Entries Tagged as 'Articles'

An English Medieval Book of Hours


ARTICLE: An English Medieval Book of Hours from the Newberry Library, Chicago, by Karen Christianson.

One of the Newberry’s most beautiful medieval manuscript books is Case MS 35, a Book of Hours, Use of Salisbury, probably made in Bruges in the mid-fifteenth century for the English market.

Books of Hours were abbreviated versions of the monastic divine office, a cycle of psalms, readings, and hymns that varied over the course of the liturgical year. Medieval monks or nuns generally gathered to recite or sing these devotional texts at eight set times each day, from before dawn through late at night. By the later Middle Ages Books of Hours were developed to guide lay people through a less rigorous and less time-consuming series of daily devotions.

Wealthy families often commissioned luxury Books of Hours, such as this one, with elaborate and colorful illuminated miniatures embellished with decorative borders and gold leaf. Bruges became a major center of production of these works of art. That this book was destined for England is attested to by inclusion of English saints, including among others Wulfstan of Worcester and Augustine of England, and prayers to the Venerable Bede and Thomas Becket, as well as the phrase “secundum consuetudinem Anglie” (following the usage of the English) at the top of the page for the hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Many of the illuminated miniatures in this book illustrate the stories of saints’ lives in the text. Among them are Saint Margaret emerging unscathed from being swallowed by a dragon; Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the snake—who has a woman’s head; Saint Catherine standing before her wheel; and Saint George, patron saint of England, slaying a dragon.

While we do not know who originally owned this book, by the early sixteenth century its front endpapers were being used as a family register, beginning with “The namys of the children of Wilham Gonstone and Benet his wif of the perisshe of Saincte Donistones in the est as hereafter ffolowith”. The first entry records the birth of the couple’s first son, Dany, on November 29, 1508 (at five o’clock in the morning). The births of two more sons and a daughter are also listed, the last born in 1515. On the following page appears the family of “Sir Thomas Myldmaye, knight, and the Ladye Frauncys his wiefe”, recording the births of their five daughters and three sons, plus a son borne to Thomas by his second wife Margaret, over the years from 1568 through 1593.

We know that this Sir Thomas Mildmay (to use modern spelling) was the son of Thomas Mildmay of Moulsham, who had been granted this manor in Essex in 1546 by King Henry VIII. The book’s owner was also a nephew of Sir Walter Mildmay, who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Queen Elizabeth I. In 1538 Henry VIII had issued a proclamation “unsainting” Thomas Becket. It read, in part, “Therefore his Grace strayghtly chargeth and commandeth that from henseforth the sayde Thomas Becket shall not be estemed, named, reputed, nor called a sayncte, but bysshop Becket.

And that his ymages and pictures, through the hole realme, shall be putte downe, and avoyded out of all churches, chapelles, and other places; and that from henseforthe, the dayes used to be festivall in his name shall not be observed, nor the service, office, antiphoners, colletes, and prayers, in his name redde, but rased and put out of all the bokes.” As evidence of the family’s strong ties to the royal court, the prayer to Becket in this book has been crossed out—though the lovely miniature showing Becket’s martyrdom remains untouched—and his name has been erased from the calendar of saints’ days.

This fascinating book is one of nearly three hundred medieval manuscript books in the Newberry collection. Learn more about our Pre-1500 European Manuscripts (here).

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Conservation in the 17th Century


ARTICLE: Conservation in the 17th Century, by James Freeman.

The Mayerne manuscript, Sloane MS 2052, is on display at the National Gallery’s exhibition Making Colour and is also available to view on Digitised Manuscripts. Compiled over twenty-six years, it reflects Mayerne’s abiding interest during his middle age in the chemistry of painting and the preparation of pigments, glues, varnishes and other substances. As Making Colour reveals, before the synthesis and manufacture of pigments in the nineteenth century, artists made their own colours from the raw materials, experimenting and developing them through trial and error.

Such information is vitally important for conservators: understanding the chemical make-up of early modern or medieval pigments can help them to determine why paintings have degraded in certain ways, and inform any interventions that they might make to rectify or halt such deterioration. The Mayerne manuscript is also of interest in the history of conservation as a discipline, since it also contains notes about how paintings were repaired and cleaned nearly four centuries ago.

At the close of his sermon, preached at the funeral of Sir Theodore de Mayerne on Friday, 30th March 1655 at St. Martin-in-the-Field, Rev. Thomas Hodges remarked that: ‘He [Mayerne] was a person of rare accomplishments… I confess I know not any subject which might be either for necessity or delight whereof he was ignorant, nay in which he was not a great proficient, and expert master. And, which is more admirable, this variety was not attended with the least discernable confusion, but so methodised and digested that he readily at his pleasure commanded it when occasion required, and brought it forth clothed in such language as he spoke him no less an orator than an artist.’

However tidy-minded and articulate Mayerne might have been in life, his manuscript Pictoria, sculptoria et quae subalternarum artium is something of a jumble. In Sloane MS 2069 (f. 172r), we find a letter from Mayerne to his friend Dr Monginot in 1630, in which he recognised the need ‘to take up my pen, if I wish to leave to posterity some of my dearest children – that is, the fruits of my genius – as my conscience dictates, and as my friends invite me’. Yet, as with his medical case notes, Mayerne never succeeded in imposing order upon his artistic notes or preparing them for print during his lifetime. Those illustrated with pigment samples or coloured diagrams have naturally attracted most attention and, until 2004, there was no complete edition in English of this manuscript.

Buried among them are fascinating insights into conservation, 17th-century style. Folios 56v-57r, for example, contain a note that to repair a cracked painting, it should be washed and rinsed thoroughly, and coated on the back with a thick water paint, that may be removed when necessary. It is tucked among miscellaneous observations on the purification of light linseed oil by filtering it through a cow’s bladder, or the transparency of ox intestines in which gold has been wrapped.

Sir Anthony van Dyck was a source of other conservation tips. To repair a peeling oil painting and protect it from a damp wall, he advised painting the reverse with umber very finely ground in oil – a recipe essential for paintings undercoated with glue or water colours.

An unfortunate incident with paintings imported from Italy for Charles I prompted Mayerne to formulate his own ideas. The paintings had been shipped, ill-advisedly, with a cargo of currants and mercury sublimate. The former fermented and the latter vaporised, blackening both the oil and tempera paintings in the hold. Mayerne jotted in the margins that the oils were apparently cleaned with milk – but observed that a more watery liquid would have been better: the oil would have resisted it and prevented the washing away or smearing of the pigments.

Mayerne continued with further, more specific instructions: that a picture soiled with dust should be washed with a wrung-out sponge, with any parts painted with the pigment Dutch pink protected from spoiling by glued-on paper. Apparently, potash from crushed grape skins or urine are also effective!

Mayerne’s interest extended beyond oil paintings to include prints, and he sought information from craftsmen such as Mark Anthony, a painter from Brussels, the royal apothecary Louis le Myre and Jean Anceaux, a bookseller from the French town of Sedan. From the latter, Mayerne acquired some of the earliest recorded information about the bleaching of paper: one stage involved the soaking of paper in water in which a cod has been boiled.

These and many other such notes formed the basis for subsequent experimentation, also recorded in the manuscript. The same motivation drove Mayerne’s medical and artistic pursuits – a passion for the study, development and application of chemistry – and sustained the compilation of this notebook over twenty-six years. He also had an eye for the commercial potential of his discoveries. Towards the end of the manuscript, there is a recipe for ‘freshening tempera pictures and making them equal to those painted with oil’. To distinguish it from his other notes, many of which had been obtained second-hand, he recorded in the title that it had been ‘invented by T. de Mayerne, 1632’, perhaps with the aim of ensuring that it remained his or his heirs’ intellectual property.

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Two Cristoforo Cortese’s Unknown MSS

ARTICLE: Daniele Guernelli, Reborn from ashes: Two Cristoforo Cortese’s manuscripts escaped from the fire (Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale, 1904), in Codices Manuscripti & Impressi, 93/94, Februar 2014, pp. 39-48.

Thibaud le Breton stationnaire à Paris

ARTICLE: Thibaud le Breton, stationnaire (“vendeur de livres”) à Paris au XIIIe siècle.

Parmi les premiers libraires originaires de Bretaigne installés à Paris figure le clerc Thibaud le Breton sur lequel nous possédons une documentation assez conséquente, dans la mesure où son patrimoine immobilier, imposant pour un ouvrier du livre, a laissé de nombreux actes qui permettent de cerner le rang social du personnage.

Comme bon nombre de ses confrères, Thibaud tient boutique dans la rue Neuve Notre Dame, tout près de la cathédrale, où nous le rencontrons dès 1256. De même, il posséde au moins une maison (et plusieurs rentes) en la rue des Ecrivains (in vico Scriptorum) dans la censive de la Sorbonne, entre la maison du copiste Robert ad Anglum et celle du parcheminier Jean l’Anglais.

En 1263, les frères et soeurs de la léproserie de la banlieue vendent à Thibaud le Breton (venditori librorum), et à sa femme Julienne, les 3/4 d’une maison au coin de la rue Zacharie, dans la censive des moines de Saint-Germain des Prés. Dans un autre quartier de Paris, apprécié par les Bretons, Thibaud achète en 1266, de Jean l’Allemand et de sa femme Lucie, une maison rue Saint-Hilaire, dans la censive de Saint-Marcel, appelée la Haute Maison, laquelle portera vers 1400 l’enseigne de l’Escu de Bretaigne et deviendra pour quelque temps, dans la seconde moitié du XVIe siècle, l’enseigne de l’imprimeur Jean Macé.

Thibaud le Breton possédait encore plusieurs rentes dans le rue Percée, dans la rue des Noyers et dans la rue des Amandiers. Dans cette dernière rue une maison qui lui appartient est taxée par l’Université de Paris au prix de 7 livres : elle consiste en 4 chambres, un cellier et une grande cuisine.

Malheureusement nous n’avons trouvé aucun manuscrit portant la marque de Thibaud le Breton. Le libraire dut mourir peu avant 1288. L’année suivante, un avocat breton, Yves dit le petit clerc, exécuteur testamentaire de Julienne, alors veuve, vend à l’Hôtel-Dieu une maison (en mauvais état) au coin de la rue Zacharie, moyennant 20 livres parisis.

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L’enluminures à Paris à la fin du XVe siècle

ARTICLE: Mathieu Deldicque, L’enluminures à Paris à la fin du XVe siècle: Maître de Jacuqes de Besançon et Jacques de Besançon identifiés? in Revue de l’art, n. 183/1, 2014, pp. 9-18.  

An Eccentric Renaissance Book of Hours

ARTICLE: Rebecca Zorach, ‘Sweet in the Mouth, Bitter in the Belly’: Seeing Double in an Eccentric French Renaissance Book of Hours, in Art History, 36, November 2013, n. 5, pp. 922-943.

Die Ambraser Heldenbuch (Wien)

ARTICLE: Kristina Domanski, Die Naturstudien im Ambraser Heldenbuch (Wien, ÖNB, Cod. Vind. Ser. n. 2663), in Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 2, 2014, pp. 271-282

Miniature arabe

ARTICLE: Miniature arabe, di Farian Sabahi, in Il Sole 24 ore, supplemento domenicale del 15 giugno 2014.

Figlio di un mercante di Damasco, innamorato della bella Riyad schiava del Ciambellano, Bayad soffriva pene d’amore mentre un’anziana donna cercava di intercedere presso la figlia del Ciambellano e unire gli amanti. Finalmente in versione italiana, nella traduzione scorrevole di Arianna D’Ottone, la storia di Bayad e Riyad è racchiusa nel manoscritto Vaticano arabo 368, un codice cartaceo di mm 285 x 213 risalente alla Spagna musulmana dei primi del XIII secolo. Un manoscritto importante per due motivi. Perché racconta la novella in una tradizione non attestata altrove e caduta a poco a poco nell’oblio. E poi perché le sue miniature, ora in stato precario, rappresentano «la sola testimonianza figurata attribuibile all’Occidente arabo, progressivamente divenute belle immagini il cui senso è stato poco e male inteso dagli studiosi». Un manoscritto che non si sa come e quando sia approdato in Vaticano. Requisito dai francesi, il manoscritto arrivò alla BnF, per tornare in possesso della Biblioteca Vaticana nel gennaio 1816. Bisognerà però aspettare la mostra di manoscritti e carte orientali organizzata dalla Biblioteca Vaticana nel 1935, perché gli studiosi si rendano conto della sua rilevanza.

BOOK: Arianna D’Ottone, La storia di Bayad e Riyad (Vat. ar. 368), Città del Vaticano 2013 (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Studi e Testi 479), pagg. 130+56 in arabo, € 50,00.

Il volume offre una nuova edizione del testo del manoscritto Vaticano arabo 368, contenente la storia di Bayād e Riyād (HadītBayādwaRiyād), e la traduzione italiana. Questa nuova edizione, che propone un diverso arrangiamento dei disordinati fogli del codice, è corredata da un’ampia introduzione nella quale sono trattati vari temi, tra i quali: la storia del manoscritto, le sue caratteristiche paleografiche e codicologiche, la sequenza testuale, la tradizione manoscritta.