Archive for October, 2008

Dagulf Psalter

October 29, 2008


Sent as a gift to Pope Hadrian; the development of this relationship culminated in Charlemagne’s crowning as emperor. Hadrian in return supplied models for distribution across the realm.
Not having the same text results in religious confusion, and thus leading to herecy!
This link is shown in the Lateran Carolingian mosaic (now lost), revealing St Peter blessing both Pope Leo and Charlemagne.


Canon Tables

October 29, 2008

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Top left: London Canon Table
Top right: Charlemagne Coronation Gospels
Bottom left: Book of Kells Canon Table
Bottom middle: Lindisfarne Canon Table
Bottom right: Durrow Canon Table

The London Canon Table:

The single most replicated image in medieval books. E.g. in the Lindisfarne Gospels.
The page itself is painted in gold – the amount of monetary resources would have been spectacular. Way of making an argument about the preciousness of the content.
Revelas the new statement of power post Constantine.
A table made in an architectural format – a way of showing the harmony of the Gospels – shows which passage in corresponds to others in each Gospel. All possible combination are laid out.
No similar device for pre-Christian texts (?) Theological imperative to demonstrate the harmony of the texts.

Book of Durrow, 680:

o A version of a canon table in a simple grid format – not an architectural arch format, but rather in a table.

Lindisfarne Gospels:

o Another Canon page – elements of the arches, and elaborate cross carpet pages with great symbolism… Not beyond reason to believe that these were not used for some meditative purpose.

We know a lot of the Lindisfarne Gospels because in the middle of the 10th C, approx 250 years after the Lindisfarne Gospels were made, someone added an inscription telling us about the manuscript’s creation. Check Eadfrith (715 Colophon mid-10th C). There’s a massive debate about the trustworthiness of this Colophon – it appears fairly trustworthy. Bede also wrote an account of his life, and we even have his coffin. We calso have the Cross from the tomb of St Cuthbert from Durham Cathedral, found on his St Cuthbert’s chest when he was dug up.

Rossano Gospels

October 29, 2008

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Top left: Raising of Lazarus
Top right: Hypothesis
Bottom left: Mark portrait

Rossano Gospels (6th C)

Written in Greek
A luxurious manuscript – both by colours but also by the quality of the artistic execution.
A circular opening page reflecting the synthesis / unity of the four evangelists.
Image of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Reveals a distinction between believers and non-believers. Below this image are four old testament prophets, each “holding’ texts. Hebrews begins with quotes from the OT justifying the link to the NT.
Illuminated sections of the manuscript are not inserted into the Gospel text, but rather are placed to the front to make a theological statement.
Not a picture book like the Vienna Genesis, not a dense text setup like the Cotton Genesis.
Earliest extant Evangelist portrait, possibly the earliest portrait altogether. View of the seated philosopher inspired by a muse, a divine spirit, but not represented as a dove, or typical Christian image. Blending of polytheistic Roman tradition harnessed to communicate ideas about a relatively new Christian tradition.

Vienna Genesis

October 29, 2008

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Top left: Temptation of Joseph (550)
Top right: Lot and his family leave Sodom
Bottom left: Rebecca at the well

Vienna Genesis (c.550)

Done very differently – colouration is very different
A purple stained manuscript, with all the text above and registers of images below.
Interestingly, not the complete text, unlike the Cotton Genesis. It is abridged!
Also illustrations were regularly interspersed in the text in the Cotton Genesis – The Vienna Genesis is more of a picture book! Script written in gold / silver.
Created somewhere in the Greek speaking world.
Elements in the Vienna Genesis that are sourced from Jewish Rabbinic texts. Christian artists availed themselves of material from the Jewish tradition.

Cotton Genesis

October 29, 2008

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Top left: Abraham and angels
Top right: Artist reconstruction: Lot, the angels, People of Sodom
Bottom left: God, Adam and Eve
Bottom right: Lot’s house.

Cotton Genesis: (5-6th Century?)

Burnt to a crisp in 1793.
Construction of the page very similar in style to the Vatican Vergil. Square image, with text above and below. Originally 4-500 pages, A reconstruction, as mostly destroyed.
Most pages dyed purple, set with silver and gold, the utmost value.
We are able to reconstruct pages of Genesis – one of the domes in San Marco echoes the manuscript (begun 1063, possibly around 1220).
Representation of God is done in a very interesting way – revealed as Jesus (due to the staff with a cross on the end, and a cross halo). Therefore, in the Cotton Genesis there is not a literal view of the creation in Genesis itself!
A book whose goal is to illustrate as much of Genesis as possible. Represent a Christian ideology – and thus for a Christian patron.
Emerges from a “conversation” between Jewish and Christian medieval world views. Jesus superceedes the Old Covenant.

Echoes of the Byzantines in the Cotton Genesis (Books made between 5-7th C as continuation of Roman, but essentially the foundation of what becomes Byzantine art.

E.g. Cotton Genesis and San Marco.

Stavronkitita Gospels

October 29, 2008


Christian illustrators took the idea of the artist portrait and applied it to the religious imagery, e.g. Stauronikita Gospels (10th C).

Scenae Frons in the background. Roman model within iconography and stylistic views.

Sarcophagus (c.270) (early Christian) showing a figure (the deceased) in the act of reading, rendered in the same guise as the Evangelist (John) in Stauronikita Gospels. The deceased is revealed as a scholar, and philosopher, and yet Christian figure. Roman image of a philosopher melded into a Christian form. They are on par with ancient philosophers.

Middle Byzantine:

Mt Athos, Stavronikita Monastery – an extremely classical style. Looking back and copying models which the probably owned. The desire to forge a connection between the Middle Byzantine period represents and unbroken chain of tradition.

Roman Vergil

October 29, 2008

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Transition from scroll to codex – Roman Vergil shows a scroll,

As the artist now has to fill a larger area, he fills the larger rectangular area with images, rather than the smaller medallion form. Artists seen struggling to adapt to a new medium, adding in a lecturn and basin in Roman Vergil.

Vatican Vergil:

October 29, 2008

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o “Similar observations were made by Boeckler in connection with the miniatures of the Quedlinburg Itala. He too noticed that Saul was depicted as a Roman emperor, that adlocution, libation, battles, and so on, were rendered in compositional schemes that were borrowed from the iconography of Roman history, and he pointed to the very same monuments as the most suitable parallels, namely the triumphal columns… Furthermore, it had not escaped Boeckler that the compositional schemes as well as the individual types were, indeed, the same as those used in the Vergilius Vaticanus.” (123)

This suggests a common source, not the same artist or the same location at time of production. A common source – available in the scriptorum. They (Vergliius Vaticanus and Itala) are “stylistically so close to each other that the same scriptorium can be assumed, that is a scriptorium which produced illustrated pagan and Christian manuscripts side by side. What was this common source?” (123)

Vatican Vergil:

BCD, ADC (?)
Manuscript written around the year 400, in Rome. Based on Vergil’s
Shift between the Roman polytheistic theocracy and the Christian nobility.
Probably a commission on behalf of an aristocratic Roman who is trying to evoke the glories of a Roman history. In the two images, reflect polytheistic notions.

o Dido, the tragic heroine dies of a broken heart due to the departing of Aeniad. (?) Dido is shown making a sacrifice in front of the temple. Communicating Roman values, venerating the “old ways”, benefits of sacrifices.
o Page where the visual has been split, framed and gold diamonds in the frame.
o Text written in capitals, no punctuation marks. Metrical poem, thus rhythm would aid the reader.
o Books are mainly elitist objects.
o Reading practices were also different in the Middle Ages – much reading was aloud and in public. A visual and aural activity!
o Greco-Roman style, sense of perspective, atmospheric background, semi-convincing landscape, figures cast shadow, figures are realistically shaped.
o Late Antique tradition. Not classical Greece or rome…
o Leocowan, priest of Rome (wooden horse… Steers clear of strongly Hellenistic influence, more simple figures.

Amother image from Vatican Vergil

War council, figures in a circle, focussed on the leaders.
Very similar to Column of Marcus Aurelius.

o Quedlinburg Itala shares in some respects characteristics with the Vatican Vergil, but here there are 4 on a page. Framed with a red border, same antique figure styles, similar clothing, atmospheric coloured background.

Construction of the Cotton Genesis page very similar in style to the Vatican Vergil. Square image, with text above and below. Originally 4-500 pages, A reconstruction, as mostly destroyed.

Codex Egberti’s format and style of page is derived directly from the Vatican Vergil.

o Styles very similar. Thus consciously emulating later Antique models.
o Captions
o Similar form of the city
o Attempting to claim the ancient connection the empire of Rome.
o Vatican Vergil was in Tours in the 9th C! They either had the text, or they had some other similar copy.
o One was commissioned by a wealthy Roman, the other Christian Bishop

Palaeography Types…

October 29, 2008

Carolingian – the manuscript style named for the 8th century Carolingian Empire under whose rule Charlemagne ordered monasteries begin using the neat, easily read script, Carolingian Minuscule – in some ways a natural progression of Insular:


Insular – manuscript style originating in 6th century Scotland and Northumbria, traveling southward across England and to Ireland. Typified by clearly spaced lettering with a minimum of flourish, offset by extremely intricate knotted and interlaced design. Examples include the Lindisfarne Gospels and Ireland’s Book of Kells:


Augustine Gospels

October 29, 2008


Augustine Gospels:

o Augustin was sent from Pope Gregory the Great… The only text that likely was with Augustine is the Saint Augustine Gospels (in Corpus Christi Cambridge). Still has purpose to it – swearing in of Archbishops of Cantebury. The text is clearly based on an earlier Italian model.

Evokes classical heritage – seated in throne, pediment with large capital letters in Latin.

o It indicates how the Italian (Roman! Under Pope Gregory) serves as a font / source of material for the missionary activities in England. Also, we can see the role that images played in the act of conversion.
o Only two illustrated images from the Gospels, but no reaon to assume that these were the only images… Grid of 3 by 4, densely illustrated narrative. We only have a surviving fragment of what originally existed. Images are pulled together onto a single page, not scattered like in the Cotton Genesis.
o Goal: If this was one of the books Augustine carried to England, and his goal was to convert the heathens like King Ethelbert, what role did this particular manuscript play in the conversion of King Ethelbert.
o De Hemel tries to make a case that we might imagine Augustine parading around the countryside with the book, or groups sitting together with Ethelbert and pointing to the images as revelations.
o King Ethelbert wouldn’t have known anything about the images on first presentation, but would have been impressed by it. What is fundamentally important however, is the text or the Word. “In the beginning was the word…” (John 1.1).
o The pictures are value-added!
o The manuscript would have represented the divine!


o Conventions of history were not yet formed, supposed to support a certain world view. Not a repetorial structure to the Ecclesiastica, but simply a bullet-point record. He tells a version of the story which serves his purposes. Bede mentions that Augustine had a board with the images of Christ, and Augustine had many books.
o However, still a verbal performance as the text were read to them – but the physical presence of the object was valuab
o It was not custom made for the purpose of missionary work – it was made as a standard (albeit luxurious) copy of the Gospels! It was made with no sense of missionary activity.

These books were a tangible source of divine power. Many books were carried into battle for the power it could bring with it into a fight. Books used within local culture in a talismanic fashion.

Another similar image of a man in the Book of Durrow – a far cry from the late antique / early Christian style evident in the Saint Augustine Gospels. An artist who did not have a great deal of experience in forming characters in 3D – rather when he was forced to create a man, he follows contemporary metalwork again (e.g. Shoulder Clasp, Sutton Hoo, 620-655).