prejudice.
“With their focus on religious subjects and tales of chivalry, it’s easy to forget that the pages of illuminated manuscripts frequently depicted social biases,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Frequently, these works were a reflection of social norms and reinforced prejudices that were prevalent in society. In some cases these references may be subtle, in other cases not. In either case it is important to understand these works of art as also being social and historical documents that illuminate both the medieval past and the biases and prejudices that we still grapple with today.”
The exhibition begins with an illumination of the Crucifixion in the Getty’s Stammheim Missal, a masterpiece of Romanesque painting. The image is usually understood as a celebration of Christian belief, in which the sacrifice of Christ paved the way for the salvation of humanity, but this exhibition highlights the institutionalized anti-Semitism underlying Christian rhetoric about the old law and the new. Ecclesia, the personification of the Christian Church, is seen at Christ’s right, while the Jewish Synagoga appears on his left. Synagoga points at Christ, glaring, while holding a banderole (representing Old Testament law) that proclaims “cursed be he who hangs on the tree.” Below, two personifications echo and amplify the antithetical positions of these figures. In a roundel below Ecclesia, the fair-skinned Life gazes calmly across the composition at Death, who resembles contemporary (twelfth-century) caricatures of Jews with hooked noses and swarthy complexions.
“As repositories of history and memory, museums reveal much about our shared past, but all too often the stories told from luxury art objects focus on the elite,” explains Kristen Collins, curator of manuscripts and co-curator of the exhibition. “Typically created for the privileged classes, manuscripts can nevertheless provide glimpses of the marginalized and powerless and reflect their tenuous places in society.”
Some medieval writers and artists altered historical content to align with the prevailing morals of the day. Among Alexander the Great’s lovers was the young man Hephaiston and the eunuch Bagoas, but in one medieval manuscript Bagoas was recast as a beautiful woman called Bagoe in order (as the text says) to “avoid a bad example.” Even as a woman, however, Bagoe is still transgressive. In a fifteenth-century Flemish illumination, Bagoe wears luxurious flowing garments like those of the spear-carrying Amazon women in the background, who were renowned for their military prowess and heightened sexual drive. The literary and artistic interpretation of Bagoas/ Bagoe reveals the predominant prejudice against same-sex attraction and, by aligning her with the Amazons, the pervasive wariness toward powerful women.
Cis-gender women and Muslims often fared no better in the medieval world. The Merovingian queen Brunhilde, a powerful heroic figure who led armies and ruled over kingdoms, fell victim to the misogyny of later medieval authors who cast her as the archetypal “nasty woman.” In Giovanni Boccaccio’s story of The Death of Brunhilde, Queen of France (1413-15) he described Brunhilde as ruthless and vengeful, characterizations that were also applied to Saracens, a pejorative medieval term for Muslims. This parallel may explain the turbaned figures in the margins of this manuscript. In medieval art, the “Saracen” became a catch-all category of people to be feared.
Color conveyed a range of meanings in medieval art. Blackness not only signified race and ethnicity, but also symbolized the absence of light, and thus, God. Demons were often rendered in shades of black or dark browns and grays. In Initial Q: David Before Saul (after 1205), color appears to have been used in both ways. In a jealous rage, King Saul draws a sword on the young David. King Saul’s melancholic temperament is conveyed not only through his actions but also by the dark-skinned demon who resembles caricatured representations of Africans, Jews, and Muslims found elsewhere in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, a period of extreme intolerance and violence.
According to Bryan C. Keene, assistant curator of manuscripts and co-curator of the exhibition, “This exhibition strives to make connections between the Middle Ages and the contemporary world, specifically in the way rhetoric is used to construct society’s ‘out groups.’ Attitudes toward Jews and Muslims, the poor, those perceived as sexual or gender deviants, and the foreign peoples beyond European borders can be discerned through caricature and polemical imagery, as well as through marks of erasure and censorship.”
In an attempt to respond to possible concerns from audiences, the exhibition curators also reached out through the Getty blog and Tumblr, inviting members of the public to comment on the exhibition text as it was being drafted. That ongoing conversation can be found on the Getty Iris.
Outcasts: Prejudice & Persecution in the Medieval World is curated by Kristen Collins, curator in the Manuscripts Department and Bryan C. Keene, assistant curator in the Manuscripts Department. The exhibition is on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center from January 30 –April 8, 2018. Related programming includes “Sexuality, Sanctity, and Censorship: A Conversation with Artist Ron Athey,” a discussion about sexuality, gender identity, and censorship in relation to the exhibition and, “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the Middle Ages and Today” a panel discussion featuring Sara Lipton, Hussein Fancy, and Jihad Turk.
NATURE AND DREAM: STUDIES ON THE REPRESENTATION OF REALITY IN THE MIDDLE AGES
October 7th, 2017
CALL FOR PROPOSALS
1. NUME Research Grouporganizes a roundtable titled Nature and Dream: Studies on the representation of reality in the Middle Ages.
2. The roundtable will focus on the medieval category of reality, with particular attention to the relationship between nature and other worlds, such as the dream, the miracle, the legend, the epic. We welcome studies addressing the problem of mental representation of the real in philosophical, literary and artistic fields, as well as the impact this representation has on specific aspects of European medieval culture.
3. The roundtable will take place at the offices of NUME Research Group (via Landino, 2 – Florence, Italy) or, in case of a significant number of participants, at another venue to be defined. The event will be on October 7th.
4. We anticipate contributors giving papers of 30 minutes. Please submit proposed titles and abstracts of 300 words (in english or italian), with a short academic biography, by August 31st to:
[via Classics at Oxford] The Gospels of Abba Garima have remained hidden for centuries in the Ethiopian highlands in the Abba Garima Monastery – which no woman may enter. According to tradition, God miraculously stopped the sun in the sky to allow Saint Abba Garima to complete them in a single day. Translated from Greek into Ethiopic, their production has remained an enigma. They are the earliest testament of the lost art of the Christian Aksumite kingdom of Ethiopia, which flourished around AD 350–650. Their vivid, finely painted illuminations are at once familiar but also entirely exotic, combining Ethiopian features with those seen elsewhere in Christendom. For the first time, a photo-exhibition in Oxfordpresents to the public all of the illuminated pages of these remarkable books, which are amongst the earliest and most important of the rare illustrated gospels books to have survived from Antiquity.
The three Garima Gospels, as the earliest surviving Ethiopian gospel books, are the earliest record of the translations of the Greek text of the four gospels into Ge‘ez, the language of the Ethiopian Church. They include the oldest extant set of portraits of the evangelists as frontispieces to their respective gospels, which became the norm in later illuminated gospel books. Like most gospel manuscripts, the Garima Gospels have ornately decorated “canon tables” which function as concordances of the different versions of the same material in the gospels. They also contain a unique image of the Jerusalem Temple, while an Alexandrian circular pavilion provides a missing link between pagan Hellenistic and Roman versions of the motif and later Christian ones. The Garima Gospels provide glimpses of lost late antique luxury gospel books and art in Ethiopia, as well as in the Christian East. Their artwork is closely related to Syriac, Armenian, Greek, and Georgian gospel books and to the art of late antique (“Coptic”) Egypt, Nubia, and Himyar (Yemen). The Garima texts and decoration demonstrate how a distinctive Christian culture developed in Aksumite Ethiopia, while also belonging to the mainstream late antique Mediterranean world.
The exhibition – extended to April 12 – accompanies the publication of The Garima Gospels: Early Illuminated Gospel Books from Ethiopia, by Judith McKenzie, Francis Watson, Michael Gervers, et al., which places the Garima Gospels firmly within the historical and artistic contexts of the late antique Mediterranean world.
Organised by Judith McKenzie, Miranda Williams, and Foteini Spingou, with Michael Gervers’ photographs.
Sponsored by the Classics Faculty, the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, and the ERC Advanced Project, Monumental Art of the Christian and Early Islamic East, directed by Judith McKenzie.