January, Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year♥
Illuminated manuscripts are the ancestors of our illustrated books. Famous examples are the Book of Kells, Les Très Riches Heures de Jean de France, Duc de Berry, and Medieval Bestiaries.
During the Middle Ages, le livre d’images (the picture book) was very popular. If one couldn’t read, the image must have been a delight. The most popular book of the Middle Ages was the Légende dorée (The Golden Legend), by Jacobus de Voragine. It was a hagiography, lives of saints and martyrs, but it outsold the Bible. The first printed Bible is the Gutenberg Bible, which I have not discussed yet.
I am forwarding a little more information on the Book of Kells: calligraphy, the influence of the past, its history, the Chi Rho monogram, etc.
The Book of Columba
First, I should indicate that the Book of Kells isalso called The Book of Columba, which presupposes that there was a Columba. Columba means “dove,” and there was a St Columba (7 December 521 – 9 June 597). Although the Book of Kells is Irish, according to Britannica, “[i]t is probable that the illumination was begun in the late 8th century at the Irish monastery on the Scottish island of Iona and that after a Viking raid the book was taken to the monastery of Kells in County Meath.”[i]
The script used by the calligrapher(s) of the Book of Kells is called Insular Script. It developed in Ireland in the 7th century and was spread to England by the Hiberno-Scottish mission. The Insular Script is a Majuscule Script because only upper case letters are used. In the history of calligraphy, the upper case, the majuscule, precedes the use of lower case letters. (See Insular Script, Wikipedia.)
As used above, the word Gothic refers to the Germanic tribes that invaded the Roman Empire. It does not refer to medieval Gothic art and architecture, which followed Romanesque art and architecture and precedes Renaissance art and architecture (middle of the 15th century). There is a Gothic font. (See Gothic, Wikipedia)
(please click on smaller images to enlarge them)
Kells, f 309r, Insular Majuscule
Abstract Art: The Celtic Knot
Also important is the abstract art that characterizes Celtic manuscripts. The main motif is the Celtic knot or Eternal knot. (See Celtic knot, Wikipedia.) However, the Book of Kells features representational art, especially fantasized animals. At the bottom of this post, there is a link to a video showing how a Celtic knot is made.
Book of Kells, Celtic Knot
Book of Kells, Historiated Initial
Book of Kells, Monster
There is much more to tell about the Book of Kells, but I believe it is best to stop here or we may not see the forest for the trees.
It is also called the Book of Columba;
It features the Chi Rho symbol;
It uses Insular Script, Majuscule;
Images such as the Celtic Knot are abstract, but some are representational and often depict rather fanciful animals.
I have quoted Wikipedia abundantly. Photo credit: Wikipedia (all). For images contained in the Books of Kells, please click on Book of Kells: images Google.
Book of Kells, folio 34r containing theChi Rho monogram
I am forwarding a blog I wrote on 18 November 2011. It is about the Book ofKells, a Gospel Book. In order to read it you need simply click on the link below. In order to see the entire book, please click on the link that will take you to Trinity College Library, in Dublin. The Book of Kells is also called the Book of Columba, which means the Book of the Dove and is the name of a beatified monk, St Columba. The calligraphy is magnificent. It is one of the great masterpieces of Western art, and Irish.
You are now familiar with illuminated manuscripts. However I have provided more information.
The new age, known as the Middle Ages and, pejoratively, as the “dark ages,” would last until the 15th century CE and was not entirely dark. In Western European countries, it was the golden age of illuminated manuscripts, many of which featured fanciful and even mythical beasts and are called bestiaries.
It would appear that Celtic monks were among the first artists to produce illuminated manuscripts, but the movement spread south and reached a pinnacle in the 15th century, in the current Netherlands, then known as the Franco-Flemish or Burgundian lands.
The Fall of the Byzantine Empire and the invention of the printing press
However, a thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire, in 1453, the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks and, three years earlier, in 1450, the printing press had been invented. These two events changed the course of history. The fall of the Byzantine Empire brought about a rebirth (Renaissance) in European culture and it so happens that Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1395 – 3 February 1468) invented the printing press as the Greek scholars of the Byzantine Empire fled west, first to Italy, carrying precious Greek manuscripts. So the invasion of the Byzantine Empire, by the Ottoman Turks, the last invasion, ushered in a new age. Europe entered its Renaissance (literally: rebirth) and, as it did, works that had been hand copied mostly by monks in the scriptorium of monasteries would henceforth be printed at a rapid rate, putting an end, however, to the long reign of illuminated manuscripts.
Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1450. (See Johannes Gutenberg, Wikipedia.) The Pope (1458 – 1464), Pius II (18 October 1405 – 14 August 1464) was delighted because the Bible could be printed quickly and disseminated widely. However, despite the invention of the printing press, illuminated manuscripts had a period of grace. Between 1450 and 1501, books could be printed, but blank spaces were left so the book could be illuminated. Books printed during this fifty-year period are called “incunables.”
The Aberdeen Bestiary
Medieval Beast Literature: two traditions
But the Aberdeen Bestiary, one of several medieval bestiaries, was not an incunable and it belonged to one of at least two traditions in beast literature and visual arts. Medieval beast literature includes allegorical bestiaries, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, beast epics and fables originating, to a greater or lesser extent, in India’s Panchatantra, written in the 3rd century BCE, if not earlier. The Panchatantra could belong to a learned tradition stemming from an oral, i.e. unwritten, tradition.
Aberdeen Bestiary, The Beaver (F11r)
The Aberdeen Bestiary: an Allegory
The Aberdeen Bestiary(Aberdeen University Library, Univ Lib. MS 24) is a 12th-century English illuminated manuscriptbestiary that was first listed in 1542 in the inventory of the Old Royal Library at the Palace of Westminster. Bestiaries[i] are not Gospel books, nor are they Books of Hours. They are allegories, which means that each beast, plant or stone is a symbol. Britannica defines allegories as “a symbolic fictional narrative.”[ii] For instance, in Western literature, the Unicorn, a fantastical animal, represents Christ and the Phœnix, an immortal bird, represents the resurrection of Christ. Each animal is a symbol.
Reynard the Fox & Fables
However, as bestiaries — allegorical texts — flourished, so did various beast epics and fables. As noted above, this tradition is rooted, to a significant extent, in the Sanskrit Pañcatantra, [iii] attributed to Vishnu Sharma, translated into Pahlavi in 570 CE (AD), by Borzūya, and into Arabic, in 750 CE, by Persian scholar Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa. Ibn al-Muqaffa’s translation is entitled Kalīlah wa Dimnah. A 12th-century version became known as Kalīleh o Demneh and would be the basis of Ḥoseyn Wāʿeẓ-e Kāshefī,[iv] or Kāshefī‘s 15th century the Lights of Canopus and The Fables of Bidpai (The Morall Philosophie of Doni [English, 1570]. (See Panchatantra, Wikipedia.)
Interestingly, tales stemming from the five books of the Pañcatantra(pancha: five; tantra: treatises) are, first and foremost, about “the wise conduct of life,” i.e. a nītiśāstra, and, consequently, closer to Machiavelli‘s Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli [3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527]) Princethan to allegorical medieval bestiaries. (See Pañcatantra, Wikipedia.)
Reynard the Fox, first written in the 12th century, is filled with trickster tales and tales pointing to the need to consider the consequences of one’s actions, the moral of countless fables. Fables are moralizing, but in a worldly fashion, as befits stories that will guide a prince. As mentioned above, the Panchatantra, or Pañcatantra, has been linked to Machiavelli’s Prince. Yet, the Pañcatantra is not unethical, nor, for that matter, is The Prince, if one keeps in mind that the world Machiavelli lived in was factious and that his prince would have to live in that very world. Machiavelli had worked for the Medici family who were bloodthirsty and in whose quest for power “the end justifie[d] the means.”
Aberdeen Bestiary, The Yale (F16v)
Animals, Plants and Stones as Symbols
There are, nevertheless, similarities between the allegorical bestiary, where animals are symbols, and beast stories rooted, in part, in the Pañcatantra. In both traditions animals are anthropomorphic. The word anthromorphism is derived from the Greek ánthrōpos, meaning human,and morphē, meaning shape. In other words, literary beast are humans in disguise and, in both traditions, they are also stereotypes. The fox is wily and the phœnix symbolizes the resurrection of Christ.
However, bestiaries differ from Reynard the Fox. In bestiaries, we have zoomorphic animals, or animals that combine human and animal features (satyrs, the Centaur and the Minotaur of Greek mythology) or animals that combine the features of many animals (Pegasus, the winged horse). In other words, our allegorical animals are as fanciful as many of Jacobus de Voragine‘s saints and martyrs. Strictly rather than poetically speaking, there is no St George. Moreover, strictly rather than poetically speaking, there are no unicorns, griffins, or dragons. Yet, fantastic animals, the phœnix, unicorns, griffins, dragons and others, are the denizens of bestiaries and have a reality of their own, a poetical, symbolic reality.
Fanciful or “Fantastic” Animals
Most of the artists who created illuminated bestiaries had never seen the animals they depicted. In fact, historians themselves relied on the reports of travelers, from ancient Greece down to Marco Polo (15 September 1254 – 9 January 1324). The Travels of Marco Polo (Il Milione and Le Livre des merveilles du monde) and the accounts of other travelersno doubt contained descriptions of animals, but a picture is worth a thousand words. There is a Marco Polo sheep, but it could be that a traveler described an animal with one horn, not two. That animal might have been a rhinoceros, a real animal, but, short of a picture, our animal could take on characteristics that transformed it into a unicorn, a mythical, or fantastical, animal.
The Physiologus: A Source
Therefore, our artists based their illuminations mostly on descriptions found in books. Their most important source was a 2nd-century CE Greek book entitled the Physiologus. In the Physiologus, the pelican feeds her young with her own blood, the phœnix rises from its own ashes, etc. They were symbols before entering bestiaries. Authors of bestiaries also borrowed from Isidore of Seville‘s (c. 560 – 4 April 636) Etymologiaeor Origins.Finally, although they may not have been accurate, there were books on animals written by historians. The main ones are listed inFrom Bestiaries to… Harry Potter.
I must close, but we have the backdrop. My next post will be on the Aberdeen Bestiary.
Illumination from the Ashmole Bestiary, Monoceros and Bear (Folio21r)
We have seen Books of Hours and I provided a list of other illuminated manuscripts, most of which are liturgical and/ or devotional. However, we will now be looking at allegories called Bestiaries. In Bestiaries, an animal stands for jealousy, virginity, evil, aspects of love, depending on the subject of the masnuscripts.
We already have a post on the Phœnix (listed below) and a very short post on the Aberdeen Bestiary, the richest illuminated bestiary, and at the same time we will look at the history of printing and the history of books. We know that illuminations became our illustrations, common in children’s literature. We also know that medieval calligraphy gave us many of the fonts we still use, but there are other elements.
*When he was 53, Rubens married 16-year-old Hélène Fourment. Susanna Lunden, née Fourment, was Hélène’s sister.
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Just a few words before I continue to write about Refus global or Total Refusal (Refus Global)
Yesterday I received an email in which I was informed that my email account would be closed because I had exceeded the limit. I thought the writer was referring to my personal e-mail account, but the bulky account was my Gmail account.
I started reading the comments and realized I would be reading, approving and deleting for a long time. I therefore deleted a large number of comments, many of which had also been published by WordPress. But in the process, I learned who had subscribed to my blog. These emails have not been deleted.
The moral of the story is that one should look at one’s email accounts on a regular basis.
I apologize to my readers whose comments may not have been posted.
I have written posts on Books of Hours(see list below), a lay version of the Canonical Hours kept by monks whose Gregorian chant is extremely rich. Vatican II, the Council that promulgated a degree a laicization of liturgy, such as using a modern language instead of Latin, had to make exceptions. Gregorian chant was protected.
The anonymous Book of Kells (c. 800), a Gospel Book, is displayed at Trinity College Library, in Dublin. It is a richly-ornamented illuminated manuscript, second or third only, in my opinion, to the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1412-1416). Although the Celts preferred abstract designs, such as the eternal knot, to representational art, Ireland was nevertheless a good source of representational enluminures. The Book of Kells dates back to c. 800. It is therefore older than the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. To explore Irish illuminations, click on Irish or the Book of Kells(complete) http://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/home/index.php?DRIS_ID=MS58_003v.
Franco-Flemish Miniatures: earlier and later ones
I should also mentioned that prior to Jean 1er, Duc de Berry, members of the aristocracy often employed a personal illuminator who was also a designer of coats of arms as well as a portraitist.
Enluminures: an Ancient Art
Illuminating manuscripts is an ancient practice that culminated in the Franco-Flemish Middle Ages, the golden age of illuminations or miniatures, in Europe. The Limbourg brothers are perhaps the most famous of miniaturists, but given that thousands of individuals commissioned Books of Hours and other illuminated manuscripts, it would be impossible to name all of them. However, here are a few names:
in the fourteenth century, illuminators were Jean Le Noir, his daughter Bourgot, Jean Suzanne, Jean de Jouy, Robin de Fontaines, employed by Isabeau (f.) de Bavière (1371 – September 24 – 435), the wife of Charles VI, and René le Maître de Boucicaut, to whom we owe a portrait of Charles VI;
Jean Fouquet, Jean Bourdichon and Barthélemy Guetty lived in the fifteenth century;
for the fifteenth century, let us also name: Barthélemy de Clerc, employed by Henri d’Anjou, Angelot de la Dresse and Jacquemart de Hesdin;
in the sixteenth century, Robinet Testart was illuminator to François Ier. Also famous is Macé de Merey;
In the seventeenth century, Henri Jullien worked for Henri IV.
Printed illuminated books
I should also mention that after the invention of printing, there were times when wealthy employers asked printers to leave blank spaces on various pages so that printed books could be illuminated and, therefore, more beautiful and unique. But, in France, the practice of illuminating books ended in the seventeenth century.
However, to explain the inclusion, in the Très Belles Heures du Duc de Berry, of motifs that were not associated with Christianity, such as Zodiacal signs, it is useful to remember that Christianity retained pre-Christian cultural elements. Illuminating manuscripts is an ageless endeavour thathas its own traditions. For instance, Egyptians illuminated manuscripts, sometimes using gold.
Sources: Mythology, the Crusades and Celtic Art
Mythology: With respect to motifs that are not associated with Christianity, let us mention the presence on the November page of the Très Riches Heures of Greek Mythology‘s Centaur, half horse, half human.
The Crusades: Other illuminations made use of the mille-fleurs motif. During the Crusades, Europeans discovered the beautiful rugs of Persia and other Middle-Eastern countries. Henceforth, they made rugs and tapestries ornamented with such motifs as the mille-fleurs motif. However, the mille-fleurs motif was also used in illuminations.
The Book of Kells predates the crusades. It features the Celtic knots.
I will conclude by pointing out that the status of illuminators was, more or less, the status of today’s illustrators. Monks were calligraphers and also illuminated certain books. As for Nuns, they made lace and fine liturgical garments.
Yet, anonymous artists have defined entire civilizations.