Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Fishy Initial.

On my continuing trip through the St Gall archives, I come next to MS 14.

 The manuscript contains five books from the Old Testament (Job, Tobit, Judith and 1 and 2 Ezra). It contains notations in the hand of Notker the Stammerer, the biographer of Charlemagne. It dates to the 2nd half of the 9th century.

As an illuminated manuscript, it's about as minor as it gets; it makes the list because of exactly an interesting initial on page 1, and it's a pretty minor initial at that.

Here it is:

It's a zoomorphic initial, a fish shaped into a letter "C" with vegetal ends. "Fish letters" were a pretty common Merovingian motif, and lasted well into the Carolingian period. This is a pretty typical example. The titles are hollow capitals, filled with green and red. There are a few other hollow capital initials, filled with red through the manuscript,  and that's about it for this manuscript. Perhaps useful, in a minor way as a model.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Small Hartmut Bible (Kleine Hartmut-Bibel, St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 7)

This is something new. I've had this back burner project for a year of so I call 10,000 manuscripts. Basically it was an attempt to gather together a record of all of the "important" illuminated manuscripts. The number 10,000 is probably too small, especially as my sense of what is "significant" has expanded since I conceived the project. I'm now, in addition to the "important" manuscripts, also interested in finding models for my own (at this point theoretical) attempts at illumination, which often means much less well know manuscripts. Now the project should probably be something more like "100,000 manuscripts", but I'm not going to live that long. I'm especially not going to live long enough as long as it is a back burner project, so I need to movie it up. Although I can't devote my life to it, I am going to move it up to a middle burner, at least.

As part of the project I've been browsing through the thousands of manuscripts various libraries around the world have made online facsimiles of, looking for interesting manuscripts.  Right now I'm looking at the library at the monastery of St Gall. They have 580 full manuscripts online, and the number is ever growing. They started in 2005 and have been adding ever since. Their latest batch was put up last month.

So let's look at some of the things I've found:

First up is the Small Hartmut Bible (Cod. Sang. 7). Hartmut was the vice-abbot of St Gall in the middle of the 9th century. I'm assuming that there's a "Big Hartmut Bible" out there as well. The Small Hartmut Bible contains the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus.

The text is in a varient of Carolingian minuscule, and is written in a single column of 25 lines. Titles are in uncials, and the capitals are in red. There is not enough original decoration to warrant notice, but there are two later additions that I find interesting.

The first is this beast.

Added probably in the 9th or tenth century. Obviously someone doodling, or testing a new pen. The beast is described as a "Rising lion with vegetal ram horns, lion's paws, and tail between his legs, with the end of dog head. From the mouth a branch grows.  The inscription is "omnis sapientia a dno. Deo est et cum illo fuit et ii ave" I like this beast and can seeing using it as a model sometime in my own illumination.

The second addition is this:

A portrait of Hartmut, who sponsored the book, added later, perhaps in the 12th Century. I like this because I can use it as a model for initial line drawing of a human figure.

As a bonus the book has one very nice initial. By itself, it would not have been enough for me to include it, as there is no way I can include every manuscript with a pen work initial, but I'm glad to have it as a model nonetheless.

So that's the Small Hartmut Bible. Not a great work, but with a couple of nice things, and great doodle of a beast.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Papyrus Bear

Well, here's something illustrated papyrus which I didn't know existed. British Library Papyrus 3053 shows an bear in an arena lunging at the legs of a man, who probably just vaulted over the back of the bear.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Random drawing from manuscript.

Obviously someone used a blank page to practice, but I like this beast.

Manuscript is a Bible at St Gall. (St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek / Cod. Sang. 7 ) from the 9th century.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

10,000 Manuscripts #192, Persian Diatesseron

Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS Or. 81,  is a 16th century copy of the Persian Diatessaron, a 13th century Gospel Harmony by Iwannis ‘Izz al-Din of Tabriz, which was based on the 2nd century Syriac Gospel Harmony by Tatian. The illumination includes a carpet page front piece (fol. 127) and second front piece that includes the four evangelist symbols (fol 128v.).

The carpet page features a cross composed of five squares, arranged in a cross. Each square has a smaller square at its center and has four equal sized squares projecting from each side. The four projections of the central square are shared with the four outer squares, connecting them to the central squares. The entire cross construction  projects upwards from a stepped base which occupies the lower third of the design. The background is divided into compartments, each of which is filled with self-contained knot work.

The carpet page bears a strong resemblance to the initial carpet page in the Book of Durrow (Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS 57), which is also features a cross composed of linked squares. Nordenfalk has commented that, although the Durrow cross lacks a stand and is composed of eight rather than five squares, there is such strong agreement in many of the specific details of the composition that there must have been common archetype.

The common archetype may have also served as a model for the four evangelist symbols in the Echternach Gospels. Although the style between the two manuscripts differs greatly and the Diatessaron has all four symbols on the same page and Echternach gives each symbol its own page, the iconography in the two manuscripts is quite similar. Each of the symbols shares a common attitude. For example in both manuscripts the man symbol is facing the viewer with his hands held at his chest, although in Echternach he holds a book while in the Diatessaron he does not. Likewise in both manuscripts the lion is leaping to the right with its two rear paws on the ground. In both manuscripts all of the symbols are full length and lack wings (except for the Eagle of course.)

Nordenfalk argues that the combination of the sudden appearance of the carpet pages and the iconography of the evangelist symbols indicates that there must have been a copy of the Diatessaron available to the makers of the early Insular manuscripts, and the commonalities between the two manuscripts are striking. They are especially striking in light of the extreme separation in time and place between the two manuscripts.

S. E. ASSEMANI, Bibliothecae Mediceae Laurentianae et Palatinae Codicum Mss. Orientalium Catalogus […], Florentiae, ex Typographio Albiziniano, 1742. pp. 59-61.
G. MESSINA, S. J., Notizia su un Diatessaron persiano tradotto dal siriaco, Rome, 1943
G. MESSINA, Diatessaron Persiano. I. Introduzione II. Testo e traduzione, Rome, 1951.
Carl NORDENFALK, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Painting, New York, George Braziller, 1977., p. 19-21
A. M. PIEMONTESE, Catalogo dei manoscritti persiani conservati nelle Biblioteche d’Italia, Roma, Ist. Pol. e Zecca dello Stato,1989,  104-108
I. PIZZI, Catalogo dei codici persiani della Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Firenze, Tip. dei successori Le Monnier, 1886 (estr. da Cataloghi dei codici orientali di alcune biblioteche d’Italia pubblicati dal Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, Firenze, 1878), p. 3
G. ULUHOGIAN, Catalogo dei manoscritti armeni delle biblioteche d’Italia, Roma, Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, 2010 (Indici e cataloghi delle biblioteche italiane, Nuova serie, XX), pp. 118-119

Saturday, October 27, 2012

English Gothic

I like early Gothic stuff. I really like English early Gothic, especially the manuscripts,the "Matthew Paris school" stuff. This is a nice example. So what do I like about it? I like the very format of the pen drawing with the delicate tinting. I like the sharp crisp folds of the drapery. I like how the drawing violates the frame. I like the clean lines and expressive postures of the figures. I even like the lack of background.

This is a leaf from a missal for the "Parish de Pirton". The image is dated to 1220-1230. The verso of this leaf contains a 14th century charter for the rector of the church of St. John Baptist, Pirton (Worcestershire). Leaf is in the British Library (Harley Charter 83 A 37).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Roman Glass

When I think Roman Art, this is not what I think. This, however is indeed Roman from the first or second century. It was later reused by the Lombards. I did know that Romans did glass work and have seen a few pieces. Although the shape reminds of the ubiquitous amphorae, I never considered that there would be this much color in one piece. In the British Museum. Image from wikimedia commons.