[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.
The first 100 manuscripts in the “Polonsky Foundation England and France Project” are now available for online viewing. A full list of the digitised manuscripts with links to the viewer can be found on the British Library’s Manuscripts blog here: 100 MSS Online.
The project is a joint effort between the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France to make available over 800 manuscripts decorated before the year 1200. These manuscripts cover a wide variety of topics and images from the Project’s focus of AD 700–1200 (you can read more about the Project or listen to the French interview of Matthieu Bonicel, Head of Innovation at the BnF). Some of the highlights include lavishly illuminated Gospels, like the Préaux Gospels from early 12th-century Normandy, with its amazing miniatures of the Evangelists and luxurious canon tables.
LOS ANGELES – The arts and culture of the Middle Ages were the inheritors of a rich classical tradition. For more than a millennium following the fall of Rome, antiquity was evoked and preserved through visual arts, ceremony, and manuscript culture. Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes, on view January 24 through May 28 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, explores the constant and varied engagement of medieval people with the classical past.
“After the fall of the Roman Empire and the Christianization of Europe, many of the great works of Greek and Latin literature were copied by scribes in monasteries of centers of learning, preserving them for posterity and forming the foundation of medieval scholarship,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “While the rediscovery of Greco-Roman art and literature has come to be associated with the Renaissance in Italy from about 1400 through the 1500s, antiquity was in fact studied and commemorated throughout the preceding Middle Ages. In many ways the classical world never really died, but just receded under layers of subsequent culture. For authors and artists alike, the process of historical remembering in the centuries before the Renaissance often involved embellishment or invention, as stories of ancient rulers and mythological heroes were frequently employed and adapted for inclusion in Christian texts.”
Bringing together objects from the Getty Museum’s antiquities collection with works from the manuscripts collection, the exhibition is divided into three sections. Section one explores the fluidity of artistic forms across antiquity and the Middle Ages. The second focuses on the classical knowledge base that was preserved by and transmitted through the work of medieval scribes and artisans. The last section explores medieval understanding of, and approaches to, the past.
The Language of Forms
“Whether through quotation, emulation, transformation, or invention, the medieval world drew upon the classical, exploiting its expressive visual language,” explains Kristen Collins, co-curator of the exhibition. The styles and motifs of classical art provided a rich vocabulary for medieval artists and patrons. The formal characteristics of ancient Latin script were often employed to imbue religious texts with the authority of imperial Rome. Winged victories, as shown in Earrings with Nike (225-175 BC), were supernatural beings in ancient art. The personification of victory—known as Nike to the Greeks, Victoria to the Romans—was among the most frequently depicted, appearing in a variety of media and contexts. With the transition of the pagan world to the Christian, the goddess was adapted and transformed, into both an angel and a pagan idol. At times both depictions appear together in the same object.
Transmission of Knowledge
The study of medicine, drawn largely from classical sources, flourished in medieval universities. Latin translations of Greek and Arabic commentaries on other ancient medical texts shaped the discipline throughout the Middle Ages. Medieval physicians saw the body as a microcosm of the physical universe. Their practice sought to counteract imbalances in the four “humors” caused by natural phenomena such as the position of celestial bodies, the earth’s climate, and the ocean’s tides.
History and Invention
“During the Middle Ages, history was seen as the unfolding of God’s will over time, and great effort was made to align ancient historical accounts with the Bible,” says Kenneth Lapatin, co-curator of the exhibition. “Medieval authors mined classical texts, which were seen not only as essential documents of the past but also as ideal tools for learning the grammar and rhetoric of Latin.”
In their compendia of classical lore, medieval illuminators often updated the appearances and settings of ancient figures, representing them in contemporary costumes and architectural contexts. Such artistic devices blurred the lines between antiquity and the medieval present, demonstrating how people in the Middle Ages viewed their culture as an outgrowth of the Greco-Roman past. Within a single illuminated letter “P” (about 1300), Alexander the Great holds baited sticks as he is lifted heavenward by two griffins – ferocious composite creatures, part eagle and part lion. While the author of the accompanying text omitted this fantastical episode from the Alexander legend, the artist drew upon an established visual tradition.
Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes will be on view January 24 –May 21, 2017, at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is curated by Kristen Collins, curator of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Kenneth Lapatin, curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and former curatorial assistant in Manuscripts, Rheagan Martin. Related programming will include gallery talks and more. Additional information can be found at getty.edu/360.
### The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.
The J. Paul Getty Museum collects Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts to 1900, as well as photographs from around the world to the present day. The Museum’s mission is to display and interpret its collections, and present important loan exhibitions and publications for the enjoyment and education of visitors locally and internationally. This is supported by an active program of research, conservation, and public programs that seek to deepen our knowledge of and connection to works of art.
Visiting the Getty Center
The Getty Center is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Mondays, and January 1, Thanksgiving Day and December 25. Admission to the Getty Center is always free. Parking is $15 per car, but reduced to $10 after 3 p.m. No reservation is required for parking or general admission. Reservations are required for event seating and groups of 15 or more. Please call (310) 440-7300 (English or Spanish) for reservations and information. The TTY line for callers who are deaf or hearing impaired is (310) 440-7305. The Getty Center is at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California.
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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.