LOS ANGELES – The written word was a major art form in the premodern world. Calligraphers filled the pages of manuscripts with scrolling vines and delicate pen flourishes, and illuminators depicted captivating narratives with large letterforms. These decorative embellishments reveal the monetary, cultural, and spiritual value placed on handmade books at the time. Offering an exploration of decorated letters, Artful Words: Calligraphy in Illuminated Manuscripts, provides insight to the artistic trends that shaped calligraphic practice from England to Central Europe and beyond for nearly one thousand years.
Three types of decorated letters were employed in the handwritten book arts of the Middle Ages: ornamented letters, formed by abstract foliate motifs; inhabited letters, in which strokes of the letter are made up of animal, human, or hybrid forms; and historiated initials, in which the letter includes figures or other content related to the text.
The alphabetic adornments in this exhibition appear in manuscripts that range from a Bible and a Qur’an to books of prayer, law, and history. The calligraphers who made them combined script and ornament to embellish pages, while illuminators developed original and complex strategies for fitting miniature stories into individual letters. Several of the manuscripts feature signatures by the scribes, calligraphers, or artists.
“We consume words in a variety of ways—in handwritten, printed, and digital media—decoding messages that are communicated not just by the combination of phrases but also by their design and styling,” said Bryan C. Keene, associate curator of manuscripts. “Among the highlights in the exhibition is a grouping of manuscripts penned by the famous scribe David Aubert for Duchess Margaret of York, as well as a Qur’an paired with an Italian ceramic vase with imitation Arabic script.”
Artful Words: Calligraphy in Illuminated Manuscripts will be on view December 18, 2018, through April 7, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is curated by Keene and Katherine Sedovic, former graduate intern in the Manuscripts Department. Related programming will include gallery talks, lectures, and more. Additional information can be found at getty.edu/360.
An important milestone has been reached in the Polonsky Foundation England and France Project: Manuscripts from the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, 700-1200. The book which accompanies the project has now been published, in paperback, in English and in French. Medieval Illumination: Manuscript Art in England and France, edited by Kathleen Doyle […]
LOS ANGELES – The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Ca (USA) recently announced the acquisition of the Rothschild Pentateuch, a manuscript of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah. Its acquisition, coupled with works already in the Museum’s manuscripts collection, allows the Getty to represent the medieval art of illumination in sacred texts from the three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an, on view August 7, 2018 through February 3, 2019, showcases three spectacular examples of each of these three: a Christian Bible and a Qur’an will be shown alongside the newly acquired Torah.
“This landmark acquisition fulfills one of the Museum’s longstanding goals of adding to our collection a Hebrew manuscript that can stand comparison in quality and importance to our finest illuminated manuscripts of other languages and faiths,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “It has taken 35 years, but the Rothschild Pentateuch fills this gap more brilliantly than we could ever have imagined. An amazingly rare and beautiful object, richly illuminated with all manner of real and imaginary animals, it also broadens greatly the narratives we are able to tell about life, culture and religion in the Middle Ages. The acquisition will be a highlight of an upcoming exhibition that brings together – for the first time at the Getty – the sacred texts of the three Abrahamic religions, something that I am sure will deepen the experience of these works for many of our visitors, and be a rich subject of study for scholars.”
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam trace their belief in the singular God to a common patriarch, the figure of Abraham. The practitioners of all three religions have been called “people of the book” for their shared belief in the importance of the divine word, rendered in medieval manuscripts in glowing gold and luminous colors on parchment.
The Torah is the central sacred text of Judaism. In the strictest sense, the word refers to the Pentateuch, which contains the books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Illuminated copies of the Hebrew Bible in codex form, rather than Torah scrolls, began to appear in the mid-thirteenth century. In northern Europe, these manuscripts served the needs of members of the Ashkenazi Jewish community who had settled in the area along the Rhine River. Lavishly illustrated Hebrew manuscripts are exceedingly rare, since Jewish artisans were forbidden by law to join painting guilds. Hebrew manuscripts were often written by itinerant Jewish scribes and illuminated by local, sometimes Christian, artists. Illumination of the Hebrew Bible centers on the calligraphic forms of the letters, such as initials, word panels, or decorative frames around blocks of text.
”The three objects on display are exceptionally beautiful artworks that we hope will spark meaningful dialogue among various audiences,” said Elizabeth Morrison, senior curator of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum. “Museums offer more than simply an aesthetic experience. Through exhibitions such as this one, they foster a deeper understanding of history that helps us to reflect on our own shared experiences.”
Among the earliest bound and illuminated codices from the Mediterranean world are copies of the Christian Bible written in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Ge’ez, Armenian, and other languages. The first part of the Christian Bible consists of texts from the Hebrew Bible, referred to since the second century by Christian writers as the Old Testament. Medieval Christians understood it not only as a historical document but also as a body of prophecy that specifically foretold the coming of Christ. The New Testament comprises accounts of Christ’s life, the Gospels, letters to churches or individuals from his disciples, such as apostles Peter and Paul, and a text about the end of time known as Apocalypse or Revelation. Illuminated Bibles—handwritten and printed alike—are among the most enduring forms of Christian book art produced during the Middle Ages.
The words that the angel Jibril (Gabriel) recited to the prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah, about 560-632, formed the sacred text of the Qur’an. The opening line, “In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful,” a central tenet of Islam that expresses submission to the will of Allah, is repeated in almost every surah or chapter. Muslims transmitted scripture through oral tradition for the first few centuries, and later recorded it through beautiful and ornate calligraphy. Artists incorporated Quranic verses into books, textiles, coins, ceramics, and architecture, demonstrating reverence for the written word. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Islamic word spanned a vast territory, from the Iberian Peninsula to northern and coastal Africa, across the Mediterranean basin, and as far as Central and Eastern Asia.
Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an is curated by Kristen Collins, Bryan Keene, and Elizabeth Morrison, of the department of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition will be on view August 7, 2018 through February 3, 2019.
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.
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:
CAMBRIDGE (UK) – (via Cambridge University Library) The wills of William Loring and William Hunden, both dated March 1416, bequeathed books to the library of the University of Cambridge. Their gifts are the earliest surviving references to a library specifically associated with the University. Six hundred years on it has grown from a small collection of manuscripts kept in chests into one of the world’s greatest university libraries. Today, the Library holds over eight million items, ranging from ancient clay tablets, illuminated medieval manuscripts and early printed books to electronic journals, e-books and digital archives. The physical library now fills more than 128 miles of shelving and unseen terabytes of digital content support a global community of scholarship. This long fascinating history is the main feature of “Discoveries that changed the world. Lines of thought“, the oustanding exhibition open at the Cambridge University Library until Sept. 30th, 2016.
Across six themes, this exhibition highlights key moments in the evolution of human thought. They show how the collections in Cambridge represent and underpin some of the most significant developments in human history. Selected items from the exhibition have been digitised in full and added to the Lines of Thought collection in Cambridge Digital Library. Highlighted items from the exhibition are also available in an iPad app, Words that Changed the World, accompanied by discussions by Cambridge University experts; it can be downloaded free from the App Store. An introductory film gives an overview of the themes of the exhibition.
Weekly half-hour drop-in sessions, hosted by members of Library staff, introduce the exhibition every Friday morning at 10.30. More in-depth tours of the physical exhibition presented by specialist curators can be booked here.