Science, and particularly geometry and astronomy, was linked directly to the divine for most medieval scholars. Since God created the universe after geometric and harmonic principles, to seek these principles was therefore to seek and worship God.
We are looking at an enluminure from an illuminated Bible manuscript. God the Geometer is from a Bible moralisée made in 13th-century France (1250). God is viewed as a geometer. Yet, geometers could not have existed before God created the world. So, ironically, God is borrowing an instrument that men will create after He has created “heaven and earth, the sun and the moon and all the elements.” Moreover, the instrument reminds me of the Masonic Square and Compasses. (See Great Architect of the Universe, and Freemasonry, Wikipedia)
Discrepancies such as using what has not been created, knowing events before they happen, Jesus redeeming Mary before He was born, awake in me feelings I cannot describe adequately: the ineffable infinity.
For the moment, however, we will glimpse the art of British artists, some of whom had been or were members of the Arts and Crafts movement (1890 – 1920) or had benefited from the broadening of objects and styles considered artistic introduced by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in 1848. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood conferred acceptability to areas of the visual arts that had seemed marginal in earlier years, such as history painting and the illustration of books, children’s literature especially, and artwork that was reproduced, or prints.
Such movements broke with the constraints of academic painting and introduced a democratization of art. The “beautiful” could be found in a piece of textile or wallpaper, the decoration of a room, or to put it in a nutshell: design. Given the breadth of this subject, I will show art by Walter Crane, Arthur Rackham and Sir John Tenniel. This particular post is an illustrated introduction.
Tenniel, White Rabbit, dresses as herald, blowing trumpet (37)
Town mouse and country mouse by Arthur Rackham (Photo credit: Google Images)
Centuries of Childhood
acceptance of childhood
As it flourished, the illustration of children’s literature reflected a major transformation. Childhood was not born until recently, which can be explained, at least in part, by the high mortality rate among children. Too few reached adulthood. Besides, children’s literature had been put into the service of education. It was didactic and moralistic, or so people thought. (See Philippe Ariès and Centuries of Childhood, Wikipedia.) It was as though children were born tainted with the original sin, a condition baptism did not correct fully.
In literature, Æsopic fables flourished long before Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit). There are several illustrators of Æsopic fables who are also, to a large extent, illustrators of Jean de La Fontaine. Jean de La Fontaine retold a large number of Æsopic fables that had been taken away from the realm of oral tradition beginning with Latin author Phædrus (1st century CE) and Greek author Babrius (2nd century CE). (See Phædrus [fabulist], Wikipedia.) These were supposedly didactic, but the Horatian ideal, to inform and to delight, was not always served. Children were delighted and did not necessarily identify with the careless behaviour of a mere grasshopper. The tale was not about the behaviour of children; it was about the behaviour of a grasshopper. Children knew the difference.
Illustrations have solid roots in Western culture. Jean de France, duc de Berry paid a fortune for his illustrated Très Riches Heures. But it could well be that Japonism triggered the British Golden Age of illustration and its large European counterpart. Japan had isolated itself in the 17th century (1633–39). No one could enter or leave Japan under penalty of death. That period of Japan’s history is called the Sakoku period, which ended in 1853 with the forcible entry of the Black Ships of Commodore Matthew Perry.
However, as of 1860, Europe was flooded with Japanese prints. As prints, these were not the unique works of art Europeans created (beginning with the 8th-century Book of Kells). After the invention the printing press, certain books were still illuminated by hand. But, as of 1501, printers no longer left room on a page for an illustrator to illuminate a printed text. The hand-painted printed books produced during the period that spans the invention of printing and the demise of hand-painted books are called incunabula(les incunables).
Contrary to Europeans, the Japanese printed their artwork and these were considered by Europeans to be genuine artwork, despite duplication. Even Vincent van Gogh could afford a Japanese print of which he liked both the style and the subject matter. He did not learn a printing technique, but Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Mary Cassatt did. Art had become affordable and it spread to design, to use a broad term. Moreover, certain artists’ Japonism consisted in including the objects of the Orient in their paintings: white and blue porcelain, fans, screens… Many artists also liked the beau idéal Japan proposed.
Ironically, appreciation of Japan’s beau idéal contributed to the emergence of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and, eventually, modernism. Art Nouveau flourished during the golden years of illustration. However, the most significant element Japonism brought to European art was an acceptance of art reproduced: prints.
Japanese artists reproduced their art, called ukiyo-e, using wood block printing. Consequently, they did not adhere to the notion that a work of art should be unique and original. Apprenticeship consisted in attempting to master the art of one’s master. For Japanese artists, beauty was not a matter of taste. They supported the concept of a beau idéal, which meant that, in their eyes, beauty was one of a kind, but not the artwork.
As it happens, a poster by Toulouse-Lautrec may cost millions. Several copies were made, but few are available and the art of Toulouse-Lautrec is considered beautiful by a large number of art lovers. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is a significant degree of unanimity with respect to the beauty of certain works of art.
Jean de La Fontaine‘s Fables were illustrated from the moment they proved successful. As well, given that many were rewritings of Æsopic fables, the stories they told had the merit of being familiar. La Fontaine had several illustrators, the most famous of whom is Gustave Doré. But Doré’s illustrations are monochrome. Wood engravings and etchings, an intaglio technique, may be coloured, but prints are often monochrome art. (See Wood engravingand Etching, Wikipedia.)
However, we are beginning with John Tenniel, Arthur Rackham, and Walter Crane. Walter Crane illustrated The Baby’s own Æsop. (See Gutenberg [EBook #25433] and Laura Gibbs’ mythfolklore.net.aesopica). Early illustrations were not coloured. Gustave Doré‘s, illustration of La Fontaine are monochrome pieces. Prints, such as the oriental prints that flooded Europe after the Sakoku period, could be coloured, in which they differed substantially from monochrome prints. Both Arthur Rackham and Sir John Tennielproduced monochrome as well as coloured illustrations and both illustrated Lewis Carroll‘sAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
They and Walter Crane are our artists, as space and the nature of weblogs do not allow me to feature Beatrix Potter—who illustrated the books she wrote, the Peter Rabbit stories, Kate Greenaway, and others. All are listed at the foot of this post. Pictures can be found by clicking on the name of the artist. Their work may also be seen at Wikimedia.org. Write the name of the artist and specify Wikimedia.org. However, the art of other illustrators may be shown in future posts.
Sir John Tenniel engaged in nonsense art and Lewis Carroll, in literary nonsense, but Carroll did not write limericks. Nonsense is an umbrella term and, although limericks can be used in children’s literature, they may be not suitable for children. Unlike Walter Crane’s The Baby’s own Æsop, “Hercules and the Waggoner” a fable by Æsop and La Fontaine, and Rudyard Kipling’s “Small boy of Quebec,” which is witty and delightfully naïve, limericks may be crude. But Walter Crane produced Toy Books inspired by Japanese art.
The Little Red Riding Hood by Walter Crane (Gutenberg [EBook #19993])
I must close this very incomplete post, but we have seen a significant expansion of the areas that could be considered legitimate art, from illustrations to design. Japonism played a role in this expansion and it also played a role in the democratization of art as did the Arts and Crafts movement.
Livre d’images de madame Marie Hainaut, vers 1285-1290 Paris, BnF, Naf 16251, fol. 22v. La naissance du Christ est annoncée aux bergers, aux humbles. “Et voici qu’un ange du seigneur leur apparut [.]. Ils furent saisis d’une grande frayeur. Mais l’ange leur dit : “Ne craignez point, car je vous annonce une bonne nouvelle [.]” The Birth of Christ announced to the Shepherds. (Photo credit: the National Library of France, [BnF])
I had planned to write a long an informative post today, but something is wrong with my computer. It is extremely slow. Moreover, I am feeling unwell.
However, I wish to say that I grieve for the families who lost a child to Taliban terrorists. It appears these terrorists were “retaliating.” The teachings of Jesus of Nazareth therefore make more and more sense. “Turn the other cheek,” or the violence will never end.
The Taliban took one hundred and forty-one lives: children and adolescents mainly: “our children.”
I wish to thank our colleague Petrel41 (http://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/) for nominating my blog for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. That is a very kind gesture and I will follow all the rules as soon as my computer gains a little speed.
L’Annonce aux bergers
I used the image featured above in October, in a different context: Natural Histories. Its new context is Christmas and angels. An angel announces the birth of Christ. Marie Hainaut had a book of images. They were enluminures, illuminations. To view more images, click on Livre d’images de madame Marie Hainaut (Flickr).
Photo credit: The British Library Harley MS 4425(Please click on the small images to enlarge them.)
With Richard de Fournival ‘s (1201- ?1260), we are entering a new tradition in illuminated manuscripts, an allegorical depiction of courtly love, a term popularized by Gaston Paris in 1883. As a result, before examining Fournival’s Bestiary of Love, courtly love should be defined and exemplified. Its pinnable is Le Roman de la Rose, an allegorical poem in octosyllabic (eight syllables) verses. Moreover, both Richard de Fournival’s Bestiaire d’amour are “allegorical.”
In 1816, in an article published in the Journal des Savants, a critic [M. Renouard] wrote that:
“The Romance of the Rose is one of the most remarkable monuments to our old poetry. Because of its success and its renown, it once exerted a great deal of influence on the art of writing and on manners. It has long been admired excessively and criticised severely. However, it earned a fair share of the praise it attracted as well as the criticism it generated.” (Quoted in the Gutenberg edition of the Roman de la Rose)
« Le Roman de la Rose est l’un des monuments les plus remarquables de notre ancienne poésie. Par son succès et sa célébrité, ayant jadis influé sur l’art d’écrire et sur les mœurs, il fut longtemps l’objet d’une admiration outrée et d’une critique sévère, et toutefois mérita une juste part des éloges et des reproches qui lui furent prodigués. »
A summary of the Roman de la Rose is available (Rose Summary, 2nd and 3rd paragraphs). However, I am providing a summary.
Bel Accueil and the Lover f. 30vAmour and the Lover f. 22The Lover and Amour f. 93
The Romance of the Rose: illuminations
Several manuscripts of the Roman de la Rose are illuminated manuscripts. Twenty or so manuscripts were illuminated by Richard de Montbaston and his wife Jeanne (fl. 1325-1353), professional illuminators. One of their illuminated manuscripts is the Paris Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal,[i]MS 3338, which is a “page-turner” at the Roman de la Rose Digital Library (Hopkins /BnF).
The finest Rose manuscripts were commissioned and owned by aristocrats and members of the French royal court. The Harley Manuscript (British Library) was made for Engelbert II, count of Nassau and Vianden (d. 1504). As for the Douce 195 manuscript, it was probably made for Louise de Savoie (1476-1531), the countess of Angoulême and regent queen of France (r. 1515-1516).
Roman de la Rose as Allegory
The allegorical aspect of the Roman de la Rose is revealed in the list of Character names (see Hopkins /BnF): the Lover, Amour (the god of Love), Venus, Nature, Genius, Ami (Friend), Bel Accueil (courtesy), Faux Semblant (Hypocrisy or Dissembler), Raison (Reason),Male Bouche(Slander), Haine (Hatred), Danger, etc.
Other characters are Sadness (Tristesse), Old age (Vieillesse), Poverty (Pauvreté), Hatred (Haine), Ugliness (Laideur), Pity(Pitié), etc.
Guillaume de Lorris knew Ovid, which gives us the main source of his art of love. As for our narrator, the Lover, he is 25 years old and tells about a dream. In his dream, he enters a garden and is attracted to a particular rose. It is a walled garden and it belongs to Déduit (Pleasure) who is surrounded by Liesse, Joy, Dieu d’Amours, the God of Love, his servant Doux Regard, who looks at people sweetly, Beauté(Beauty), Richesse, who is rich, Largesse, who is generous, Franchise, who speaks the truth, Courtoisie, who behaves in a courtly manner, Oyseuse, idleness, Jeunesse, youth, and Amant (the Lover).
According to the conventions of courtly love, “the God of Love [shoots] him with several arrows, leaving him forever enamored of one particular flower.” (See Rose Summary, Roman de la Rose Digital Library.) The rose symbolizes female sexuality and the Lover’s attempts to reach her are either encouraged or thwarted by various allegorical characters. Our narrator cannot take Rose. He tries to steal a kiss from her but the guardians of Rose enclose it/her in stronger fortifications. In this part of the Roman de la Rose, the rules of courtly love are set and given that at the end of Guillaume de Lorris’ part of the Roman, Rose is enclosed in a fortress, Rose (the beloved woman) is well nigh unattainable.
Jean de Meun(g)
Jean de Meun completes the narrative. Obstacles are encountered in Lover‘s quest for Rose. These are Hatred (Haine), a nasty person (Vilenie), a felon (Feloniye),a covetous person (Convoitise),greed (Avarice), envy, ugly and old persons (Envie, Laideur,Vieillesse), shame (Honte) , fear (Crainte or Peur) but above all Jealousy (Jalousie).
Lover is helped by Faux Semblant(Slander, usually disguised as a mendicant friar [a begging monk]), and by Amour who overcome Male Bouche. However Raison (reason) discourages Lover, but is opposed by Nature. Venus drives away Danger, Shame and Fear.
Rose is imprisoned in the castle of Jealousy (Jalousie), closely guarded by a duenna. The duenna is won over to the lovers’ cause and Lover obtains Rose. The siege is over.
Castle of Jalousief. 39The Lover and the rose f. 184vGarden of Pleasure f. 12v (bottom of post)
Various stories are inserted in the main story, as this can be seen in the video. We have at least two suicides. We need not dwell of these digressions in this post, except to say that they act as smoke screens. The main message Jean de Meun is conveying is that Nature is love’s most powerful ally. The digressions, however, are a criticism of hereditary nobility, magistrates and mendicant friars. Royal power is discussed as are property, pauperism, marriage, hallucination, sorcery and the physical sciences. There are satires on women who glorify the poetry and songs of the troubadours (the south of France) and trouvères (the north of France), proponents of chaste love and, therefore, precursors to seventeenth-century préciosité, or love disembodied. Chasteté(Chastity) militates against procreation and must be tamed. (See Oxford Companion to French Literature.)
According to the Oxford Companion to French Literature, in the Roman de la Rose, “everything that is contrary to nature is vicious and this is the criterion by which social institutions may be judged. By this we may determine true nobility, true wealth, and true love.”[iii] Therefore Le Roman de la Rose, the summit in courtly literature, advocates real love as opposed to an ethereal version thereof. Through its various digressions it also attacks power and wealth that are a mere accident of birth and therefore unearned.
The Roman de la Rose therefore constitutes the beginning of a long discourse on the social contract and therefore “irreverent” in its days, but it was a literary success that kept artists and scribes busy for a very long time. The poem was in the library of most persons of means.
About the Harley MS 4425
Harley MS 4425, British LibraryRoman de la RoseOrigin: Netherlands, S. (Bruges)
c. 1490 – c. 1500
Script: Gothic cursiveArtist: Master of the Prayer Booksof around 1500
Dimensions: 395 x 290 (255 x 190), in 2 columns (mm)
Official Foliation: ff. 186 (+ 1 unfoliated parchment leaf at the beginning + 1 unfoliated parchment leaf after f. 1 + 2 parchment leaves at the end)
Form: Parchment codex
Binding: Post-1600. London, c. 1900, gold-tooled green morocco; fragments of an early-18th century gold-tooled red morocco spine, armorial binding of Jean Antoine II de Mesmes …
Provenance: Made for Engelbert II, count of Nassau and Vianden (d. 1504)
The Harley Collection: The Harley Collection, was formed by Robert Harley (b. 1661, d. 1724), 1st earl of Oxford and Mortimer, politician, and Edward Harley (b. 1689, d. 1741), 2nd earl of Oxford and Mortimer, book collector and patron of the arts, inscribed as usual by their librarian, Humfrey Wanley ‘25 die mensis Januarij, A.D. 1725/6’ (f. 2).
Incunable: The text of this manuscript was copied from a printed edition published at Lyon, probably around 1487. The illuminators did not follow the illustrations of the printed exemplar. (See Harley MS 4425, British Library.)
[i] The Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal is located in Paris and is part of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), the French National Library.
[ii] Another interesting site is gallica.bnf.fr.
[iii] “Le Roman de la Rose”,compiled and edited by Sir Paul Harvey and J. E. Heseltine, The Oxford Companion to French Literature (Oxford: The Clarendon Press 1969 ).
However, if the Duc de Berry’s name still lingers in our memory, it is because he commissioned Books of Hours from the Limbourg brothersor Gebroeders van Limburg: Herman, Pol and Johan (fl. 1385 – 1416), the most famous of which is LesTrès Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. The Limbourg brothers also contributed miniatures to a
Bible moralisée (1402-1404: 184 miniatures and 124 margins) as well as miniatures, to
We will concentrate on the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, commissioned by Jean Ier de France in 1410 and currently housed at the Musée Condé, in Chantilly, France. All three Limbourg brothers, Herman, Pol (Paul) and Johan (Jean), born in Nijmegen, now in Gelderland, in the Netherlands, worked on Jean de France’s famous Très Riches Heures, but all three died in 1416, aged 28 to 31, probably of the plague, which, in all likelihood, also took the life of their patron, the Duc de Berry.
Photo credit: Wikipedia (all images)(Please click on each picture to enlarge it.)
Completing the Manuscript
The Limbourg brothers had nearly completed their assignment before their death, but not quite. Later in the fifteenth century, an anonymous artist worked on the manuscript. It would appear this anonymous artist was Barthélemy d’Eyck, or van Eyck (FR) (c. 1420 – after 1470), called the Master of the Shadows. If indeed Barthélemy d’Eyck, or van Eyck (FR), worked on the Très Riches Heures, he did so after 1444.[i] His extremely generous patron was Renéd’Anjou (16 January 1409 – 10 July 1480).
However, completion of the manuscript is attributed to Jean Colombe (b. Bourges c. 1430; d. c. 1493) who was commissioned to complete Jean de France’s book by Charles Ier, Duc de Savoie. He worked between 1485 and 1489. The Très Riches Heures was imitated by Flemish artists in the 16th century and then disappeared for three centuries until it was found by Spinola of Genoa and later bought, in 1856, by the Condé Museum in Chantilly, France, where it is held.[ii]
The Très Riches Heures: a Calendar
However, Jean de France, duc de Berry’s Très Riches Heures differs from other Books of Hours because of the prominence of its calendar, a lay calendar. Each month of the year is depicted on a full page and these depictions constitute a remarkable record of the monthly labour of men and women, from shearing lamb to cutting wood and the brothers depicted them in minute details and astonishing accuracy. In the background, of each monthly, page we can see one of Jean de France’s many castles and hôtels. For instance, the image inserted at the top of this post shows the Château de Vincennes. In the front, dogs are eating a boar. The Limburg brothers
were among the first illuminators to render specific landscape scenes (such as the environs and appearance of their patron’s castles) with great accuracy and sensitivity.[iii]
The Limbourg Brothers: Biographical notes
The Limbourg brothers were born to artistic parents. Their grandfather had lived in Limburg, hence their name. But he had moved to Nigmegen. His son Arnold (1355-1360 – 1395-1399) was a wood-carver. Their mother, Mchtel Maelwael (Malouel) belonged to a family of heraldic painters. However, the most prominent artist in the brothers’ family was their uncle Jean Malouel, or Jan Maelwael in Dutch, who was court painter for Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. It should be noted that between 1032 and 1477, Burgundy was an enlarged Duchy of Burgundy, also called the Franco-Flemish lands.
As for the brothers themselves, Herman and Johan were sent to Paris to learn the craft of goldsmithing and upon the death of Philip the Bold, in 1604, they were hired by his brother, Jean de France. They worked in a style called International Gothic. As Jean de France, Duc de Berry’s artists, the Limbourg brothers were first assigned a long project, a Book of Hours entitled Belles Heures du Duc de Berry, containing 158 miniatures, currently housed in the Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York.
Jean de France was obviously very pleased with his Belles Heures du Duc de Berry. He showered the Limbourg brothers with gifts, the most substantial being a very large house for Paul in Bourges, France, where the three brothers resided. Johan seems to have combined a career as goldsmith and painter, at least temporarily, but he was definitely one of the three miniaturists who worked on the miniatures comprised in Jean de France’s Très Riches Heures, commissioned in 1410 or 1411. There have been attempts to attribute certain pages to a particular brother, but uncertainty lingers. I should think that Wikipedia’s list is probably mostly accurate.[iv]
A Wider Symbolism
You will notice that Les Très Riches Heures contains paintings above which there is a semicircle, the folio for each month shows the twelve Zodiac signs, the ecclesiastical lunar calendar as well as heraldic emblems and other relevant elements. Many Books of Hours are also characterized by the mille-fleurs motif borrowed from Oriental rugs brought to Europe by returning Crusaders. In Books of Hours, artists drew from elements preceding Christianity as well as Christian ones, not to mention personal elements. “Their range includes coats of arms, initials, monograms, mottoes, and personal emblems, which are used singly or in all combinations possible.”[v]
Painted in gouache on parchment (vellum), the Tr[è]s Riches Heures includes
416 pages, 131 of which have large miniatures, while many more are decorated
with border illustrations or large historiated initials, as well as 300 ornamented capital letters [also called “historiated” letters].”[vi]
As for the colors, fine pigments were used and blended by the brothers themselves into a form of gouache and, at times, they crushed lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone into a “liant,” a binding agent. They also used gold leaf. It was a delicate process done step by step on a relatively small piece of vellum (vélin), the skin of a calf (veau).
The Limburg brothers and Jean de France died before the age of thirty. Yet, their legacy is an exceptional depiction of their life and times. I am certain Jean de France marvelled at the consummate artistry of the Limburg brothers. They worked at a moment in history when perspective had not yet entered their world, except simple linear perspective.[vii] Yet their folios show the degree of dimensionality that could be achieved in the Burgundian 15th century. Therefore, their art has its own finality and it is love for what it is.
I especially like the serenity of the folios constituting the twelve months of the Calendar. The Labours of the Months do not seem an imposition but the natural activity of simple human beings reaping food and comfort from a rich land and hoping in an age were an epidemic could be devastating. Their faces and gestures do not show fear. On the contrary, they show faith. They are working so that months will grow into seasons and seasons into years that will return until they enter peacefully into the timelessness of life eternal.
N.B. Several illuminations painted for Berry’s Book of Hours inspired some of the backdrops to sets used by Laurence Olivier in his film of Shakespeare’s play Henry V which he made in 1944 on the eve of the Normandy invasion.
An illuminated opening from the Chigi Codex featuring the Kyrie of Ockeghem‘s Missa Ecce ancilla Domini.
We have underlined elsewhere the importance of such collections of musical pieces as the Rossi Codex. Music that might otherwise have disappeared is kept because it is included in an array. There is a second copy, so to speak, that is incorporated in the compendium. Furthermore, a Codex provides an overview of the music of a certain period. The Chigi Codex is one such collection.
The Chigi Codex dates back to between 1498 and 1503 and is therefore just a tad more recent than the Rossi Codex. Moreover, unlike the Rossi Codex, it contains sacred music, masses mainly, five of which are set to a secular melody entitled L’Homme armé. As well, it was probably commissioned by Philip I of Castile.
We should also note that the Chigi Codex originates in the Netherlands, a cultural hub during the early Renaissance. Moreover, like the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, it is richly decorated, not by the Limbourg brothers, but in the workshop of the Master of the Hortulus Animae, in Ghent. As noted in Wikipedia, it is characterized by its “very clear and legible musical notation.”* and is a “nearly complete catalogue of the polyphonic masses by Johannes Ockeghem and a collection of five relatively early L’Homme arméMass settings, including Ockeghem’s.” The partitions it features are early Franco-Flemish sacred music.
According to the Vatican, where the manuscripts of both the Rossi Codex and the Chigi Codex are housed,
The Chigi Codex, one of the richest sources of Franco-Flemish polyphony of the last quarter of the fifteenth century, is also one of the most elaborate and precious of all illuminated music manuscripts. It contains thirteen masses of the great Flemish composer Johannes Ockeghem (ca. 1420-97), including this piece, the opening of Ockeghem’s “Missa Ecce Ancilla Domini.” The Annunciation scene appears in the illumination in the cantus part. The shields and crests were overpainted by the later Spanish owners of the manuscript. Chig. C. VIII 234 fols. 19 verso-20 recto music 09.” (See the images at the top of this post.)
A Secular Melody or cantus firmus
L’Homme armé is not the only secular melody to which a mass has been set. However, because some forty early Renaissance polyphonic masses have been set to L’Homme armé, five of which are included in the Chigi Codex, this aspect of early Renaissance polyphony piques one’s attention and imparts uniqueness to the Chigi Codex.
It is difficult to trace the origin of L’Homme armé. It has been suggested that the “Armed Man” represents St Michael the Archangel. Moreover, musicologist Richard Taruskin has stated that the tune was a favourite of Charles the Bold, or Charles le Téméraire (10 November 1433 – 5 January 1477). Palestrina’s (3 February 1525 or 2 February 1526 – 2 February 1594) Missa L’Homme armé is not included in the Chigi Codex. It is featured in this post because it constitutes a later and charming example of polyphony on L’Homme armé.
It seems an oddity that sacred music, the Mass, in particular, should be set to a secular cantus firmus. By and large, the cantus firmus, or melody, is the product of an inspired musical mind and if anything is borrowed, it is the text, as is the case with masses, psalms, and so many liturgical musical compositions. As for composers of operas, they usually hire a librettist. Lorenzo da Ponte wrote the words (le livret) to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787) and Così fan tutte (1790). As for Beethoven, the choral movement of his sublime Ninth Symphony is a setting of a poem by Schiller: An die Freude.
Setting masses to a secular tune, therefore, seems a topsy-turvy moment in the history of music, but it is not necessarily an easier way to compose a Mass. In fact, composers who used secular melodies, such as L’Homme armé, to set words also dictated to them required inventiveness. The beauty of the cantus firmus plays a significant role in the composition of musical pieces. Still, the beauty of a musical piece also hinges on the manner it has been contrapuntally or harmonically set.
Moreover, let us turn to Mozart’s, Beethoven’s and other composers’ Variations on a theme. “Ah ! vous dirai-je Maman” is very much a composition by Mozart. So are Beethoven’s Diabelli or other variations. In fact, the way a composer develops a musical idea and incorporates a unifying theme, or leitmotif, or “idée fixe,” (Berlioz’s term) resembles the setting of a text to music.
Using secular melodies to set a mass belongs to a period: the late Middle Ages or early Renaissance, but in no way does it preclude music’s finest achievement, the expression of the sublime or the ineffable even where words are said.
But to return to theChigi Codex, we should remember that it is
a compendium of early Renaissance polyphonic sacred music, Ockeghem’s in particular; that it is
a masterfully illuminated Franco-Flemish manuscript; that it contains
settings of masses to secular music, L’Homme armé in particular, but not exclusively;
that it is housed in the Vatican as is the Rossi Codex.
* * *
See Herbert Kellman (Spring 1958). “The Origins of the Chigi Codex: The Date, Provenance, and Original Ownership of Rome, Biblioteca Vaticana, Chigiana, C. VIII. 234”. Journal of the American Musicological Society11/1: 6–19.
I did not finish my last blog. Suddenly, I stumbled upon information that contradicted what I had learned. I therefore stopped to investigate matters. Fortunately, the information I had provided was accurate.
In other words, it is true that in his treatise, entitled the Micrologus, Guido
renamed or gave a second name to the C-D-E-F-G-A set (the hexachord);
and that he used the first syllable of each line of the Ut queant laxis, (presumably worded by Paul the Deacon (c. 720 – 13 April probably 799), or Paulus Diaconus. The Ut queant laxis was a popular hymn to St. John. Consequently, Guido d’Arezzo chose a mnemonic device.
As well, Guido placed the neumes on a four-line staff, to which a fifth line was added later. Neumes could be placed on lines or in the spaces between (as well as above and under) the lines.
However, what he renamed were neumes (rectangles), the name given to notes in Gregorian chant. Because Gregorian chant is monophonic (one voice), all Guido needed was the ut clef. It could be moved from one line to another, and the line on which he placed the key was the ut or do.
With respect to mensural notation, one should mention Franco of Bologne‘s treatise Ars cantus mensurabilis(The art of measured chant). His mensural notation is called Franconian notation. Franco’s main contribution stems from shaping the notes themselves in a manner that indicated not only pitch, but also duration.
We know that before the invention of printing, colours were used to indicate duration. In fact, the manner in which neumes were drawn was also useful and decorative, without the use of colour. Some manuscripts, often named a codex, resembled books of Hours. But printing did not preclude making neumes black or white. Moreover shapes, the stem and quavers sufficed to demonstrate duration. Schools emerged that did away with Guido’s rectangle or, as indicated in my last blog, composers started to use it to represent a rest.
This is a subject I will not discuss, except to say that
the do or ut can start on C or-D-E-F-G-A and later B set, and that;
by adding sharps or flats, we can make the ut (do)-ré-mi-fa-sol-la-si chain sound identical, but higher or lower. If the melody starts on si or B, one needs a high voice, the soprano being the highest;
If the ut or do starts on C, there is no sharp (#); nor is there a flat (b).
Mensural notation was also related to dances. For instance, in a waltz, one slides into the first beat. Therefore, the first beat may not always be perfectly equal to the second and thirds beats. At one point in history, the Baroque era mainly, suites or partitas were dances: the sarabande, the minuet, the corrente, the bourrée, the polonaise, the allemande, etc. Earlier, people danced pavanes, galliardes, branlesestampies, etc.
By linking mensural notation to the movements of a dance, rythm acquires a more meaningful and pleasurable dimension. First, rhythm shapes the melody. Second, it touches the body. If music has beats, the human heart beats. Music also breathes. So mensural notation cannot be too rigid. We must also take tempo into account. It seems we play music faster now than before, which might be explained because the disk or record may also dictate duration. That should not be the case. Tempo is part of the composition. There is room for interpretation, but interpretation also has its limits.
Lumina Vocal Ensemble Evan Sanders (descant), James Cowling (descant) and Kenneth Pope (treble)
University of Adelaide, March 2011 Medieval Tune c. 1300
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.
One of the key moments in the history of education is the publication, in 1658, of Johann Comenius’s (28 March 1592 – 4 November 1670) Orbis Sensualium Pictus.
Johann Amos Comenius (Latin for John Ámos Komenský) was born in what is now the Czech Republic. He is often referred to as the “father” of education. It could also be argued that he “discovered” the child. However, his fames rests mainly in the publication of the first illustrated textbook, the above-mentioned Orbis Pictus. Comenius knew that
[a] picture is worth a thousand words.
There is so much truth to this old adage that, since the publication of the Orbis Sensualium Pictus, writers and publishers of textbooks, fables, fairy tales, and various other books have made a point of inserting pictures.
Touching the senses: music and pictures
The concept underlying the importance of illustrations resembles the notion of Affektenlehre (doctrine of the affections) in music, a doctrine of which Johann Mattheson was the chief proponent. In compliance with this doctrine, composers attempted to touch the Affeckte or senses, claiming that music would thereby be morally uplifting. For instance, Haydn used contrast to touch the Affeckte.
Here, the operative word is senses. Note that the very title of Comenius’s epochal book, Orbis Sensualium Pictus, indicates that the senses play a role in teaching and learning. However, unlike Johann Mattheson, Comenius’s advocacy of the use of illustrations was not an explicit attempt to make the subject matter morally uplifting. Comenius’s goal was simply to make the subject matter more accessible and the subject matter was mainly Latin. As the title indicates, his Janua LinguarumReserata (The Gate of Tongues Unlocked, 1632) was a textbook used to teach Latin in a simplified and more effective manner. Comenius wanted to teach “about things and not about grammar.” He described “useful facts” in both Latin and Czech, side by side.[i]
The Great Didactic
Comenius’s Janua Linguarum Reserata was an extremely popular textbook. However, Comenius’s first concern was the reform of the educational system, which he described in his Didactica Magna (The Great Didactic). He also advocated universal education.
By and large, the reforms he introduced have endured. The path is mostly unchanged. Children still begin their schooling by attending a kindergarten. Pupils then attend elementary and secondary school and, upon successful completion of secondary school, young adults may enter college or a university. Moreover, the path starts with the education of infants. Comenius wrote a book for mothers entitled The School of Infancy. It is because of his books that I have stated that Comenius discovered children or childhood.
However, what I want to praise above all is his introduction of illustrations in textbooks and other books. Comenius realized that explaining a subject using words only was ineffective. He therefore stressed the importance of illustrations, or pictures. For instance, in the case of an illustrated fable, it is easier to remember the morality because it is exemplified in two ways: by a text, called exemplum, and by a picture.
Simplicity and the picture “worth a thousand words”
Other than his Great Didactic, i.e. the system, Comenius’s contribution to education is therefore twofold.
With respect to the teaching of a second language, he advocated simplicity and usefulness. He realized that one taught a language by teaching the language and not about the language.
As for teaching in general, he advocated the support of illustrations.
Drawings, paintings, prints and photographs can be an end in themselves. But illustrations are both an end in themselves and a means to an end. Most of us will gladly accept an unwrapped present, but there is so much pleasure in the traditional unwrapping of a gift.
The same is true of illustrations. Just imagine learning about Cupid and Psychewithout seeing at least one of the beautiful illustrations inspired by that lovely story.
Illustrations existed long before the publication of Orbis Pictus. In fact, they existed long before the invention of the printing-press (c. 1440). They were the illuminations of illuminated manuscripts and very expensive. However, even after the invention of the printing-press, publishing an illustrated book was a long and costly process. Distribution was limited. Only the few had access to books.
Before the invention of printing, books were copied by hand and then decorated with illuminations. Illuminations were just what the word says: illuminations. They enlightened the text.
Comenius’s books could not possibly be as beautiful as an illustrated Bestiary or Book of Hours, but many copies could be made and they could be made quickly, which means that universal education was a realistic goal.
So let us praise Comenius, the senses, and our illustrators.