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.
(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.
One of the oldest and most beautiful surviving copies of Dante’s “Inferno” is preserved in Italy in San Daniele del Friuli, near Udine. It is part of the astonishing collection of over 12,000 manuscripts owned by theBiblioteca Guarneriana, one of Europe’s most ancient public libraries, founded in 1466 by scholar ad humanist Guarnerio d’Artegna.
The manuscript – catalogued as “ms. Fontaniano 200” – was copied in the XIVth century. It is fully illustrated with high quality miniatures, and containes two commentaries of Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece: one, written in Latin, by Graziolo de’ Bambaglioli, the other composed in Italian “volgare” between 1324 and 1334 by an anonymous but very intriguing author.
Guarneriana’s Codex 200 has been studied by several scholars and is now available in a very accurate fac-simile edition by Italian publisherRoberto Vattoriwhich will be presented, together with two important fac-simile editions of Longobard manuscripts by Capsa Ars Scriptoria (Codice Cividalese XXVIII, Paolus Diaconus’s “Historia Langobardorum”, and Codex Cavensis 4, “Leges Langobardorum), during the “MEDIOEVALIA: Medioevo e Medioevi in Guarneriana” Conference on October 22, 2016.
Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated #Manuscripts on display at Fitzwilliam’s in #Cambridge @FitzMuseum_UK
CAMBRIDGE (UK) – A new exhibition in Cambridge, UK celebrates the Fitzwilliam Museum’s 2016 bicentenary with a stunning display of 150 manuscripts from its rich collections – many on display for the first time. “Colour. The Art and Science of Illuminated manuscripts” shows a collection which ranges from the prayer books of European royalty and merchants to local treasures like the Macclesfield Psalter, from an alchemical scroll and a duchess’ wedding gift to the ABC of a five-year old princess.
The Fitzwilliam preserves the finest and largest museum collection of illuminated manuscripts in existence, and manuscripts were at the heart of the Founder’s collection with which the Museum was established in 1816. Among the treasures which Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion (1745-1816), bequeathed to the University of Cambridge were 130 illuminated manuscripts.
In his 1895 catalogue of the Founder’s collection, the Fitzwilliam Director Montague Rhodes James appealed to potential benefactors to think of the Museum as a place where their ‘manuscripts would be choicely valued, religiously preserved, and minutely investigated.’ Among the bequests and donations which flowed into the Museum over the next two decades was one of the largest and finest private collections of medieval manuscripts. In 1904, the astronomer and inventor Frank McClean bequeathed over 200 volumes and some 130 illuminated fragments. The 1912 bequest of Charles Brinsley Marlay’s eclectic collection included one of the largest groups of illuminated fragments ever amassed – well over 250. These bequests quadrupled and diversified the Museum’s holdings.
The collection grew further under James’ successor, Sydney Cockerell, the longest serving and most acquisitive Fitzwilliam Director (1908-1937) to date. His vision, scholarship and passion for manuscripts have inspired more recent acquisitions, notably the Macclesfield Psalter, purchased in 2005 with overwhelming public support.
The exhibit also showcases advanced research undertaken by the Fitzwilliam’s curators, scientists and conservators involved in the Cambridge Illuminations and MINIARE projects. It celebrates modern-day discoveries inspired by collections assembled over 200 years. These discoveries can be seen on display at the Museum until December 30th or can be explored online at this link.
VISIONS OF A JUDGEMENT – As reported on the World Digital Library, “around the year 776, a monk by the name of Beato or Beatus, possibly the abbot of the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, wrote a work entitled Comentarios al Apocalipsis (Commentary on the apocalypse), which had an extraordinary success in the following five centuries. Thanks to his great erudition, Beato combined in this text, as a summa, many commentaries on the topic of the apocalypse by such authors as Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Isidore of Seville, and the 4th-century scholar Ticonius. The genre of apocalyptic literature appeared in the Jewish tradition in the second century BC and had never ceased to be practiced. Obsessed like his contemporaries with the imminent coming of the end of the world, which, according to the calculations of the six ages was to take place in the year 800 (838 in the Spanish era), Beato wrote this work for the edification of his monks. He emphasized that, after the final terrifying catastrophes announced by Saint John the Evangelist, good would triumph over evil”.
The original codex most likely was illuminated but unfortunately has not been preserved. Only 35 manuscript copies dating from the 9th century to the 13th century have survived. By semantic extension, these manuscripts are called beato, and 26 of them are illuminated while some others are only fragments. Two are preserved at the BNE, the National Library of Spain.
EXPO & WEBSITE – The BNE exposition will mainly feature the most iconic manuscript of the corpus, the so called “Facundus” – Codex Vitr/14/2 -, commissioned in 1047 by King Fernando I of León and Castille and Queen Sancha, and possibly done by a monk or scribe named Facundo in San Isidoro de León. Its 98 miniatures, endowed with amazing expressiveness, are distributed mostly on colorful horizontal stripes in a unique and unmistakable style that blends the Romanesque with various Mozarab and North African influences. Prominent among them are the Four Horsemen, the vision of celestial Jerusalem, the seven-headed snake, and the destruction of Babylon. The manuscript, owned by the Marquis of Mondéjar in the late 17th century, was confiscated with the rest of his library by Philip V during the War of the Spanish Succession.
The BNE has also announced the creation of a website entirely dedicated to the corpus of manuscripts. The series of the Beatus codexes have been included in the Unesco Memory of the World Register in 2015.
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.