History, Theory, and Practice of Illuminating/Past
WHAT ILLUMINATING WAS.
In the following pages an attempt has been made to concentrate into limited dimensions that which has generally been treated very voluminously. Few authors, who have tried both, will feel inclined to deny, that it is a much more difficult task to compress a great subject into a little book successfully, than it is to expand a little subject into a great book. Where materials of the highest interest, historically, artistically, and intellectually, abound, the danger is lest suppression and condensation may not break the links essential to bind a perspicuous narrative together. I must, therefore, on these grounds claim the indulgence of the reader, who may, I trust, be induced by the very imperfections of my story, to recur to the pages of those more copious and learned writers on the subjects, who have bestowed upon its elucidation long lives of exemplary and pertinacious industry.
Before, however, entering on my theme, it is my duty to point out to the reader, that although, for popular convenience and simplicity, it has been deemed expedient to divide the history of the Art of Illuminating from the theory of its use and practice, I have considered that each of the subdivided parts would be made more valuable by association, and by being made mutually suggestive and illustrative—by being, in fact, cast as two parts of one work, rather than as two separate works. I have not, therefore, hesitated to refer in this, the "Historical Manual," to the historical interest of plates contained in the technical, nor in the "Technical Manual" to the technical interest of plates contained in the historical. Much, indeed, of the matter contained in both should be considered as common to the two. Thus the ancient technical processes are no less historically interesting, than they may be likely, by a judicious revival of such as may be worthy, to prove practically valuable in the present day. Again, whatever proficiency a student may attain in the manipulation of his or her drawing, gilding, or painting, it will be in vain to hope to be enabled to produce a work of art which shall be satisfactory to the educated eye and taste, until a very considerable acquaintance has been made with the peculiarities of the various styles in which our forefathers delighted. No originality can ever be permanently agreeable which does not discard the precise conventional form of a period, which is but a mode or transient fashion, in favour of the principles which pervade all synchronous works of art, and which, transmute them as we may, must ever remain permanent through all time. Historically we should remember that miniature ornament of every period reflects on a diminished scale, and frequently in a highly concentrated form, the leading spirit which may have pervaded the greater revolutions of monumental art. Owing to the license which the diminished scale afforded, the imagination of the artist in these works was restricted by none of those material impediments which, in the execution of the major monuments of art, protracted the realization of the changing fashions of the day, frequently until long after the period when the original impulse may have been communicated to the art in which those variations were possibly but transient fluctuations.
Thus it is that in these relics of the past may frequently be traced artistic impulses destined to find no other embodiment than the form in which they are presented to us in the pages of a manuscript. The copiousness, then, of such documentary illustrations of the invention of remote periods is one of the most valuable features of the teaching they should convey to us. No revival nowadays of any historical style by the architect can be satisfactory which is not based upon a knowledge, not of the purely architectural features of the period alone, but of the condition and characteristics of all those decorative details which distinguished it as a living reality from the effete and denuded relic which may now only present itself for our information. Thus even the Saxon and Romanesque styles of architecture may, through the architect's careful attention to the decorative features exhibited to us in the pages of ancient illuminated books, be revived, not in their rude and structural nudity, but as glowing with those colours, and decorated with those forms, which we may observe as peculiarly affected in the ornamental and pictorial embellishments of the best artists of the days when those styles were the only ones popularly adopted. And not only are the beautiful ornaments and decorative features of illuminated manuscripts valuable as supplying us with correct information as to the system of embellishment regarded by the best artists of each period as harmonizing most perfectly with the structural styles prevalent in their days; but in the measure of their permanent beauty they are no less valuable to us as indications of what is excellent for all time.
Thus, then, they may be used, either as enabling us to restore the most brilliant features of the historic styles with an accuracy to be acquired from no other sources of information, or they may be regarded as providing us with materials for that more extended system of eclectic selection which must afford the only basis of perfection and originality in any styles which we may desire now or hereafter to originate; and the origination and perfection of which we may desire to bequeath to succeeding generations, as testimonies that, in the nineteenth century, there lived men as capable of the creation of beauty as any whose happiest inventions are to be found in the pages of these ancient and most precious volumes.
In opening this historical sketch, I need scarcely recall the facts, that not only was that which we know as the earliest type of writing the most pictorial, but that it was also embellished with colour from the most remote ages. A glance at the pages of Rosselini or Lepsius will suffice to convince us that the monumental hieroglyphics of the Egyptians were almost invariably painted with the liveliest tints; and when similar hieroglyphics were executed on a reduced scale, and in a more cursive form upon papyri, or scrolls made from the leaves of the papyrus, the common flowering rush of the Nile, illumination was also employed to make the leading pages more attractive to the eye. Nor was such illumination peculiar to hieroglyphic characters; it prevailed also, but not to the same extent, in the hieratic and demotic modes of writing. Of such papyri notable specimens may be seen in the British Museum; the most wonderful in existence, however, is the remarkably interesting and graphic illustration of the funeral of a Pharaoh, preserved in the Royal Museum at Turin.
Extraordinary dexterity was acquired in a conventional mode of expressing complicated forms by a few rapid touches, and the life and spirit with which familiar scenes are represented, and ornaments executed, in both the early and late papyri, are truly remarkable. The precise extent to which the Greeks and Romans were indebted to the Egyptians for the origination and use of alphabetic symbols, the learned have not yet agreed upon. They have, however, concurred in recognizing the fact that Egypt certainly supplied the principal materials by means of which writing was ordinarily practised. The primitive books of the ancients were no other than rolls formed of papyri, prepared in the following manner:—Two leaves of the rush were plastered together, usually with the mud of the Nile, in such a fashion that the fibres of one leaf should cross the fibres of the other at right angles; the ends of each being then cut off, a square leaf was obtained, equally capable of resisting fracture when pulled or taken hold of in any direction. In this form the papyri were exported in great quantities. In order to form these single leaves into the "scapi," or rolls of the ancients (the prototypes of the rotuli of the Middle Ages), about twenty were glued together end to end. The writing was then executed in parallel columns a few inches wide, running transversely to the length of the scroll. To each end of the scrolls were attached round staves similar to those we use for maps. To these staves, strings, known as "umbilici," were attached, to the ends of which bullæ or weights were fixed. The books when rolled up, were bound up with these umbilici, and were generally kept in cylindrical boxes or capsæ, a term from which the Mediæval "capsula," or book-cover, was derived. The mode in which the students held the rolls in order to read from them is well shown in a painting in the house of a surgeon at Pompeii. One of the staves, with the papyrus rolled round it, was held in each hand, at a distance apart equal to the width of one or more of the transverse columns of writing. As soon as the eye was carried down to the bottom of a column, one hand rolled up and the other unrolled sufficient of the papyrus to bring a fresh column opposite to the reader's eye, and so on until the whole was wound round one of the staves, when, of course, the student had arrived at the end of his book. Eumenes, king of Pergamus, being unable to procure the Egyptian papyrus, through the jealousy of one of the Ptolemies, who occupied himself in forming a rival library to the one which subsequently became so celebrated at Pergamus, introduced the use of parchment properly "dressed" for taking ink and pigments; and hence the derivation of the word "pergamena" as applied to parchment or vellum; the former substance being the prepared skin of sheep, and the latter of calves.
The sheets of parchment were joined end to end, as the sheets of papyrus had been, and when written upon, on one side only, and in narrow columns across the breadth of the scroll, were rolled up round staves and bound with strings, to which seals of wax were occasionally attached, in place of the more common leaden bullæ.
The custom of dividing books into pages is said by Suetonius to have been introduced by Julius Cæsar, whose letters to the Senate were so made up, and after whose time the practice became usual for all documents either addressed to, or issuing from, that body, or the emperors. As that form subsequently crept into general use, the books were known as "codices;" and hence the ordinary term as applied to manuscript volumes. All classes of books, the reeds for writing in them, the inkstands, and the "capsæ" or "scrinia," the boxes in which the "scapi" or rolls were kept, are minutely portrayed in ancient wall-paintings and ivory diptychs. The inkstands are generally shown as double, no doubt for containing both black and red ink, with the latter of which certain portions of the text were written.
Nearly two thousand actual rolls were discovered at Herculaneum, of course in a highly-carbonized condition, and of them some hundreds have been unrolled. None appear to have been embellished with illumination; so that for proof of the practice of the art in classical times, we are thrown back upon the classical authors themselves. The allusions in their writings to the employment of red and black ink are frequent. Martial, in his first epistle, points out the bookseller's shop opposite the Julian Forum, in which his works may be obtained "smoothed with pumice-stone and decorated with purple." Seneca mentions books ornamented "cum imaginibus." Varro is related by Pliny to have illustrated his works by likenesses of more than seven hundred illustrious persons. Pliny again informs us that writers on medicine gave representations in their treatises of the plants which they described. Martial dwells on the editions of Virgil, with his portrait as a frontispiece. The earliest recorded instance of the richer adornments of golden lettering on purple or rose-stained vellum, is given by Julius Capitolinus in his life of the Emperor Maximinus the younger. He therein mentions that the mother of the emperor presented to him, on his return to his tutor (early in the 3rd century), a copy of the works of Homer, written in gold upon purple vellum. Whether derived from Egypt or the East, this luxurious mode of embellishment appears to have been popular among the later Greeks, a class of whose scribes were denominated "writers in gold." From Greece it was, no doubt, transplanted to Rome, where, from about the 2nd century, it, at first slowly, and ultimately rapidly, acquired popularity. St. Jerome, indeed, writing in the 4th century, in a well-known passage in his preface to the Book of Job, exclaims:—"Habeant qui volunt veteres libros vel in membranis purpureis auro argentoque descriptos vel uncialibus, ut vulgo aiunt, literis, onera magis exarata quam codices; dummodo mihi meisque permittant pauperes habere scedulas, et non tam pulchros codices quam emendatos."
This almost pathetic appeal of the great commentator was scarcely necessary to assure us that such sumptuous volumes were executed for the rich alone, since the value of the gold and vellum, irrespective of the labour employed, must necessarily have taken them, as he indicates, altogether out of the reach of the poor. Evidence indeed is not wanting, that many of the Fathers of the Church laboured with their own hands to supply themselves with writings, which no golden letters or purpled vellums could make more valuable to them or their primitive followers: thus, Pamphilus, the martyr, who suffered in the year 309, possessed, in his own handwriting, twenty-five stitched books, containing the works of Origen. St. Ambrose, St. Fulgentius, and others, themselves transcribed many volumes, precious to themselves and most edifying to the faithful. Whatever ornaments or pictures these volumes contained, no doubt reproduced the style of art fostered, if not engendered, in the Catacombs.
Roman illuminated manuscripts would appear, therefore, to have been mainly divisible into two classes; firstly, those in which the text, simply but elegantly written in perfectly-formed, or rustic (that is, inclined) capitals, mainly in black and sparingly in red ink, was illustrated by pictures, usually square, inserted in simple frames, generally of a red border only; and secondly, the richer kind, in which at first gold letters, on white and stained vellum grounds, and subsequently black and coloured letters and ornaments on gold grounds, were introduced. The first of these appears to have been the most ancient style, and to have long remained popular in the Western Empire, while the second, which, as Sir Frederick Madden has observed, no doubt came originally to the Romans from the Greeks, acquired its greatest perfection under the early emperors of the East.
Of both styles there are still extant some invaluable specimens, which, although not of the finest periods of art, may still be regarded as typical of masterpieces which may have existed, and which fire or flood, Goth or Vandal, may have destroyed. Before proceeding, however, to an enumeration of any of these, it may be well to define certain terms which must be employed to designate the peculiarities of character in which the different texts were written, some slight knowledge of which is of great assistance in arriving at a proximate knowledge of the dates at which they may have been executed. Such a definition cannot be more succinctly given than in the following passage, extracted from Mr. Noel Humphrey's interesting work "On the Origin and Progress of the Art of Writing:"—
"Nearly all the principal methods of ancient writing may be divided into square capitals, rounded capitals, and cursive letters; the square capitals being termed simply capitals, the rounded capitals uncials, and the small letters, or such as had changed their form during the creation of a running hand, minuscule. Capitals are, strictly speaking, such letters as retain the earliest settled form of an alphabet; being generally of such angular shapes as could conveniently be carved on wood or stone, or engraved in metal, to be stamped on coins. The earliest Latin MSS. known are written entirely in capitals, like inscriptions in metal or marble.
"The uncial letters, as they are termed, appear to have arisen as writing on papyrus or vellum became common, when many of the straight lines of the capitals, in that kind of writing, gradually acquired a curved form, to facilitate their more rapid execution. However this may be, from the 6th to the 8th, or even 10th century, these uncials or partly-rounded capitals prevail.
"The modern minuscule, differing from the ancient cursive character, appears to have arisen in the following manner. During the 6th and 7th centuries, a kind of transition style prevailed in Italy and some other parts of Europe, the letters composing which have been termed semi-uncials, which, in a further transition, became more like those of the old Roman cursive. This manner, when definitively formed, became what is now termed the minuscule manner; it began to prevail over uncials in a certain class of MSS. about the 8th century, and towards the 10th its general use was, with few exceptions, established. It is said to have been occasionally used as early as the 5th century; but I am unable to cite an authentic existing monument. The Psalter of Alfred the Great, written in the 9th century, is in a small Roman cursive hand, which has induced Casley to consider it the work of some Italian ecclesiastic."
To return from this digression on the character of ancient handwriting, to the examples still extant of the two great sections into which the manuscripts of classical ages may be divided, I would observe, that, first in importance and interest of the first class may certainly be reckoned the Vatican square Virgil with miniatures, which has been referred by many of the best palæographers to the 3rd century. It is written throughout in majuscule Roman capitals, which, although MM. Champollion and Sylvestre describe them as of an "elegant but careless form," appeared to me, when I examined the volume minutely in 1846, to exhibit great care and regularity. The miniatures, many engravings from drawings traced from which are given in D'Agincourt's "Histoire de l'Art par les Monuments," are altogether classical, both in design and in the technical handling of the colours, which are applied with a free brush, and apparently in the true antique manner, i.e., with scarcely any previous or finishing outline. These miniatures have also been engraved by Pietro Santo Bartoli, but not with his usual accuracy of style. A complete set of coloured tracings made by him are in the British Museum (Lansdowne Coll.), but they even are not quite satisfactory. The Terence of the Vatican, which is without miniatures, is in a somewhat similar writing, and belongs to about the same period. The third in importance of the ancient Vatican manuscripts of this class, is in the rustic instead of elegant capital lettering, and is supposed to be of the 5th century; certainly not later. It is a Virgil, decorated throughout with pictures executed in apparent imitation of the square Virgil, but in a much more barbarous and lifeless style. From an entry of the 13th century contained in the volume, and from our knowledge of its having been long and at a remote period, preserved in France, it would appear to have belonged to the Parisian monastery of St. Denis, if not to the Saint himself.
So far as antiquity, irrespective of merit in point of illumination is concerned, the most remarkable ancient Roman manuscript existing belongs to the curious class known as "Palimpsests," or books from which the colouring matter of an original writing has been discharged, in order to prepare the vellum for receiving an altogether different text, the latter being generally written at right angles to the former. This precious document is the celebrated treatise "de Republicâ," by Cicero, written in uncial characters, evidently in an Augustan period, and was discovered by Cardinal Angelo Mai, under a copy of St. Augustine's Commentary on the Psalms, made previous to the 10th century.
The Ambrosian Library at Milan contains a codex of Homer, of equal antiquity with the Cicero, with fifty-eight pictures, much in the style of the Vatican square Virgil. This important MS. has been commented upon by the same distinguished antiquary.
The Vienna Roman calendar, supposed to have been executed in the 4th century, and embellished with eight allegorical figures of the months, is both an early and very important specimen of Roman illumination, not only on account of the elegance and dexterous execution of these figures, but because it is the most ancient manuscript in which anything like ornament, independent of pictured illustration of the author's text, is introduced. Of little less note in the history of art, is the celebrated Dioscorides of the same imperial library, the date of which is fixed by the fact of its being enriched with a very graceful portrait of the Empress Juliana Anicia, for whom it is known to have been written at the commencement of the 6th century. Both Lambecius and D'Agincourt give various facsimiles (omitting colour) of the fine illustrations which decorate this remarkable volume.
Another 5th century Virgil of remarkable purity in the text, although without miniatures, is the well-known "Medicean" of the Laurentian Library at Florence. The Paris Prudentius, in elegant rustic capitals of the 6th century, is another fine codex of the same type. There are, in addition to those already cited, various other early texts of the classics contained in the different public libraries of Europe; and it is singular to remark, that (so far as I have been able to ascertain) none of them are embellished with those richer decorations, which appear to have been reserved after the end of the 5th century, for the great text-books of the Christian, and more particularly of the Eastern Church. Of these sacred volumes, that which is generally supposed to be the oldest complete version of the Bible in Greek, is the Codex Alexandrinus of the British Museum, attributed, by consent of all the best Palæographers, to the commencement of the 5th century. It is without gold altogether, and has no other illumination than the occasional contrast of red and black inks, and a line slightly flourished, at the close of each book. The next fragment of the Scriptures, in point of probable date, is the once celebrated Cottonian Genesis, or at least its ghost; for unfortunately a few charred and shrunken fragments are all that have been saved from the disastrous fire which destroyed so many of Sir Robert Cotton's precious volumes in 1731. In its original state, as we know from several collations made previous to the fire, it contained, on 165 pages, no less than 250 miniatures, each about four inches square. Astle has given a facsimile of a page, which, on comparison with the existing shrivelled fragments, proves that in their present state they are just about one half their original size. The paintings are in all respects antique, and correspond in general character with contemporary secular miniatures. Dr. Waagen remarks that "only the hatched gold upon the borders, the glories, and the lights on the crimson mantle indicate the commencement of Byzantine art." The great rival to the "Codex Cottonianus Geneseos" is the "Codex Vindobonensis Geneseos," which consists of twenty-six leaves with eighty-eight miniatures. It forms one of the four great lions of the Vienna Imperial Library. These two remarkable versions of Genesis are supposed to be of nearly equal date, and correspond as to the character of the truly antique miniatures very fairly; the fact, however, of the text of the English version being in black ink with very regularly-formed letters, while that of the Vienna one is, for the most part, written in gold and silver, and in less evenly-distributed characters, induces a fair presumption in favour of the greater antiquity of the Cottonian fragments. In the more gorgeous details of the Vienna Genesis, coupled with its square and unadorned classic pictures, we may thus clearly recognize the transition from our first or Latin class of ancient illumination, to our second or purely Byzantine style. We especially designate this class as "Byzantine," because as art in illumination, as in all other branches, declined in the seven-hilled city, it rose in the seat of empire founded in the East by the first great Christian emperor. It is true that ideal art degenerated almost contemporaneously in the capitals of both empires; but in decorative art, at least, there can be no question but that Byzantium gained, as Rome lost, ground. The former no doubt drew fresh inspiration from her close intercourse with the Persian and other nations of the East, while the latter was content to produce little, and that little in slavish reminiscence of the past. Italy no doubt fed the earliest monastic libraries of Western Europe with the quantities of texts of ancient authors we know them to have contained; but we may fairly assume those texts to have been but rarely illustrated, since the original styles of illumination produced in those countries to which the classic volumes travelled, would unquestionably have betrayed an antique influence more strongly than they did, had the means of deriving that influence been brought copiously within their reach.
I proceed now to a slight notice of the second class of ancient codices, that on which the ultimate splendour of the Byzantine school was founded. Fortunately, time has spared to our days several brilliant specimens of the richest of these quasi-classic manuscripts. Of such, the principal are, as Sir Frederick Madden observes, "the celebrated Codex Argenteus of Ulphilas, written in silver and gold letters on a purple ground, about A.D. 360, which is, perhaps, the most ancient existing specimen of this magnificent mode of caligraphy; after it, may be instanced the copy of Genesis at Vienna," already mentioned, the Psalter of St. Germain des Prés, at Paris, and the fragment of the New Testament in the Cottonian Library, Titus C. xv., all executed in the 5th and 6th centuries.
The first-named of these contains, on about 160 leaves, a considerable portion of the four gospels, and is now preserved in the Royal Library of Upsal, in Sweden. It is the earliest version of any part of the sacred writings in the Mœsogothic or ancient Wallachian dialect. The second of Sir Frederick Madden's notabilities has been alluded to as of transition character. The third, the Psalter of St. Germain des Prés, is ascribed by M. Champollion Figeac, who has given a portion of it in coloured facsimile in the "Moyen Age et la Renaissance" to the 6th century. It is unquestionably a beautiful specimen of gold writing on purple; but neither in the size of the letters nor in the ample spacing of the lines, will it bear comparison with the, no doubt, earlier example, the Cottonian, Titus C. xv. Our greatest authority upon all matters connected with early illuminated versions of the Holy Scriptures, Mr. Westwood, remarks, in speaking of this last-named manuscript, that "Codices purpureo-argentei are much rarer than those in golden writing, the latter material being used not only on purple, but also on white vellum; whereas the silver letters would not easily be legible except on a dark ground. The writing is in very large and massive Greek uncials; the words denoting God, Father, Jesus, Lord, Son, and Saviour, being, for dignity's sake, written in golden letters. The colour of the stain has faded into a dingy reddish purple, and the silver is greatly tarnished and turned black. This fragment is stated by Horne to be one of the oldest (if not the most ancient) manuscripts of any part of the New Testament that is extant, and is generally acknowledged to have been executed at the end of the 4th, or, at the latest, at the beginning of the 5th century."
The Vienna gold, silver, and purple Gospels, the lettering of which corresponds closely with that last described, may be regarded as certainly next in importance, and are of about equal antiquity. In none of these relics of magnificence are we enabled to trace the Eastern or Persian influence, which unquestionably imported a previously unknown originality and character into the art of Byzantium during the reign of Justinian the Great, A.D. 527 to 565. It is, no doubt, true, as Dr. Waagen remarks, that "the style of painting up to his time, both in conception, form, and colour, was much the same as that which has been preserved to us in the paintings at Pompeii; while the spirit of Christianity, operating upon the artistic Greek nature, stimulated it anew to beautiful and original inventions. In a few single instances this style of art was maintained until the 10th century; but, generally speaking, a gradual degeneracy ensued, which may be dated from Justinian's period. The proportions of the figures gradually became exaggerated, elongated, the forms contracted with excessive meagreness, the motives of the drapery grew paltry, appearing either in narrow parallel folds stiffly drawn together, or so overladen with barbaric pearls and jewels as to exclude all indication of form. The flesh assumed a dark tone, the other colours became heavy, gaudy, and hard; while in glories, hatchings, and grounds, gold was called into requisition. In these qualities, united to a gloomy and ascetic character of heads, consist the elements of the Byzantine school." But, on the other hand, it is ever to be remembered that the mortification of the old flesh was but a symptom of the more active life beneath it, sloughing off the Pagan tradition, and gradually replacing it by that new and healthy Christian vigour which, for many centuries, nourished and aided the northern and western nations of Europe in their efforts to organize those national styles of Christian Art which are commonly designated as Gothic.
|Historical Manual.||Plate No I.|
Outline for coloring.
|Plate No II.|
To return to Justinian, and his direct influence on the change of style which took place during his reign, it may be noted as a curious fact, that the year in which the great Church of Sta. Sophia was commenced was the very year in which he concluded an eternal peace with Chosroes Nushirvan, king of Persia. In one or two reigns antecedent to his, Greek artists had been employed in Persia, and there had been a friendly communication between the two countries. It may be therefore assumed, that when Justinian proposed to build this structure in so short a time, he not only enlisted the ability of those about him, but that he recalled those straying Greeks who had gone to seek their fortunes in other countries. He most likely, indeed, employed not only his own subjects, but foreigners; and in that way probably a considerable portion of what no one can fail to recognize as Oriental Art, was mixed with that known as Byzantine. Certain it is that in many of the mosaic ornaments of Sta. Sophia a very marked Oriental character is still to be traced.
On a close comparison of these mosaics with the unique Eusebian Canons on an entirely gold ground, two leaves of which, painted on both sides, are preserved in the British Museum (Addit. No. 5111), the student will certainly, I think, be induced rather to agree with Sir Frederick Madden, in ascribing them to the 6th century, than with Dr. Waagen, who considers that they "can scarcely be older than the 9th century." To the practical illuminator, these fragments are of far higher importance than all the others to which we have as yet alluded, since, while of equal archæological interest, they constitute the earliest specimens from which really decorative illumination can be studied.
Another illustration of the Eastern influence brought to bear upon Christian manuscripts of the age of Justinian, is furnished by the celebrated Syriac Gospels of the 6th century, written in the year 586 (one-and-twenty years after the emperor's death), by Rabula, a scribe in the monastery of St. John, in Zagba, a city of Mesopotamia, and now preserved in the Laurentian Library at Florence. Mr. Westwood regards this as "so important a manuscript in respect to the history of the arts of illumination and design in the East," and by reflection in the West, that he is induced to give an elaborate description of its embellishments, from which the following is a short extract:—
"The first illumination represents Christ and the twelve apostles seated in a circle, with three lamps burning beneath a wide arch supported by two plain columns, with foliated capitals, and with two birds at the top. The second illumination represents the Virgin and Child standing within a double arch, the columns supporting which are tessellated, and the upper arch with several rows of zigzags, and peacocks standing at the top. The third represents Eusebius and Ammonius standing beneath a kind of tent-like canopy, supported by three columns, with undulated ornament, two peacocks with expanded tails standing at the top. The nineteen following plates are occupied by the tables of the Eusebian Canons, arranged in columns, between pillars supporting rounded arches, generally enclosed between larger and more ornamented columns supporting a large rounded arch, on the outsides of which are represented various groups of figures illustrating scriptural texts, plants, and birds. In some of these, however, the smaller arches are of the horseshoe character. The capitals are, for the most part, foliated; but in one or two they are composed of human faces, and a few of birds' heads. The arches, as well as the columns by which they are supported, are ornamented with chevrons, lozenges, nebules, quatrefoils, zigzags, flowers, fruit, birds, &c.; many of which singularly resemble those found in early Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, especially in the columns supporting the Eusebian Canons in the purple Latin Gospels of the British Museum (MS. Reg. I. E. 6). There is, however, none of the singular interlacing of the patterns so characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon and Irish manuscripts."
I have dwelt thus in detail upon these Greek pictorial and decorative features, because there can be no doubt that the exportation of books so adorned, by the early missionaries, who carried Christianity and a degree of civilization to the Northern and Western countries, supplied the original types from which, however barbaric the imitations, the first attempts were made to rival, in the extreme West, the arts and spiritual graces of the East. On this plea, I hope I may be pardoned for dwelling yet further upon some of the leading distinctions between the Byzantine and Latin (that is, between the Eastern and Western) modes of working out religious conceptions, which were, that in the Western or Latin mode symbolism was universal; the art of the Catacombs was followed distinctly, though frequently remotely, developing itself in mythical and sentimental forms, and systems of parallelism between type and prototype. In the Greek Church, the exposition of faith, through art, took a more tangible form. Symbolism was avoided on all possible occasions, and the direct representation of sacred themes led to a partial transfer to the representation of the adoration due to the thing represented. Iconoclasm was the reaction to this abuse. In the advanced periods of Greek art, this realistic tendency led to a painful view of the nature of religion, more particularly in connection with the martyrdom of saints, and the physical sufferings of our Saviour and his followers, which are frequently represented in the most positive and repellent forms.
Long, however, before Byzantine Art had time to deviate much from its ancient traditions, and even while it maintained an easy supremacy over the Western empire, the Lombard kingdom, and all the Visi- and Mœso-Gothic and Frankish races, a formidable competitor for the leadership in the Art of Illumination had sprung up in the extreme West, in the island homes of the Celtic races.
It is not necessary now to prove, what historians have freely admitted, that Ireland was certainly christianized for a long time previous to the date of the mission of Augustine to England. The disputes which arose between the followers of that saint and the Irish priests, so soon as they clearly apprehended the nature of the supremacy claimed by the Church of Rome, assure us of their early isolation in the Christian world. Even in their, at first entire, and ultimately partial, rejection of the Vulgate text of the Gospels, and their retention of the older versions, from which no doubt their formulas of faith were derived, they steadily maintained their Ecclesiastical freedom from the dogmatism of Rome. As their creed was independent, so was their Art original; nothing resembling it can be traced previous to it.
Before proceeding to examine the precise form assumed by this "original art," it may be well to remind the student that, with the exception of a few manuscripts decorated in the style of the Laurentian Syriac Gospels and the British Museum golden fragments, the general character of the decoration of all writings, previous to the origination of the Celtic style in Ireland, had been limited to the use of different-coloured, golden, and silver inks, on stained purple and white vellum grounds, to the occasional enlargement of, and slight flourishing about, initial letters; to the introduction of pictures, generally square, or oblong, enclosed in plain, or slightly bordered, frames; and, occasionally, to the scattering about, throughout the volumes, of a few lines and scrolls. Let us now see—in the words of Mr. Westwood, who has done more than any previous writer had done to vindicate the honour of the Irish school of caligraphy—what features of novelty it was mainly reserved for that school to originate. "Its peculiarities," he states, "consist in the illumination of the first page of each of the Sacred Books,—the letters of the first few words, and more especially the initial, being represented of a very large size, and highly ornamented in patterns of the most intricate design, with marginal rows of red dots; the classical Acanthus being never represented. The principles of these most elaborate ornaments are, however, but few in number, and may be reduced to the four following:—1st. One or more narrow ribbons, diagonally but symmetrically interlaced, forming an endless variety of patterns. 2nd. One, two, or three slender spiral lines, coiling one within another till they meet in the centre of the circle, their opposite ends going off to other circles. 3rd. A vast variety of lacertine animals and birds, hideously attenuated, and coiled one within another, with their tails, tongues, and top-knots forming long narrow ribbons irregularly interlaced. 4th. A series of diagonal lines, forming various kinds of Chinese-like patterns. These ornaments are generally introduced into small compartments, a number of which are arranged so as to form the large initial letters and borders, or tessellated pages, with which the finest manuscripts are decorated. The Irish missionaries brought their national style of art with them from Iona to Lindisfarne in the 7th century, as well as their fine, large, very characteristic style of writing; and as these were adopted by their Anglo-Saxon converts, and as most of the manuscripts which have been hitherto described are of Anglo-Saxon origin, it has been the practice to give the name of Anglo-Saxon to this style of art. Thus several of the finest facsimiles given by Astle as Anglo-Saxon, are from Irish manuscripts; and thus Sylvestre, who has copied them (without acknowledgment), has fallen into the same error; whilst Wanley, Casley, and others, appear never to have had a suspicion of the existence of an ancient school of art in Ireland."
The monks of Iona, under the great Irish saint and scribe Columba, or Columbkill, and their Anglo-Saxon disciples at Lindisfarne, under his friend St. Aidan, together with the Irish monks at Glastonbury, spread Celtic ornament in England, from whence it had, to a great extent, retired with the expulsion of the ancient British. St. Boniface, the principal awakener of Germany to Christianity, carried with him his singularly-ornamented book of Gospels, which is still preserved as a relic at Fulda. Similar evidence of the transmission of the Art prevalent during the early centuries of the Church in Ireland, to other lands, by means of the missionaries who left her shores, is to be found in the books of St. Kilian, the apostle of Franconia, still preserved at Wurtzburg; in those of St. Gall, now in the public library of St. Gall, in the canton of Switzerland which still bears his name; and in the very important series, of which Muratori has given an interesting catalogue, connected with the monastic institution founded by St. Columbanus, at Bobbio, in Italy, and now principally in the Ambrosian Library at Milan. Many of these pious men were themselves scribes, and their autograph copies of the Holy Gospels are still in existence, with the name of the writers, in some cases, identifying the volumes, and absolutely fixing their date. Thus we have the Gospels of St. Columba, the Leabhar Dhimma, or Gospels of St. Dhimma MacNathi, and the MacRegol Gospels in the Bodleian Library. All of these are anterior to the 9th century, and are distinguished by an elaborate style of ornament unlike any other European type. The extent of influence exercised by these eminent men and the "Episcopi Vagantes," or missionaries, is strongly insisted upon by M. Libri, unquestionably one of the most eminent and correctly-informed bibliographers of the present day. Speaking of the latitudinarianism of some among these Christian men, he observes, "No doubt certain pious but narrow minds hoped to open the door to ecclesiastical literature only; but the exclusion sometimes pronounced against the classics was never general amongst writers who, even in their rudeness, always showed themselves imitators of antiquity. Thus we find that the celebrated manuscript of Livy, in the Imperial Library at Vienna, belonged to Sutbert, an Irish monk, one of those wandering bishops who, towards the close of the seventh century, had gone to preach Christianity, and, as it would seem also, to teach Roman history in Belgium. One cannot help remarking, that the most celebrated of these pious missionaries, St. Columbanus, laid the foundations at Luxeuil in France, at St. Gall in Switzerland, and at Bobbio in Italy, of three monasteries which afterwards became famous for their admirable manuscripts, in many of which the influence of the Irish and Anglo-Saxon schools can be recognized at a glance. The library of St. Gall is too celebrated to require mention. The Bobbio manuscripts are known everywhere by the discoveries which have been made in the palimpsests which once belonged to that collection. As for the manuscripts of Luxeuil, they have been dispersed; but the specimens of them which are to be found in the Libri collection, joined to what has been published on the subject by Mabillon, O'Conor, and others, prove unanswerably that in this abbey, as well as in that of Stavelot in Belgium, and other ancient monasteries on the Continent, a school of writing and miniature had sprung up as remarkable for the beauty of its caligraphy, as for the care applied to reproduce the forms of the Anglo-Irish schools."
In delicacy of handling, and minute but faultless execution, the whole range of palæography offers nothing comparable to these early Irish manuscripts, and those produced in the same style in England. When in Dublin, some years ago, I had the opportunity of studying very carefully the most marvellous of all—"The Book of Kells;" some of the ornaments of which I attempted to copy, but broke down in despair. Of this very book, Mr. Westwood examined the pages, as I did, for hours together, without ever detecting a false line, or an irregular interlacement. In one space of about a quarter of an inch superficial, he counted, with a magnifying-glass, no less than one hundred and fifty-eight interlacements, of a slender ribbon pattern, formed of white lines, edged by black ones, upon a black ground. No wonder that tradition should allege that these unerring lines should have been traced by angels. However "angelic" the ornaments may be, but little can be said in favour of the figure subjects occasionally introduced. In some manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells, in pose and motive it is generally obvious that some ancient model has been held in view; but nothing can be more barbaric than the imitation; while in the other specimens, such as the so-called autograph Gospels of St. Columba, or Columbkill, who died A.D. 594, two years before the advent of St. Augustine—the Book of St. Chads, or the Gospels of MacRegol—no such evidence of imitation is to be met with, and the figures are altogether abortive.
I was enabled some years ago, by the kindness of the Rev. J. H. Todd, the learned librarian of Trinity College, Dublin, to compare the so-called autograph Gospels of St. Columba, with the Book of Kells, which is traditionally supposed to have belonged to that saint, and remained strongly impressed with the superior antiquity of the former to the latter. The one may have been his property, and the other illuminated in his honour after his death, as was the case with the Gospels of St. Cuthbert. In none of them, at any period, were shadows represented otherwise than by apparent inlayings under the eyes and beside the nose; and yet, at the same time, the ornaments were most intricate, and often very beautiful, both in form and colour. The purple stain is frequently introduced, and is of excellent quality; but gold appears, so far as I have been able to observe, only in the Durham Book, and in that even most sparingly. It is the most celebrated production of the Anglo-Hibernian monastery of Lindisfarne, founded by St. Aidan and the Irish monks of Iona, or Icolumkille, in the year 634.
St. Cuthbert, who was made bishop of Lindisfarne in 685, was renowned as well for his piety as for his learning; he died in 698, and, as a monument to his memory, his successor, Bishop Eadfrith, caused to be written this noble volume, generally called the Durham Book, and known also as St. Cuthbert's Gospels, now in the British Museum. This manuscript, surpassed in grandeur only by the Book of Kells, in the same style, was greatly enriched by Æthelwald, bishop of Lindisfarne, who succeeded Eadfrith in 721, and caused St. Cuthbert's book to be richly illuminated by the hermit Bilfrith, who prefixed an elaborate painting of an Evangelist to each of the four Gospels, and also illuminated the capital letters at the commencement of each book. The bishop caused the whole to be encased in a splendid binding of gold, set with precious stones; and in 950, a priest named Aldred rendered the book still more valuable by interlining it with a Saxon version of the original manuscript, which is the Latin text of St. Jerome.
Want of space alone prevents our following Simeon of Durham in his touching narrative of the circumstances which attended the translation of this volume, together with the body of the much-loved saint, to Durham Cathedral, in which both were long and profoundly venerated. The peculiar importance of this volume in the history of Illumination, consists in its clearly establishing, by its coincidence with earlier examples, the class of caligraphy practised by that primitive Church and people, to whom Gregory the Great despatched St. Augustine, at the end of the 6th century. With the mission, which reached its destination, and effected the conversion of Ethelbert and of many of his subjects, in the year 597, Gregory forwarded certain sacred volumes, of which the following were long preserved with the greatest veneration:—A Bible in two volumes; two Psalters; two books of the Gospels; a book of Martyrology; apocryphal Lives of the Apostles, and expositions of certain Epistles and Gospels.
The first—the Bible—which was beautifully written on purple and rose-coloured leaves, with rubricated capitals, was certainly in existence in the reign of James I. Mr. Westwood ("Palæographia Sacra," 1843-45) looks upon the magnificent purple Latin Gospels of the British Museum (Royal Library, 1 E 6) as "no other than the remains of the Gregorian Bible." In this, with the utmost respect for his opinion, I cannot concur, since the fragment exhibits far too many genuine Saxon features to have been possibly executed in the Eastern or Western empires previous to the date of the mission of St. Augustine. That it may have been produced in this country, in imitation of the more classical original, by the immediate followers of the saint, is, I consider, highly probable.
The second—the two Psalters—have disappeared. Several learned men have indeed looked upon the British Museum Cottonian MSS. Vesp. A 1, as one of these celebrated books, but, as I venture to think, erroneously; for it is difficult to believe that ornaments, so entirely of the Anglo-Irish school of Lindisfarne, as those which decorate this volume, could have been executed at Rome during either the 6th or even the 7th century. Nothing is more probable than that, out of the forty persons who are believed to have constituted Augustine's mission, several should have been skilled, as most ecclesiastics then were, in writing and in the embellishment of books; and in any school, established by St. Augustine for the multiplication of those precious volumes, without which ministrations and teachings in consonance with Roman dogmas could not be carried on in the new churches and monastic institutions founded among the converts, it is most likely that the native scribes, on their conversion, should be employed to write and decorate the holy texts, with every ornament excepting those of a pictorial nature. In the execution of these, they could scarcely prove themselves as skilful as the followers of St. Augustine would, from their retention of some classical traditions, be likely to be. Thus, and thus only, as I believe, can we account for the singular combination of semi-antique with Saxon writing, and of Latin body-colour pictures, executed almost entirely with the brush, and regularly shadowed (such as David with his Attendants, in the frontispiece to the Vespasian A 1 Psalter), with ornaments of an absolutely different character, such as the arch and pilaster which form the framework for this very picture of King David. Another argument, which weighs greatly in my mind against the probability of such a Psalter as Vespasian A 1 being a prototype, is the fact, that the Utrecht and Harleian Psalters, to both of which I shall have occasion again to allude, in their pictorial illustrations, present us with evident copies, in outline, of some classic coloured original; just, in fact, of such a manuscript of the Psalms as the celebrated Vatican Roll is of the book of Joshua. What more likely than that one of the venerated Psalters brought from Rome should have been such a manuscript, and should have been the very one copied in the case of the Utrecht Psalter, in the "rustic capitals" of the original, and in the later Harleian replica in the current Saxon uncial?
As respects the third class of Augustinian books—the Gospels—the case is far different; for the accredited and traditional originals are, in every respect, such as would be likely to have been produced at Rome or at Constantinople, but most probably the former, during the pontificate of Gregory the Great. Fragments of the most important of these Gospels are preserved in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. They are written in black ink generally, with occasional lines in red, in the ancient manner. Two pages only of illuminations are left, though it is evident that the volume once contained a large and complete series. The most important of these represents St. Luke, clad in tunic and toga, seated under just such a triumphal arch as is frequently to be met with in the Roman Mosaics of the 5th and 6th centuries. The second illuminated page comprises a series of small square pictures, framed round with the simple red line of the oldest Latin manuscripts.
The other Augustinian fragmentary Gospel is to be found among the Hatton manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford: it is without any other illumination than the contrast of red and black ink, and a few ornaments about some of the initial letters. The evidence, upon which it may be assumed that these volumes were either brought to this country by St. Augustine, or formed some of the "codices multos," sent by Gregory the Great to the mission on its establishment, rests not only upon the antiquity and purely Latin character of the fragments, but on the fact that both Gospels contain entries in Saxon of upwards of one thousand years old, connecting them with the library of the Abbey of St. Augustine at Canterbury; and, furthermore, they correspond with the description given by a monk of that monastery, who, writing in the reign of Henry V., dwells upon the "primitie librorum totius Ecclesie Anglicane" preserved in that library, as the very Gospels in the version of St. Jerome, brought to England by St. Augustine himself.
The Martyrology, the apocryphal Lives of the Apostles, and the Expositions which completed the series, cannot be now identified.
To rapidly multiply copies of these text-books of the Church of Rome, was, no doubt, one of the first and most important duties of the monks of Canterbury; and from the traces we may detect in various manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon mode of writing and ornamenting writing, combined with paintings such as the Anglo-Saxons were incompetent to execute for some time after the close of the 6th century, we may safely infer that the monks both worked themselves and largely employed the native scribes. Thus, as Mr. Westwood observes in a recent article in the "Archæological Journal," "We have sufficient evidence that, soon after the settlement of the followers of St. Augustine, there must have been established a scriptorium, where some of the most beautiful manuscripts were written in the purest uncial or rustic capitals, but decorated with initials in the Anglo-Saxon or Irish style. Of such MSS. we can now record—
"1. The purple Gospels at Stockholm, written in very large uncials, but with illuminated title-pages, with pure Anglo-Saxon ornaments, and grand figures of the Evangelists in a mixed classical and Anglo-Saxon style.
"2. The Utrecht Gospels.
"3. The Gospels in the Cathedral Library, Durham; Astle's 'Origin and Progress of Writing,' pl. 14, fig. B, p. 83.
"4. The Utrecht Psalter.
"5. The so-called Psalter of St. Augustine, MSS. Cotton., Vespasian, A 1; Astle, pl. 9, fig. 2.
"6. The Bodleian MS. of the Rule of St. Benedict, Lord Hatton's MSS., No. 93; Astle, pl. 9, fig. 1, p. 82.
"Were it not for the initials, and other illuminations in the genuine Anglo-Saxon style, not one of these MSS. could be supposed to have been executed in England. They are, nevertheless, among the finest specimens of early caligraphic art in existence."
One of the most important of this interesting class of manuscripts is, unquestionably, that of the Psalms, now preserved in the public library at Utrecht. It was formerly in the possession of Sir Robert Cotton, and should be now with the rest of his library in the British Museum. The volume contains, besides the Psalms, the "Pusillus eram," the Credo, and the Canticles, with a few leaves from the Gospel of St. Matthew. It is written upon vellum, and each psalm has a pen-and-ink illustration, in the same style as those in the Harleian Psalter, No. 603, which was written in the 10th century; and similar also to those in the Cambridge Psalter of the 12th century. The writing in the Utrecht Psalter is executed in Roman rustic capitals; it is arranged in three columns in each page; and the elegance with which the letters are formed, would place the manuscripts amongst those of the 6th or 7th century: but the illustrations before mentioned, with the large uncial B, heightened with gold, in the Saxon interlaced style, which commences the first psalm, would give it a later date, certainly not earlier than the 7th or 8th century; and the pen-and-ink drawings were probably executed a century later.
Mr. Westwood, to whose highly interesting "Archæological Notes of a Tour in Denmark, Prussia, and Holland," published in the "Archæological Journal," I am indebted for the above information, tells us that the date of the few pages of the Gospel, mentioned as being bound up in this volume, is as uncertain as that of the Psalter; the text being written in a style which would place it amongst the works of the 6th or 7th century, whilst the word "Liber," with which it commences, is written in large square Roman capitals, in gold, with the remains of ornament similar to that in Vespasian, A 1.
That which gives, however, its greatest value to the Utrecht Psalter, is the remarkable freedom and cleverness of the pen-and-ink drawings with which it is embellished. In them may be recognized, I believe, the earliest trace of those peculiar fluttered draperies, elongated proportions, and flourished touches, which became almost a distinct style in later Anglo-Saxon illumination. So different is it, both from the Anglo-Hibernian work, prevalent in England up to the advent of St. Augustine, and from the contemporary imitation of the antique, practised by Byzantine, Latin, Lombard, or Frankish illuminators, that the conclusion seems, as it were, forced upon us, that it can have been originated in no other way than by setting the already most skilful penman, but altogether ignorant artist, to reproduce, as he best could, the freely-painted miniatures of the books, sacred and profane, imported, as we know, in abundance, from Rome, during the 7th and 8th centuries.
To so great an extent do antique types and features prevail in the earlier specimens of this class of Anglo-Saxon volumes, that, until comparatively recently, the catalogue of the Utrecht Library has designated the illustrations of the Psalter now under notice, as evidently productions of the reign of Valentinian; while the outline subjects, in a similar style, and of considerably later date, which are introduced in the British Museum "Aratus," were attributed, by even Mr. Ottley's critical judgment, to a somewhat similar period.
The Harleian Psalter (No. 603), to which allusion has been already made, although written in later characters, is decorated with many pictures, all but identical with those in the Utrecht manuscript, thereby demonstrating, with comparative certainty, that both were taken from some popular prototype, possibly one of the Augustinian Psalters already alluded to.
The Bodleian Cædmon's, or pseudo-Cædmon's, "Metrical Paraphrase of the Book of Genesis," written and illustrated in outline, during the 10th or 11th century, and the Ælfric's Heptateuch of the British Museum, "Cottonian, Claudius B iv.," of a somewhat later date, afford excellent illustrations of the enduring popularity of this peculiar mode of outline-drawing. The striking difference may, however, be noted between these later and the earlier specimens in the same style, that whereas the types of the latter are, with scarcely any exception, antique, those of the former are comparatively original, and exhibit that strong inclination to caricature, which has always formed one of the leading features of English illumination.
While, in this class of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, the influence of Latin art may be traced on the original Hiberno-British school of scribes, a corresponding change was effected, through the introduction into this country of specimens of the more brilliant examples of Byzantine execution or derivation. Thus, as Sir Frederick Madden observes, "The taste for gold and purple manuscripts seems only to have reached England at the close of the 7th century, when Wilfrid, archbishop of York, enriched his church with a copy of the Gospels thus adorned; and it is described by his biographer, Eddius (who lived at that period or shortly after), as 'inauditum ante seculis nostris quoddam miraculum,'—almost a miracle, and before that time unheard of in this part of the world. But in the 8th and 9th centuries the art of staining the vellum appears to have declined, and the colour is no longer the same bright and beautiful purple, violet, or rose-colour of the preceding centuries. It is rare also to meet with a volume stained throughout; the artist contenting himself with colouring a certain portion, such as the title, preface, or canon of the mass. Manuscripts written in letters of gold, on white vellum, are chiefly confined to the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries. Of these, the Bible and Hours of Charles the Bald, preserved in the Royal Library at Paris, and the Gospels of the Harleian collection, No. 2788, are probably the finest examples extant. In England, the art of writing in gold seems to have been but imperfectly understood in early times, and the instances of it very uncommon. Indeed, the only remarkable one that occurs of it is the charter of King Edgar to the new minster at Winchester, in the year 966. This volume is written throughout in gold."
Although but few books were thus gorgeously written, many were sumptuously decorated; and, indeed, there exist no more brilliant volumes than some of those produced by Anglo-Saxon scribes. Of these several have been preserved; but if two or three only are noticed, it will be quite sufficient to establish the leading characteristics of the school, which appears to have been organized under Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, at New Minster, or Hyde Abbey, near Winchester, during the 10th century. The names of several leading masters of that great nursery of illumination have been handed down to us. Thus Ethric and Wulfric—monks—are recorded as having been "painters;" but Godemann is spoken of as the greatest of all. Fortunately, a magnificent specimen of his art is preserved in the celebrated benedictional of St. Ethelwold, in the library of the Duke of Devonshire, and engraved in extenso, with great care, in the twenty-fourth volume of the "Archæologia." This is one of the most sumptuous manuscripts which has been executed in any age by any scribe, and differs widely from the Anglo-Saxon MSS. previously described. The text is generally enclosed within a rich framework, formed by wide and solid bars of gold, about and over which twine and break elegantly-shaded masses of conventional foliation. In the initial letters, and occasionally in the ornament, the peculiarly Saxon interlacing and knotwork is retained; but in most of the embellishments, a reaction can be traced from the Carlovingian manuscripts themselves, originally acted upon, as will be hereafter seen, by the Saxon school of caligraphy. The figure subjects in this volume are cramped in style and action, exhibit but little classical influence, and possess, as a leading merit, only a singularly sustained brilliancy of tint and even execution throughout.
Next to this great masterpiece, and from the same fountain-head, come the following, several of which are exceedingly beautiful:—The two Rouen Gospels; the Gospels of King Canute, in the British Museum, Reg. D 9; the Cottonian Psalter, Tib. C vi.; the Hyde Abbey Book, lately in the Stowe Library; and the Gospels of Trinity College, Cambridge. The ornaments in all these volumes are painted in thick body-colours, and with a vehicle so viscid in texture, that Dr. Dibdin infers from its character, as evidenced in the Benedictional, "the possibility or even probability of oil being mixed up in the colours of the more ancient illuminations." In this opinion I do not concur, as I believe the peculiar body and gloss of the pigment to be produced by the use of white of egg.
If the character of Anglo-Saxon architecture and sculpture agreed with the representations of both given in the Benedictional of Ethelwold—as I have every reason to believe it did—it must have been massive and elaborate in the highest degree; and there is no reason to suppose that a people who were capable of drawing so well as they assuredly could, should have limited their productions in the sister arts to the rude and clumsy, long and short, and other similar work, which we are in the habit of supposing, characterized all their principal productions.
I have dwelt in some detail upon Saxon illumination, for two reasons: firstly, because it is a theme on which some national self-gratulation may be justifiably entertained; and, secondly, because it is one on which, although much has been written, comparatively little light has as yet been thrown. Before leaving it, however, some general observations should be made upon the classes of books most in demand, and the means by which they were multiplied in this country; and, indeed, with slight local differences, on the great continent of Europe as well,—Byzantium, Ravenna, Rome, Monte Cassino, Subiaco, Paris, Tours, Limoges, Arles, Soissons, Blois, Aix-la-Chapelle, Cologne, Hildesheim, Worms, Treves, Glastonbury, Canterbury, Winchester, York, Durham, Lindisfarne, Wearmouth, Jarrow, Croyland, and Peterborough, being the great centres of production.
From the earliest period religious zeal was much shown in its offerings to the Church, by laymen, more or less pious,—the least pious being, in fact, sometimes the most liberal donors,—and very large sums were expended in illuminating and ornamenting manuscripts for that purpose. Many of these books were remarkable for the extreme beauty of the paintings and ornamental letters enriched with gold and silver, which decorate them, as well as for the execution of the writing, the most precious bindings frequently adding greatly to their cost. Gospels, books of anthems, and missals, were most frequently chosen for such gifts; but they were not confined to sacred subjects, including occasionally the best writings of Greece and Rome, which were eagerly sought after as models of eloquence, and, still more, as often being supposed to contain prophecies of the coming of Christ, and proofs of the truth of his doctrines.
The piety of individuals often led them to expend large sums in the preparation of their offerings to the Church; the finest and best parchment which could be procured being used for manuscripts. When black ink was used in liturgical writings, the title-page and heads of the chapters were written in red ink; whence comes the term Rubric. Green, blue, and yellow inks were used, sometimes for words, but chiefly for ornamental capital letters; the writers and miniature-painters exercising their own taste and judgment in the decoration, and heightening its effect with gold and the most expensive colours, such as azure and the purest cinnabar or vermilion.
The greater part of these works were intrusted to monks and their clerks, who were exhorted, by the rules of their order, to learn writing, and to persevere in the work of copying manuscripts, as being one most acceptable to God; those who could not write being recommended to learn to bind books. Alcuin entreats all to employ themselves in copying books, saying, "It is a most meritorious work, more useful to the health than working in the fields, which profits only a man's body, whilst the labour of a copyist profits his soul."
Home production could, however, by no means suffice to multiply books, and especially religious books, with sufficient rapidity to satisfy the eager demand for them. Long journeys appear to have been taken to foreign countries, by learned ecclesiastics, for scarcely any other purpose than the collection of manuscripts; while quantities were imported into England from abroad. Thus Bede tells us, that Wilfrid, bishop of Wearmouth and Jarrow, and Acca, Wilfrid's successor, collected many books abroad for their libraries, at the end of the seventh century. Thus Theodore of Tarsus brought back an extensive library of Grecian and Roman authors, on his return to Canterbury, in 668, from a mission to Rome; and thus, as we are told by Mr. Maitland, when "Aldhelm, who became Bishop of Schireburn in the year 705, went to Canterbury, to be consecrated by his old friend and companion Berthwold (pariter literis studuerant, pariterque viam religionis triverant), the archbishop kept him there many days, taking counsel with him about the affairs of his diocese. Hearing of the arrival of the ships at Dover during this time, he went there to inspect their unloading, and to see if they had brought anything in his way (si quid forte commodum ecclesiastico usui attidissent nautæ qui e Gallico sinu in Angliam, provecti librorum copiam apportassent). Among many other books, he saw one containing the whole of the Old and New Testaments, which he at length bought: and William of Malmesbury, who wrote his life in the twelfth century, tells us it was still preserved at that place."
How deeply must all lovers of illumination regret the infinite destruction of books that has prevailed in all ages! Of all this "librorum copiam," how few survive. Even in the days of Alfred the Great, the Danes had destroyed the majority of them; for, as that great royal Bibliomaniac exclaims, in his preface to the "Pastoral of Gregory,"—"I saw, before all were spoiled and burnt, how the churches throughout Britain were filled with treasures and books."
I now leave our own country for a while, and return to the general continent of Europe; having, I trust, satisfactorily established the individuality of those three great styles of illumination, from the fusion of which the Romanesque, and ultimately the Mediæval, system sprang,—viz., the Roman, or pictorial; the Greek, or golden; and the Hiberno-Saxon, or intricate. The commencement of that fusion has been traced in the later Anglo-Saxon work, and it now remains to observe the circumstances under which a similar, and even more marked, amalgamation took place on the continent, under the auspices of Charlemagne, the greatest patron of the art who ever lived.
Much has been assumed by early Palæographers, and even some recent ones, with respect to the influence exercised by the Lombard MSS. executed between the establishment of the Lombard kingdom in the year 568, and its absorption A.D. 774, in the empire of Charlemagne, on the class of illumination introduced under his auspices; but the specimens which have descended to these days exhibit such an entire decrepitude of style, as to justify the belief that, with the exception of a peculiar broken-backed letter, known as "Lombard brisé," the Lombards themselves contributed little or nothing to the results which attended the efforts made by that great sovereign to raise the art of book-decoration in his day to its highest pitch. It was mainly by the aid, and through the direct instrumentality, of the learned Anglo-Saxon, Alcuin, that Charlemagne carried out his laudable design. This industrious ecclesiastic, who was born in the year 735, received his education under Egbert and Elbert, successive archbishops of the see of York,—having been appointed at an early age "custodian" to the library collected by the former. On the death of Elbert, he was sent to Rome to receive the pallium of investiture for the new archbishop Enbalde. On his journey home, in 780, he passed through Parma, where Charlemagne happened to be at the time. The consequence of their meeting in that city was, that Alcuin received and accepted an invitation to take up his residence at the court of the Frankish sovereign. During four-and-twenty years, until his death, indeed, in 804, he retained the affection and respect of his royal patron, and occupied himself in incessant labour for the advancement of learning, and the multiplication of pure texts of the Holy Scriptures and other good books. Several of Alcuin's letters to Charlemagne are still extant, in which the supremacy of the English schools and libraries is distinctly recognized, as well as the direct influence exercised by them on Frankish literature, and, as in those days literature and illumination were inseparable, on illumination also. Thus, in one place he begs his master to give him "those exquisite books of erudition which I had in my own country by the good and devout industry of my master Egbert, the archbishop." Again, referring to the same "treasures of wisdom," he proposes,—"If it shall please your wisdom, I will send some of our boys, who may copy from thence whatever is necessary, and carry back into France the flowers of Britain; that the garden may not be shut up in York, but the fruits of it may be placed in the paradise of Tours."
One of the evidences of the eagerness with which this task of multiplying the sources of learning was carried on, is to be found in the attempts made to abridge and expedite labour. Thus, as M. Chassant observes in his useful little manual of abbreviations used during the Middle Ages, the texts of all documents of importance were comparatively free from contractions from the period when Justinian the Great banished them, by an imperial edict, from all legal instruments, until the accession of Charlemagne, "during whose reign, either to save time or vellum, the scribes revived the ancient Roman practice of using initials, and frequently arbitrary signs, to represent whole words of frequent recurrence."
It is, however, in the quality, rather than the quantity, of Carlovingian MSS. that the reader is most likely to be interested; and I therefore hasten to note two or three of the most imposing specimens. The earliest of the grand class is believed to be the Evangelistiarium, long preserved in the Abbey of St. Servin, at Toulouse, and ultimately presented to Napoleon I., on the baptism of the King of Rome, in the name of the city. From contemporary entries, it appears to have been completed, after eight years' labour, in the year 781, by the scribe Godescalc. Of whatever nation "Godescalc" may have been, the volume exhibits far too many composite features to justify the belief that any one individual, or even many individuals of one nation, could have executed the whole. The paintings are probably by an Italian hand, being executed freely with the brush, in opaque colours, in the antique manner. Many of the golden borders are quite Greek in style, while the initial letters, and others of the borders, are thoroughly Hiberno-Saxon. A nearly similar dissection would apply to most of the manuscripts executed for Charlemagne's descendants, to the third generation. The volume contains 127 leaves, every leaf, not entirely filled with illumination, being stained purple, with a white margin, and covered with a text, written in golden initials, in two columns, separated by very graceful and delicately-executed borders. Our plates, Technical Manual, Nos. 1 and 2, taken from the great Charlemagne Bible of the British Museum, give a good idea of the nature of the ornament usually employed in similar MSS. to fill up such borders and to form and decorate initial letters. They will serve to show also the common type of the Alphabets in use.
From Charlemagne's "Scriptorium," which was no doubt the head-quarters of the best artists of all nations in his time, proceeded many other volumes of scarcely less interest and magnificence. Among these, the most noteworthy are, the Gospels of St. Medard de Soissons, so called because believed to have been presented by Charlemagne to that Abbey; the Vienna Psalter, written for Pope Hadrian; the Gospels preserved in the library of the Arsenal at Paris, and formerly belonging to the Abbaye of St. Martin des Champs; the Gospels found upon the knees of the Emperor on opening his tomb at Aix-la-Chapelle; the Harleian MS. No. 3788, known as the "Codex Aureus"; and last, not least, the Bible, known as that of San Calisto, preserved in the Benedictine monastery of that saint at Rome, and formerly in the monastery of San Paolo fuori le Mura. The frontispiece to this volume, which is no less than one foot four inches high, by one foot one inch wide, represents a sitting emperor holding a globe, on which are inscribed various letters, arranged in the peculiar form adopted by Charlemagne in his signs manual.
|Historical Manual.||Plate No III.|
The learned have disputed hotly whether this portrait is intended for that of Charlemagne, or of Charles the Bald, his grandson. Whether this manuscript, which, in all respects, except beauty in the figure-subjects, I look upon as the finest I have ever seen, was executed in the days of the former or latter monarch, is of no very great moment, as its leading features would harmonize very well with accredited reliques of either. It still contains no less than 339 pages, and is one blaze of illumination from the first page to the last. The large initial letters are quite Saxon in form; the borders, of which there are endless and beautiful varieties, are more strictly classic in character than is usual in Caroline manuscripts; and the pictures are in an indeterminate style, between Greek, Latin, and that original Frankish, which subsequently absorbed in Western Europe all previous tradition, and grew into the peculiar type of French 12th century work—the progenitor of the pure Gothic of the 13th.
Ample materials happily exist for tracing the gradual development of this Frankish element; at first through the works of the immediate descendants of Charlemagne, and subsequently through various liturgical works, collected from suppressed abbeys, and preserved for the most part in the Imperial library at Paris. Of these, some of the most important are, the Bible of Louis le Debonnaire, executed in the eighth year of his reign; the Gospels of the same monarch; and the Sacramentaire de Metz,—all produced for sons of Charlemagne. The first-named is of the barbaric style, on which Alcuin and others improved; the second contains some very curious symbolic initial letters; and the third, a good deal of originality, both in ornaments and figures.
The principal volumes still preserved, once belonging to the grandsons of Charlemagne, appear less original in several respects, than do those executed for his sons. Thus, in the case of Louis le Debonnaire's eldest son Lothaire, whose Gospels, written and decorated at the Abbey of St. Martin, at Tours, exhibit a mixed Latin and Saxon style, with but little specifically Frankish work,—and thus also in the person of Lothaire's youngest brother, Charles the Bald, whose two celebrated Bibles, the one known as the Bible of St. Denis, and the other as that presented to the monarch by Count Vivien, abbot of the same monastery at which the Gospels of Lothaire were executed,—illustrate a similar composite, but scarcely original, style. The former manuscript is illuminated with intertwined lacertine monsters, knotwork, single (but not the three-whorl) spirals, and rows of red dots following many of the leading outlines, all of which may be regarded as distinctive features of the Hiberno-Saxon school; while the latter, with several of the above peculiarities freely introduced, combines an unmistakable classicality, shown in the various figure-subjects, and especially in the arcading which encloses the Eusebian Canons at the commencement of the volume.
The British Museum is fortunate in possessing in the Harleian MS.—No. 7551—a curious collection of ancient Biblical fragments, and amongst these are a few pages taken from a Bible executed for Charles the Bald. From these Mr. Tymms has selected the elegant Alphabets, initial letters, and ornaments which are to be found in plates 1, 2, and 3, of this manual. In these the student will not fail to recognize what he may have already observed in studying the specimens given from the Charlemagne Bible (Technical manual, plates 1, 2, and 3), that while the form of the text and the ornamental borderings are founded on antique models, the initial letters scarcely ever fail to exhibit in their Celtic animals' heads and interlaced strap-work the influence of Alcuin and the Saxon scribes.
We can feel but little surprise at the production of such works at the Abbey of St. Martin, at Tours, for it was within the walls of that "Paradise," as Alcuin calls it, that the Saxon sage gave all the latter years of his life to the recension of the Holy Scriptures, and to the organization of a "scriptorium" worthy of his affectionate patron.
The impulse given to the Art of Illumination in that celebrated establishment was speedily communicated to rival scriptoria in other localities; thus from the abbeys of St. Martial, at Limoges, from Metz, Mans, St. Majour in Provence, Rheims, St. Germain and St. Denis at Paris, issued, from the age of Charlemagne to the 13th century, an almost uninterrupted series of highly-illuminated volumes, many of which still remain to attest the vigorous efforts by which the foreign elements were gradually thrown aside in France, to make way for that expressive and original outline style which achieved its greatest power in the early part of the 13th century. The throes and struggles by which this was achieved, are singularly well shown by a page engraved in Count Bastard's splendid work from the "Apocalypse of St. Sever," written during the first half of the 11th century. The page presents a curious emblematical frontispiece, the general form of which is perfectly Oriental; the border ornaments are founded on Cufic inscriptions; the animals which decorate the Arabian framework are classical; and the interlacing fretwork of several portions of the design is purely Saxon.
Many Byzantine features were brought into French illumination through the schools at St. Martial's and the other abbeys of Limoges, but it was at Paris itself that the greatest changes and improvements were effected; thus, at St. Germain and St. Denis were produced, during the first half and middle of the 11th century, two volumes, still existing in the Imperial Library of France, which distinctly show the budding of "Gothic." The St. Germain "Mysteries of the Life of Christ" is illustrated by many original and very spirited outline compositions, some of which are slightly coloured; while the "Missal of St. Denis," of a few years later, displays that peculiar grace and naïveté in the action and expression of the figures, together with that soft elegance in foliated ornament, which for several centuries remained a dominant excellence in the best French illuminations.
As classical tradition and Hiberno-Saxon intricacies died out in France to make way for the true Mediæval styles, so did they, although somewhat more slowly, in England, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. In Italy, a degeneracy occurred, from which the revival at length, under Cimabue and Giotto, was as rapid and brilliant as the previous collapse appears to have been fatal.
Alike from any such complete change, complete degeneracy, or ultimate attainment of life and perfection, the genuine Greek style of the Byzantine empire was exempted. That Oriental splendour of gold and colour by which so early as the days of Justinian the Great, it sought to gloss over the feebleness of its reminiscences of classical beauty, remained the unchanged leading characteristic of its illuminations down to the final extinction of the empire in 1453.
In such an essay as the present, it is quite impossible to convey any idea of the minute, but extremely interesting varieties of type adopted in Byzantine manuscripts; it must suffice to state, in general terms,—that the dispersion of many of the most skilful Greek artists, by the iconoclastic emperors (commencing with Leo the Isaurian, A.D. 726), gave a great impetus to the arts of design in those countries in which they took refuge, and no doubt contributed specially to the improvements effected under Charlemagne,—that on the abandonment of such religious persecutions, in the middle of the 9th century, a fresh start appears to have been taken,—and that from the date of that revival, which may be specially noted under the reign of Basil the Macedonian, until about the year 1200, many very noble and dignified pictures were executed. From the last-named era, until the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, although the treatment of figure-subjects became more and more weak and mannered, much beautiful ornament was painted upon gold grounds, and the influence originally communicated to Arabian art from the Eastern Empire, was reflected back upon its later productions from the contemporary schools of Saracenic and Moorish decoration. It is scarcely necessary to remark, that in all these inflexions of style the Russian, Syrian, and Armenian illuminators closely followed the example set them by the Byzantine scribes and painters.
Returning from the East to the extreme west of Europe, it is worthy of note how entirely the primitive Saxon styles, which wrought so important an influence upon the rest of Europe, were lost in the country from which they had been mainly promulgated. The successive social and political changes wrought by the ascendancy of the Danes, and ultimately of the Normans, put an almost total stop to Saxon illumination; and so complete was the abandonment of the Saxon character, that Ingulphus, in describing the fire which destroyed the noble library of his abbey at Croyland, in the year 1091, after dwelling on the splendour of the "chirographs written in the Roman character, adorned with golden crosses and most beautiful paintings," and especially "the privileges of the kings of Mercia, the most ancient and the best, in like manner beautifully executed with golden illuminations, but written in the Saxon character," goes on to state: "All our documents of this kind, greater and less, were about four hundred in number; and in one moment of a most dismal night, they were destroyed and lost to us by this lamentable misfortune. A few years before, I had taken from our archives a good many chirographs, written in the Saxon character, because we had duplicates, and in some cases triplicates, of them; and had given them to our cantor, Master Fulmar, to be kept in the cloister, to help the juniors to learn the Saxon character, because that letter had for a long while been despised and neglected by reason of the Normans, and was now known only to a few of the more aged; that so the younger ones, being instructed to read this character, might be more competent to use the documents of their monastery against their adversaries in their old age."
|Historical Manual.||Plate No IV.|
Outline for coloring.
|Plate No V.|
The Normans, a warlike but unlettered race, did but little for the first century after the Conquest, to restore the taste for learning which they and the Danes had displaced. While English progress in illumination was thus comparatively paralyzed, in France and Germany new styles, corresponding with those known in architecture as Romanesque, rapidly sprang into popularity. Of the leading decorative features of such styles, as well as of the corresponding alphabets and initial letters, we have endeavoured to give some elegant reductions in plates 4, 5, and 6 of this manual, and in plates 4, 5, and 6 of its technical companion. The illustrations in the former have been taken from the British Museum, "Reg. 1, C. VII.," a folio MS., of bold rather than beautiful execution, but containing throughout many well-designed initial letters and ornaments. The volume comprises the vulgate version of the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, and it is believed by Sir Frederick Madden, no doubt the most competent judge in this country, to have been executed about the middle of the 12th century. The materials for the plates in the Technical Manual, Nos. 4, 5, and 6 have been gleaned from a manuscript of rather later date, preserved in the Harleian Collection, Nos. 2803 and 2804. There can be little doubt that the numerous ornaments which decorate this great Bible were the work of German industry, for, independently of the evidences of style offered by the writing and illumination, an entry in the volume informs us that it once belonged to the church of the Blessed Virgin, in one of the suburbs of Worms. All of the ornaments in this series of illustrations show a manifest disposition on the part of their designers to break away from the rigidity of pure convention into a class of foliation, which, if not directly copied from nature, at least recalls the general aspect of her germinating, growing, and, finally, luxuriant forms of vegetation. The combination, with reminiscences of Carlovingian knotted ends to the initial letters, of foliated ornament, during the 12th century, may be frequently found developed, in Germany especially, into a fresh luxuriant, and complete system. The complicated conventionality of foliage shown in many Teutonic manuscripts, and greatly encouraged by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, A.D. 1152 to 1190, was never entirely abandoned by the Germans in their ornament; and at the end of the 13th and early part of the 14th centuries, when France and England were successfully imitating nature, they continued to cling to that peculiarly crabbed style of crinkled foliation, which they reluctantly abandoned only in the 17th century.
With the accession of the Plantagenets, in 1154, and especially through the marriage of Henry II. with Eleanor of Guienne, French influence acquired a marked predominance in English illumination; and for about one hundred years from that date, the progress of style in England and France was parallel and almost identical. Gradually, in each, the Romanesque features disappeared, and by the middle of the 13th century, the fulness of mediæval illumination, as reflecting the perfection of Gothic architecture, was attained. The rapid growth of the Dominican and Franciscan orders during the first half of the century, and their eagerness to dispel the drowsiness into which the old well-to-do monastic establishments were fast slipping, gave a new life to all arts, including, of course, that of the transcription and illumination of the sources of learning, and in those days, consequently, of power.
The present appears to be the most fitting place for a few notes, derived chiefly from the "Consuetudines" of the regulars, on the general mediæval practice in relation to monastic libraries, of which England, France, Germany, and Italy possessed many during the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries, rich, not only in sacred and patristic, but in profane literature as well.
|Historical Manual.||Plate No VI.|
The libraries of such establishments were placed by the abbot under the sole charge of the "armarian," an officer who was made responsible for the preservation of the volumes under his care: he was expected frequently to examine them, lest damp or insects should injure them; he was to cover them with wooden covers to preserve them, and carefully to mend and restore any damage which time or accident might cause; he was to make a note of any book borrowed from the library, with the name of the borrower; but this rule applied only to the less valuable portion of it, as the "great and precious books" could only be lent by the permission of the abbot himself. It was also the duty of the armarian to have all the books in his charge marked with their correct titles, and to keep a perfect list of the whole. Some of these catalogues are still in existence, and are curious and interesting, as showing the state of literature in the Middle Ages, as well as giving us the names of many authors whose works have never reached us. In perusing these catalogues, it is impossible not to be struck by the assiduous collection of classical authors, whose works sometimes equal, and at others actually preponderate over, the books of scholastic divinity. It was also the duty of the armarian, under the orders of his superior, to provide the transcribers of manuscripts with the writings which they were to copy, as well as with all the materials necessary for their labours; to make bargains as to payment, and to superintend the works during their progress. These books were not always destined for the library of the monastery in which they were transcribed, but were often eagerly bought by others, or by some generous layman, for the purpose of presenting to a monastic library; and their sale, particularly at an early period, added largely to the revenues of the establishment in which they were written or illuminated.
The different branches of the transcribing trade were occasionally united in the same person, but were more generally divided and practised separately, and by secular as well as by religious copyists. Of the former, there were at least three distinct branches—the illuminators, the notarii, and the librarii antiquarii. The last-mentioned were employed chiefly in restoring and repairing old and defaced manuscripts and their bindings. The public scribes were employed chiefly by monks and lawyers, sometimes working at their own houses; and at others, when any valuable work was to be copied, in that of their employer, where they were lodged and boarded during the time of their engagement.
A large room, as has been already stated, was in most monasteries set apart for such labours, and here the general transcribers pursued their avocation; but there were also, in addition, small rooms or cells, known also as scriptoria, which were occupied by such monks as were considered, from their piety and learning, to be entitled to the indulgence, and used by them for their private devotions, as well as for the purpose of transcribing works for the use of the church or library. The scriptoria were frequently enriched by donations and bequests from those who knew the value of the works carried on in them, and large estates were often devoted to their support. The tithes of Wythessy and Impitor, two shillings and twopence,—and some land in Ely, with two parts of the tithes of the lordship of Pampesward, were granted by Bishop Nigellus to the scriptorium of the monastery of Ely, the charter of which still exists in the church there. A Norman named Robert gave to the scriptorium of St. Alban's the tithes of Redburn, and two parts of the tithes of Hatfield; and that of St. Edmondesbury was endowed with two mills, by the same person.
During the whole of the 12th and 13th centuries the pen played a more distinguished part than the brush in the art of illumination; since, not only was the former almost exclusively employed in outlining both foliage and figures, but the use of the latter was generally limited to filling up, and heightening with timid shadowing, the various parts defined by the former, and which were altogether dependent upon it for expression. In fact, it appears as if the principal patterns in 13th century illumination had been designed by stained-glass painters, the black outlines being equivalent in artistic result to the lead lines which, in the best specimens of grisaille and mosaic windows, keep the forms and colours distinct and perfect. This firm dark outlining was retained in England later than in France, and was combined in the former country with a more solid and somewhat less gay tone of colour than ever prevailed in the latter.
So late as the 15th century, this correspondence between stained glass work and illumination still obtained; thus, as Mr. Scharf remarks, in a note to his interesting paper on the King's College, Cambridge, windows, in the Transactions of the Archæological Institute for 1855, "The forty windows of the monastery of Horschau contained a series of subjects minutely corresponding to those of the Biblia Pauperum," &c.
The initial letters which in Romanesque illumination had expanded into very large proportions as a general rule, diminished; but, in compensation, effloresced, as it were, into floreated terminations, which were at last not only carried down the side of the page, but even made to extend right across both the top and bottom of it. During the reigns of the three first Edwards in England, the tail, as it might be called, of the initial letter, running down the side of the page, gradually widened, until at length it grew into a band of ornament, occasionally panelled, and with small subjects introduced into the panels. In such cases, the initial letter occupying the angle formed by the side and top ornaments of the page, became subsidiary to the bracket-shaped bordering, which, in earlier examples, had been decidedly subsidiary to the initial letter.
As no one can doubt that the 14th century was the period during which illumination attained its highest perfection, not only in point of artistic spirit in design, but in the dexterous processes of execution as well, it has been considered that it might prove useful to the English student to supply him or her with as large a proportion as possible of illustration of that which we may really regard in matter of illuminating as our national style. Thus our plates in this manual, Nos. 7, 8, and 9, have been taken from a Latin Bible (B. M. Reg. 1, D. 1), exquisitely written on Uterine vellum, about the commencement of the 14th century, by an English scribe, whose autograph at the end of the holy text declares that
Well may the pious writer render thanks as he does, in a paragraph just preceding the colophon, "to God, to Jesus Christ, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to all Saints," on the completion of such a volume, in every respect a model of what illuminated writing may be. It is somewhat deficient in pictures, although in the prologue and in that part of the Psalms in which David prophesies concerning our Saviour, specimens of the artist's abilities on a more extended scale than usual may be met with. In these, as in the initials and borders, manual dexterity is pushed to perfection, and combined with that occasional feeling for beauty and constant appreciation of humour, which form leading characteristics of that English school of illumination, of which "William of Devon" must ever be ranked among the worthiest. The expression of the little heads, and of the hands and feet, which are unusually well drawn for the period, is invariably given with the pen, scarcely any attempt being made at shading with the brush. The high lights are touched on most delicately with pure white; and deep blue, and burnished gold grounds looking like solid metal, are universal throughout the volume.
Our plates, Technical Manual, Nos. 7, 8, 9, also from a Latin Bible in the Royal collection (No. 15, D 2), are of nearly the same period and style, but not quite so delicately wrought perhaps as the illuminations are which we meet with in Reg. 1, D 1. The former offer, however, the least exceptional aspect of English illumination of the Edwardian period—one in which vigorous but rather heavy colouring and firm but rather loaded outline dominate. In these specimens we at length see natural leafage of the vine, maple, &c., introduced, but scarcely yet allowed to throw itself about in Nature's wildly wilful way.
|Historical Manual.||Plate No VII.|
Outline for coloring.
|Plate No VIII.|
From the 12th century onwards, important illuminated manuscripts exist to the present day in such profusion as to deter me from individualizing in this necessarily brief essay. I shall rather dwell upon general characteristics of style, and upon the influence of the leading patrons of the art, in its palmiest days, in England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. In these countries the infinite activity of the mendicant friars kept up a steady demand for manuscripts of all kinds: thus Richard de Bury, bishop of Durham, the greatest bibliophile of his age, and the tutor when prince, and friend while sovereign, of Edward III., relates, that in all his book-hunting travels: "Whenever we happened to turn aside to the towns and places where the aforesaid paupers had convents, we were not slack in visiting their chests and other repositories of books; for there, amidst the deepest poverty, we found the most exalted riches treasured up; there, in their satchels and baskets, we discovered not only the crumbs that fell from the masters table for the little dogs, but, indeed, the show-bread without leaven,—the bread of angels, containing in itself all that is delectable."
These mendicant friars were looked upon with great jealousy by the clergy, who attributed to them the decrease in the number of students in the universities. Fitz Ralph, archbishop of Armagh and chaplain to Richard de Bury, accuses them of doing "grete damage to learning:" curiously enough, his accusation, contained in an oration denouncing them, bears testimony to their love of books and to their industry in collecting them. "For these orders of beggers, for endeles wynnynges that thei geteth by beggyng of the foreside pryvyleges of schriftes and sepultures and othere, thei beth now so multiplyed in conventes and in persons. That many men tellith that in general studies unnethe, is it founde to sillynge a pfitable book of ye faculte of art, of dyvynyte, of lawe canon, of phisik, other of lawe civil, but all bookes beth y bougt of freres so that en ech convent of freres is a noble librarye and a grete, and so that ene sech frere that hath state in schole, siche as thei beth nowe, hath an hughe librarye. And also y sent of my sugettes to schole thre other foure persons, and hit is said me that some of them beth come home agen for thei myst nought find to selle ovn goode Bible; nother othere couenable books." Richard de Bury's example gave a stimulus to those who succeeded him, both at Durham and elsewhere.
As the styles of architecture varied in England and France,—agreeing in leading particulars, but each acquiring for itself a set of distinctive characteristics,—so did the art of illumination. In the purely Gothic work, such as prevailed from 1250 to 1400, extreme finesse in execution, tenderness of colour, gentleness of expression, piquancy of ornament, and elegance of composition, may be regarded as almost invariable attributes of French productions. In England, on the other hand, the style was not so harmonious but more vigorous, the colouring was fuller and deeper, the action of the figures more intense, the power of expression more concentrated, and reaching occasionally in its energy almost to caricature, the sense of humour always freely developed, and a more generally active sentiment of life impressed upon design, not only in figure subjects, but in ornament. In the latter, monkeys and other animals, dragons, and comic incidents, are very frequently intermingled with graceful foliage and heraldic embellishments. In fact it is to the credit of both countries that, with so much that is excellent in common, they should still have displayed such free and distinctive features as marked the works of each respectively. About the year 1400, in both countries the mechanical reproduction of the accredited types and leading incidents of Scripture and of Catholic faith began to be abandoned; and, mainly from the necessity of giving to the historical personages introduced in secular romances and chronicles individual force and vigour, an attention to portraiture and a transcription of characteristic traits of active life are freely developed.
Considering how few traces of the art of painting, as exhibited either in panel pictures or in mural embellishments, remain to attest the condition of the arts in England and France in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, it is impossible for the student of Gothic art to overestimate the extreme interest which attaches to the chronological series of specimens of the painter's art which may be examined in the great metropolitan libraries of either country. It is very fortunate for our reputation that we are enabled, through so large a series of volumes as still exist, to trace such distinctive and national characteristics as enable us to assert, without fear of error, that so far as graphic dexterity is concerned, the English artificers were fully competent to execute all the artistic productions which have as yet been found upon our soil. That foreigners were freely employed there can be no doubt, but that the works which were executed by them could not have been executed by Englishmen, no one can with safety assert, who has traced with any considerable care the gradual development of English art through a series of English illuminated manuscripts.
That illumination was excessively popular in England during the 14th century among the leading families, is proved by the numbers of coats of arms emblazoned in many of the most remarkable English manuscripts. Thus in the Salisbury Lectionary, in the Douce, in Queen Mary's, and in the Braybrooke Psalters, appear the ancient coats of some of the best blood in the country. A most interesting contemporary illustration of the precise terms upon which these noble patrons employed the best illuminators of the day has been furnished me by a kind and learned antiquarian friend, in the shape of an extract from the fabric rolls of "York Minster," of which the following is a translation:—
"August 26th, 1346.—There appeared Robert Brekeling, scribe, and swore that he would observe the contract made between him and Sir John Forbor, viz., that he the said Robert would write one Psalter with the Kalender for the work of the said Sir John for 5s. and 6d.; and in the same Psalter, in the same character, a Placebo and a Dirige, with a Hymnal and Collectary, for 4s. and 3d. And the said Robert will illuminate ('luminabit') all the Psalms with great gilded letters, laid in with colours; and all the large letters of the Hymnal and Collectary will he illuminate with gold and vermilion, except the great letters of double feasts, which shall be as the large gilt letters are in the Psalter. And all the letters at the commencement of the verses shall be illuminated with good azure and vermilion; and all the letters at the beginning of the Nocturns shall be great uncial (unciales) letters, containing V. lines, but the Beatus Vir and Dixit Dominus shall contain VI. or VII. lines; and for the aforesaid illumination and for colours he [John] will give 5s. 6d., and for gold he will give 18d., and 2s. for a cloak and fur trimming. Item one robe—one coverlet, one sheet, and one pillow."
Under such contracts, and on much more extravagant terms, were no doubt produced the finest of those "specimens of English miniature painting" of the Edwardian period, which Dr. Waagen considers "excel those of all other nations of the time, with the exception of the Italian, and are not inferior even to these."
There is probably no document in existence which better illustrates the nature, cost, and classification of illuminated and other manuscripts during the 14th and 15th centuries, than the catalogue of the library founded by William of Wykeham, himself one of the greatest English patrons of literature, at the College of St. Mary, near Winchester. This catalogue has been printed in extenso in the "Archæological Journal" (vol. xv. pp. 69 to 74), with notes by the Rev. W. H. Gunner. It is essentially a catalogue raisonné, divided into the following classes, which give a good idea of the staple commodities in mediæval and monastic libraries:—
|Historical Manual.||Plate No IX.|
"Ordinalia, Antiphonaria, Portiphoria, Legendæ, Collectaria, Graduales, Manualia, Processionalia, Gradales, Pontificates et Epistolares, Libri Theologiæ, Doctores super Bibliam, Libri Sententiarum, Doctores super Sententias, Libri Historiales, Psalteria Glossata, Libri Augustini, Libri Gregorii, Libri Morales Diversorum Doctorum [to which in many libraries might, I fear, be added, Libri Immorales Diversorum Auctorum], Libri Chronici, Libri Philosophiæ [strange to say, a total blank in the Winchester Collection], Libri Juris Canonici, Decreta et Doctores super Decreta, Decretales, Libri Sexti cum Doctoribus, Clementinæ, Summæ et alii Tractatus Diversorum Doctorum Juris Canonici, Libri Juris Civilis, and Libri Grammaticales."
Most of the volumes in this library were donations from both laity and clergy, but mainly from the former. The price of every volume is given. The founder himself presented one Missal valued at £20, and John Yve, "formerly a fellow of this College, bequeathed a great Portiphoriam for laying before the senior fellow standing on the right hand of the upper stall," valued at an equal amount. The York contract, previously quoted, shows precisely how much illumination could be obtained for much less than one pound; and we may therefore form from it a tolerable idea of the magnificence of volumes upon the production of which such large sums were expended. The student will find this catalogue well repay his careful examination.
During the last half of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th, the art of illumination received a great impulse in France, from the magnificent patronage bestowed upon it by Jean, Duc de Berri, brother of Charles V. Of his unique library, which excited the envy of all the princes of his time, and stimulated especially Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and the great Duke of Bedford, to enter into competition with him, many magnificent specimens still remain—such as his Psalter, his two Prayer-books, and his copy of the "Merveilles du Monde."
French illumination attained perfection in these works, and in some few specimens of the more decidedly Renaissance period, such as the unsurpassed "Hours of Anne of Brittany," executed about the year 1500: all of these are models for the study of the illuminator of the 19th century, since in them gaiety and charm of ornament will be found united to a style of miniature-painting of real excellence in art. In the MSS. of the period of Jean de Berri, we meet with the perfection of that lace-like foliation known as the Ivy pattern—one that attained an extraordinary popularity in France, England, and the Netherlands.
In the illuminations of both France and England, during the 14th and first half of the 15th centuries, the application of raised and highly-burnished gold became a leading feature, and reached its highest pitch of perfection. When used, as it frequently was, as a ground for miniature subjects and ornaments, it was frequently diapered in the most brilliant and delicate manner. This diapered background gave way at length to an architectural, and, ultimately, under the influence of the Italian school and that of the Van Eycks, to a landscape one.
It may be well now to advert to those styles of illumination which, through the Flemings settled in this country, greatly affected English art; and which, through the House of Burgundy, equally powerfully wrought upon the French styles, not so much of ornament, as of miniature-painting. As M. Hippolyte Fortoul justly remarks, "The powerful school established at Bruges by the Van Eycks, at the close of the 14th century, exercised an immense influence on all the schools of Europe, not excepting those of Italy;"—an influence which was, indeed, not altogether dissimilar from that brought to bear upon mannerism in Art by the Pre-Raffaelitism of the present day. The foundations of the Netherlandish school were sufficiently remote, but may be satisfactorily traced through existing miniatures and paintings. Herr Heinrich Otte, in his "Handbuch der Kirchlichen Kunst-Archäologie" (p. 187), gives a chronological list of the principal MSS. of Germanic production from the Carlovingian period to the commencement of the 13th century. Up to that period the Byzantine manner prevailed, mixed with a peculiar rudeness, such as may be recognised in the works of the great saint and bishop, Bernward of Hildesheim, whom Fiorillo and other writers look upon, with Willigis of Mainz, as the great animator of German art in the 11th century. The conversion of this latter element into Gothic originality appears to have taken place during the 13th century, and a fine manuscript in the British Museum (B. R 2, b. 11), ascribed by Dr. Waagen to a period between 1240 and 1260, illustrates the transition.
|Historical Manual.||Plate No X.|
Outline for coloring.
|Plate No XI.|
With the commencement of the 14th century appear the "Lay of the Minnesingers," one of the most peculiar of the Paris manuscripts, and others cited by Dr. Kugler, which carry on the evidence of progressive development until the power of expression obtained in painting by Meisters Wilhelm and Stephen of Cologne, is reflected in the contemporary miniatures.
Even did not the celebrated "Paris Breviary," and the British Museum "Bedford Missal," or, more correctly speaking, "Book of Hours," both executed in part by the three Van Eycks, Hubert, Jan, and Margaretha, for the great Regent of France, exist, the style of the panel-pictures painted by them would be quite sufficient to show that they must have been illuminators before they became world-renowned oil-painters. Through their conscientious study of nature, both in landscape and in portrait subjects, a complete change was wrought in the miniatures of all manuscripts produced after their influence had had time to penetrate into the scriptoria and ateliers of the contemporary artist-scribes. Had not the invention of printing rapidly supervened, there can be no doubt that even more extraordinary results than followed the general appreciation of their graces as illuminators would have been ensured.
It is not in publications such as this little manual that any attempts could be successfully made to reproduce the pictorial results achieved by such masters in such volumes; but an attempt may certainly be made to convey some idea both of the general character of the handwriting and of the ornamental adjuncts by which its effect, and that of the beautiful little pictures framed in by its brilliant playfulness, was so greatly heightened. In plates 10, 11, and 12 of this manual, Mr. Tymms has collected from the "Bedford Book of Hours" much that the student will find worthy of his careful attention. Well, indeed, may the enthusiastic Dr. Dibdin soar off into the most transcendental raptures over a volume which, tested even by the ignoble touchstone of a public sale in 1815, was not knocked down to its eager purchaser, the then Marquis of Blandford, for a less sum than £687. 15s. It has now happily found a final resting-place in the British Museum (ranking as "add. 18,850"), of which it must always remain as, probably, the greatest treasure, both from its historical association and its intrinsic excellence and beauty—containing, as it does, not less than fifty-nine whole-page miniatures, and about a thousand smaller ones, enriched throughout with gilded lace-work, and ornaments of the description of that shown in our plates, and commended to the student's diligent observation.
The later manuscripts of the German and Netherlandish schools of miniature-painting generally reflect the mixed cleverness and angularities of such masters as Rogier van der Weyde the elder, Lucas van Leyden, Martin Schongauer, &c.; where, however, the manner of Hemling prevailed, spiritual beauty and refinement followed.
|Historical Manual.||Plate No XII.|
To dwell upon Spanish illuminated manuscripts would be comparatively profitless to the practical student; for all the peculiarities and excellencies they would appear to have at any time possessed, may be found more perfectly developed at first in French, subsequently in Netherlandish, and ultimately in Italian volumes. In one most remarkable and indeed historical volume, the actual alliance of Spanish writing and initial illumination with Flemish subject-painting and Arabesque is clearly to be recognized. The result of the union is certainly most happy, for few more beautiful books exist than the exquisite missal which in a passage of golden letters and honied words Francesco de Roias offers to Isabella "the Catholic." This magnificent volume, from which our plates (Technical Manual) Nos. 10, 11, and 12, have been taken, was purchased by the authorities of the British Museum, in whose catalogue it figures as add. 18,851, of Messrs. W. and T. Boone in 1852. In this work the brush triumphs over the pen, its decorations are essentially pictorial, and many of them recall, if not the hand, at least the style, of Memling and Van Eyck. Unlike volumes of earlier periods in which the illustrations are generally the work of one hand throughout, in this elaborate volume, a division of labour obtains. In this, as in many others of about the same period, not only are the penman and the painter two individuals, but the latter especially becomes half a dozen. This was, no doubt to a great extent, occasioned by the almost universal substitution of lay for clerical illuminators in the latter part of the 15th century, and by the production at that date of illuminated books for dealers adopting the principles and practice of that system of economic production which ultimately permitted manufacture to almost universally supersede Art throughout Europe. It remains now only to sketch, with a brevity altogether out of proportion to the great interest of the subject, the progress of the art in Italy.
If the delineation of naïve and graceful romantic incident, combined with elegant foliated ornament, reached perfection in the illuminations of the French school; if blazoning on gilded grounds was carried to its most gorgeous pitch in Oriental and Byzantine manuscripts; if intricate interlacements and minute elaboration may be regarded as the special characteristics of Hiberno-Saxon scribes; and if a noble tone of solid colour, combined with great humour and intense energy of expression, marked England's best productions,—it may be safely asserted, that it was reserved for the Italians to introduce into the embellishment of manuscripts those higher qualities of art, their peculiar aptitude for which so long gave them a pre-eminence among contemporaneous schools.
I therefore proceed to trace the names and styles of some few of the most celebrated among their illuminators; premising by a reminder to the student of the miserably low pitch to which art had been reduced in Italy during the 12th century. Even the most enthusiastic and patriotic writers agree in the all but total dearth of native talent. Greeks were employed to reproduce Byzantine mannerisms in pictures and mosaics, and to a slight extent no doubt as scribes. Illumination was scarcely known or recognized as an indigenous art; for Dante, even writing after the commencement of the 14th century, speaks of it as "quell' arte, che Alluminar è chiamata a Parisi."
Probably the earliest Italian manuscript showing signs of real art, is the "Ordo Officiorum Senensis Ecclesiæ," preserved in the library of the academy at Sienna, and illuminated with little subjects and friezes with animals, by a certain Oderico, a canon of the cathedral, in the year 1213.
The Padre della Valle expressly cautions the student against confounding this Odericus with the Oderigi of Dante, who died about the year 1300. The latter was unquestionably an artist of some merit, for Vasari speaks of him as an "excellente miniatore," whose works for the Papal library, although "in gran parte consumati dal tempo," he had himself seen and admired. Some drawings by the hand of this "valente uomo," as he is styled, Vasari speaks of possessing in his own collection.
Baldinucci makes out Oderigi to have been of the Florentine school on no other grounds than because Vasari describes him as "molto amico di Giotto in Roma;" and because Dante appears to have known him well. Lanzi, however, more correctly classes him with the Bolognese school, from his teaching Franco Bolognese at Bologna, and on the strength of the direct testimony of one of the earliest commentators on Dante—Benvenuto da Imola. This same Franco worked much for Benedict IX., and far surpassed his master.
Vasari especially commends the spirit with which he drew animals, and mentions a drawing in his own possession of a lion tearing a tree as of great merit. Thus Oderigi, the contemporary of Cimabue, and Franco, the pupil of Oderigi and contemporary of Giotto, appear to have been to the Art of Illumination what Cimabue and his pupil Giotto were to the Art of Painting,—the pupil in both cases infinitely excelling the master. To them succeeded, about the middle of the 14th century, a scarcely less celebrated pair—Don Jacopo Fiorentino, and Don Silvestro, both monks in the Camaldolese monastery, "degli Angeli," at Florence. The former, Baldinucci tells us, "improving, with infinite study, every moment not devoted to his monastic duties, acquired a style of writing greatly sought after for choral books." The latter, who was rather an artist than a scribe, enriched the productions of his friend with miniatures so beautiful, as to cause the books thus jointly produced to excite, at a later period, the special admiration of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and his son, the no less magnificent Leo X. So proud were their brother-monks of the skill of Frati Jacopo and Silvestro, that after their death they preserved their two right hands as honoured relics.
About a century later, the leading illuminators were Bartolomeo and Gherardo,—the former abbot of San Clemente, at Arrezzo, and the latter a Florentine painter and "miniatore," whom Vasari confounds with Attavante, a painter, engraver, and mosaicist. Of all the Italian artists who adopted the style of the illuminators, if they did not themselves illuminate, the most celebrated certainly are Fra Angelico da Fiesole and Gentile da Fabriano. The majority of the works of both are little else than magnified miniatures of the highest merit.
The school of Siennese illumination was scarcely less distinguished than that of Florence. M. Rio dwells with enthusiasm on the books of the Kaleffi and Leoni, still preserved in the Archivio delle Riformazioni, and especially on those decorated by Nicolo di Sozzo, in 1334. The greatest master of the school, Simone Memmi, the intimate friend of Petrarch, was himself an illuminator of extraordinary excellence, as may be seen by the celebrated Virgil of the Ambrosian Library at Milan, which contains, amongst other beautiful miniatures by his hand, the fine portrait of Virgil, and a very remarkable allegorical figure of Poetry, quite equal in artistic merit to any of the artist's larger and better-known works in fresco or tempera.
It is, however, in the library of the cathedral at Sienna, which retains many of the magnificent choir-books executed by Fra Benedetto da Matera, a Benedictine of Monte Cassino, and Fra Gabriele Mattei of Sienna, that the greatest triumphs of the school are still to be recognized. This series of volumes, although much reduced from its original extent by the abstractions made by Cardinal Burgos, who carried off a vast quantity to Spain, is still the finest belonging to any capitular establishment in Italy, and worthily represents the grandeur of Italian illumination in "cinque cento" days.
The series of similar volumes next in importance to those of Sienna, is attached to the choir of the church and monastic establishment of the Benedictines at Perugia, known as "San de' Casinensi." Of these, nothing more need be said than that they are worthy of the stalls of the same choir, the design of which is attributed to Raffaelle, and the execution to Stefano da Bergamo, and Fra Damiano, of the same town, the great "intarsiatore."
Formerly, as M. Rio observes, "Ferrara could boast of possessing a series of miniatures, executed principally in the seclusion of its convents, from the time of the Benedictine monk Serrati, who in 1240 ornamented the books of the choir with figures of a most noble character, till that of Fra Girolamo Fiorino, who, towards the beginning of the 15th century, devoted himself to the same occupation in the monastery of San Bartolomeo, and formed in his young disciple Cosmè a successor who was destined to surpass his master, and to carry this branch of art to a degree of perfection till then unknown. Even at the present day we may see, in the twenty-three volumes presented by the Bishop Bartolomeo delia Rovere to the cathedral, and in the twenty-eight enormous volumes removed from the Certosa to the public library, how much reason the Ferrarese have to be proud of the possession of such treasures, and to place them by the side of the manuscripts of Tasso and Ariosto.
The "subjects generally treated by these mystical artists were marvellously adapted to their special vocation: they were the life of the holy Virgin, the principal festivals celebrated by the Church, or popular objects of devotion; in short, all the dogmas which were susceptible of this mode of representation, works of mercy, the different sacraments, the imposing ceremonies of religion, and, in general, all that was most poetical in liturgy or legend. In compositions of so exclusive a character, naturalism could only be introduced in subordination to the religious element."
While this was the case with the majority of illuminations executed under the auspices of the Church, in those of a secular nature, undertaken for the great princes and nobles, another set of characteristics prevailed. For the Gonzagas, Sforzas, D'Estes, Medici, Strozzi, Visconti, and other great families, the best artists were constantly employed in decorating both written and printed volumes, in which portraiture is freely introduced, and picturesque and historical subjects are represented with great vivacity and attention to costume and local truth. Thus in the truly exquisite "Grant of Lands," by Ludovico il Moro to his wife Beatrice D'Este, dated January 28th, 1494, and preserved in the British Museum, speaking portraits of both Ludovico and Beatrice are introduced, with their arms and beautiful arabesques. Again, in the Hanrot "Sforziada," the first page contains exquisite miniatures of three members of the princely family of the Sforzas, by the hand of the all-accomplished Girolamo dai Libri. This artist, a truly celebrated Veronese and worthy fellow-townsman, with the almost equally able Fra Liberale, whose work in the manner of Giovanni Bellini excited the utmost envy on the part of the Siennese illuminators, was himself the son of a miniature-painter, known as Francesco dai Libri, and bequeathed the name and art of his father to his own son,—thus maintaining the traditions of good design acquired in the great school of Padua, under Andrea Mantegna and Squarcione, during three generations of illuminators. Girolamo was by far the most celebrated of the three. As a painter, his works possess distinguished merit, and there still remain good samples of his abilities in the churches of San Zeno and Sant' Anastasia, at Verona. He also derives some credit from the transcendent merits of his pupil Giulio Clovio. Vasari's description of the talents of Girolamo gives so lively a picture of the style which reached its highest vogue at the end of the 15th, and during the first half of the 16th centuries in Italy, that I am tempted to translate it. "Girolamo," he says, "executed flowers so naturally and beautifully, and with so much care, as to appear real to the beholder. In like manner he imitated little cameos and other precious stones and jewels cut in intaglio, so that nothing like them, or so minute, was ever seen. Among his smallest figures, such as he represented on gems or cameos, some might be observed no larger than little ants, and yet in all of them might be made out every limb and muscle, in a manner which to be believed must needs be seen."
Mr. Ottley supposes that Giulio Clovio (born 1498, died 1578) worked previous to his receipt of the instruction of Girolamo in a drier manner, in which no evidence appears of that imitation of Michael Angelesque pose in his figures, which in his subsequent production became so leading a characteristic of his style. It is in his earlier manner that Giulio is believed to have illuminated for Clement VII. (1523-1534), while for his successor, Paul III. (1534-1539), he worked abundantly, and gradually acquired that which is best known as his later manner, in which he continued to labour, according to Vasari, until 1578, at the great age of eighty years. Mr. Ottley, however, recognizes his hand in MSS. which must have been at least five years later—during the Pontificate of Gregory XIII.
It is obviously impossible, in such an essay as the present, to dwell in detail upon the merits of so accomplished a master of his art. Fortunately we possess in this metropolis two fine specimens of his skill, both tolerably accessible—one in the Soane and the other in the British Museum. A third, of great splendour, is in the possession of Mr. Towneley, and a fourth, in the shape of an altar-card, attributed to him, is to be found in the Kensington Museum; and several fragments, formerly in Mr. Rogers's possession, have passed to Mr. Whitehead and to the British Museum. All of these exhibit a refinement of execution, combined with a brilliancy of colour and excellence of drawing, which has never been surpassed by any illuminator. Vasari gives a complete list and description of his principal works, and proves him to have been not less industrious than able.
A contemporary of Giulio's, whose name has been overpowered by the greater brilliancy of that of the Cellini of illumination, was a certain Apollonius of Capranica, or, as he signs himself, "Apollonius de Bonfratellis de Capranica, Capellæ et Sacristiæ Apostolicæ Miniator." Mr. Ottley most justly states, "that it is impossible to speak in too high terms of the beauty of his borders, wherein he often introduces compartments with small figures, representing subjects of the New Testament, which are touched with infinite delicacy and spirit." His drawing, which is of a decidedly Michael-Angelesque character, is of less merit when the nude is represented on a larger scale. His harmony of colour is extraordinary, rather lower in tone than Giulio Clovio's, but equally glowing, and more powerful. Some beautiful specimens of his handicraft remain in the possession of Mr. T. M. Whitehead. The late Mr. Rogers possessed many fragments, the most precious of which have found their way into the National Collection. His work is usually dated, and the dates appear to range from 1558 to 1572. Apollonius having been official illuminator to the very institution from which Celotti derived his richest spoils, it may readily be imagined that his collection included an unprecedented series of beautiful examples of Buonfratelli's style.
Long after the invention of printing, the Apostolic Chamber retained its official illuminators; and among them one of the most noteworthy is unquestionably the artist who signs his works, "Ant. Maria Antonotius Auximas"—a native of Osimo, and a protégé of the princely house of the Barberini and its magnificent head, Urban VIII. (1623-1644). He was a pupil of Pietro da Cortona, and an artist of great skill and refinement.
For still more recent popes artists of great excellence continued to be employed, including for Alexander VII. the celebrated Magdalena Corvina, who worked from 1655 to 1657; and for Innocent XI (1676 to 1689) a German, who signs his productions "Joann, frid-Heribach." As the popes retained their illuminators for the decoration of precious documents, so did the doges of Venice; and probably the most magnificent of all illumination, executed after the general spread of printed books had checked, although not extinguished, the art, may be found in the precious "Ducales," wrought indeed by several of the greatest Venetian painters.
I need scarcely remind the reader, that the earliest wood-cut and printed books were made to imitate manuscripts so closely as to deceive the inexperienced eye. "Artes moriendi," "Specula," "Bibliæ Pauperum," and "Donatuses,"—the principal types of block books,—represent illuminated manuscripts in popular demand at the date of the introduction into Europe of Xylographic Art. Spaces were frequently left, both in the block books and in the earliest books printed with movable type, for the illumination, by hand, of initial letters, so as to carry the illusion as far as possible. This practice was abandoned as soon as the learned discovered the means by which such wonderfully cheap apparent transcripts of voluminous works could be brought into the market; and the old decorated initial and ornamental letters were reproduced from type and wood blocks.
The Mainz Psalter of 1457, and other books printed by Fust and Schœffer, required only the addition of a little colour here and there to delude any inexperienced eye into the belief that they were really hand-worked throughout. Such imitations were but poor substitutes for the originals in point of beauty, however excellent when regarded from a utilitarian point of view.
Every country has more or less cause to mourn the senseless destruction of many noble old volumes which the printing-press never has, and now, alas! never can replace; but none more than England, in which cupidity and intolerance destroyed recklessly. Thus, after the dissolution of monastic establishments, persons were appointed to search out all missals, books of legends, and such "superstitious books," and to destroy or sell them for waste paper; reserving only their bindings, when, as was frequently the case, they were ornamented with massive gold and silver, curiously chased, and often further enriched with precious stones; and so industriously had these men done their work, destroying all books in which they considered popish tendencies to be shown by illumination, the use of red letters, or of the Cross, or even by the—to them—mysterious diagrams of mathematical problems—that when, some years after, Leland was appointed to examine the monastic libraries, with a view to the preservation of what was valuable in them, he found that those who had preceded him had left little to reward his search.
Bale, himself an advocate for the dissolution of monasteries, says:
"Never had we bene offended for the losse of our lybraryes beyng so many in nombre and in so desolate places for the moste parte, yf the chief monuments and moste notable workes of our excellent wryters had bene reserved, yf there had bene in every shyre of Englande but one solemyne lybrary to the preservacyon of those noble workes, and preferrements of good learnynges in our posteryte it had bene yet somewhat. But to destroye all without consyderacion is and wyll be unto Englande for ever a most horryble infamy amonge the grave senyours of other nations. A grete nombre of them wych purchased of those superstycyose mansyons reserved of those lybrarye bokes, some to serve their jaks, some to scoure theyr candelstyckes, and some to rubbe theyr bootes; some they solde to the grossers and sope sellers, and some they sent over see to the bokebynders, not in small nombre, but at tymes whole shippes ful. I know a merchant man, whyche shall at thys tyme be namelesse, that boughte the contents of two noble lybraryes for xl shyllyngs pryce, a shame it is to be spoken. Thys stuffe bathe he occupyed in the stide of greye paper for the space of more than these ten years, and yet hathe store ynough for as manye years to come. A prodyguous example is thys, and to be abhorred of all men who love theyr natyon as they shoulde do."
Wherever the Reformation extended throughout Europe, a corresponding destruction of ancient illuminated manuscripts took place, and in localities where fanaticism failed to do its work of devastation, indifference proved a consuming agent of almost equal energy; and, indeed, there is no more forcible illustration of the untiring zeal and industry of the illuminators of old, than the fact, that, after all that has been done to stamp out the sparks still lingering in their embers, their works should still glow with such shining lights in all the great public libraries of Europe.
Despite all this ruthless destruction, and the universal extension of the art of printing, ornamental penmanship has never been altogether extinguished as a pictorial art. The Apostolic Chamber, as we have remarked, retained, until quite recently, its official illuminator.
The luxuriant magnates of the court of the "Grande Monarque" still provided employment for men like Jary and Prévost, while in England many heraldic and genealogical MSS. of the 17th, and even 18th centuries, still exist to prove that the Art was dormant rather than extinct. That it has a brilliant future yet in store for it no one can hesitate to believe who is enabled to recognize the power of design, and the capability to execute—either on paper or vellum—with the brush or pen—by hand, or by calling in the aid of the printer and lithographer for the rapid multiplication and dissemination of beautiful specimens—manifested by Owen Jones, his pupil Albert Warren, and many other able artists and amateurs, still gracing this 19th century of ours with works, many of which will doubtless survive to our honour and credit so long as Arts and States may endure.
It is in a humble effort to assist in such a consummation that these little manuals have been written, illustrated, and published.
M. DIGBY WYATT.
END OF PART I.
- M. Gabriel Peignot, in his "Essai sur l'Histoire da Parchemin et du Vélin," Paris, 1812, and in his paper on the same subject in "Le Moyen Age et la Renaissance," vol. ii. Paris, 1849, produces evidence of the use of parchment for writing upon anterior to the age of Eumenes; and consequently limits his interpretation of Pliny's words, "Varro membranas Pergami tradidit repertas," to an assertion of the discovery of improved processes by which parchment was rendered more available for writing upon than it had been previous to the accession of Eumenes.
- A good representation of a scrinium and scapi, from a painting in the "Casa Falkener," described in the "Museum of Classical Antiquities," vol. ii. p. 54, is given in one of the cubicula of the Pompeian Court at Sydenham.
- See Gell's "Pompeiana" Appendix; and the "Memoir of the Canonico Iorio."
- "Let those who will have old books written in gold and silver on purple parchment, or, as they are commonly called, in uncial letters,—rather ponderous loads than books,—so long as they permit me and mine to have poor copies, and rather correct than beautiful books."
- P. 113. Ingram, Cooke, & Co., London, 1853.
- "Universal Palæography." London, Bohn.
- Through the kindness of the late Mr. Dennistoun, of Dennistoun, and Cardinal Acton, who obtained the requisite facilities for me.
- Tome v. pl. lxv.; tome iii. p. 29.
- D'Agincourt's famous mistake in attributing these miniatures to the 12th or 13th century, and Ottley's ascription of those in the Saxon "Aratus" of the 9th century to the 2nd or 3rd, are among those slips of the learned which prove that even great men are fallible.
- "Iste liber est beati Dionysii."
- The palimpsest Homer of the British Museum, discovered by Mr. Cureton, is of equal importance in Grecian palæography.
- In the case of the "de Republicâ," they are written in the same direction. See facsimiles in Sylvestre and Ferdinand Seré.
- "Iliadis Fragmenta antiquissima cum Picturis," ed. Angelo Maio.
- Petri Lambecii "Commentaria de Bibliotheca Vindobonensi," vol. ii.
- The Bible formerly belonging to Theodore Beza, now at Cambridge, and one in the Vatican, are rival claimants to this honour.
- It was given to Charles I. of England, by Cyrillus Lucaris, Patriarch of Constantinople.
- In his "Origin and Progress of Writing."
- "Treasures of Art in Great Britain," vol. i. p. 97.
- Text to "Shaw's Illuminated Ornaments," page 4.
- For a full description, with references to numerous commentators, see Westwood's "Palæographia Sacra Pictoria," cap. 49.
- Tome ii. article "Manuscrits," fig. 15.
- "Treasures of Art in Great Britain," vol. i. p. 96.
- Dr. Kugler ("Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte," p.401), in speaking of Anglo-Saxon illuminated manuscripts, observes, "dass wir diese Arbeiten als ein der ersten Zeugnisse des germanischen Kunstgeistes in seiner Selbständigkeit, und zugleich als das Vorspiel oder als den ersten Beginn des romanischen Kunststyles, zu betrachten haben."
- As represented in the plates to Salzenberg's fine work, "Alt-Christliche Baudenkmale von Constantinopel, vom V. bis XII. Jahrhundert." Folio, Berlin, 1854.
- The whole are given in Shaw's "Illuminated Ornaments," plates 1, 2, 3, and 4.
- It is on this account that we have refrained from giving any specimens of manuscripts anterior to the 6th century.
- "Palæographia Sacra Pictoria," cap. Syriac MSS.
- O'Conor and others were of course earlier in the field.
- "Palæographia Sacra Pictoria," Book of Kells, page 1.
- Catalogue of the Libri collection of MSS., Introduction by M. Libri, pages xiv. and xxvi. London, 1859.
- Giraldus Cambrensis, speaking probably of this very book, says, "Sin autem ad perspicacius intuentum oculorum aciem invitaveris, et longe penitus ad artis arcana transpenetraveris, tam delicatas et subtiles, tam actas et arctas, tam nodosas et vinculatim colligatas, tamque recentibus adhuc coloribus illustratas, notare poteris intricaturas, ut vere hæc omnia angelica potius quam humana diligentia jam asseveraveris esse composita."
- It is more abundantly used in Vesp. A 1, which, as we shall have occasion to notice hereafter, is in a very mixed style.
- Bede expressly says, that at Augustine's synod, held at the commencement of the 7th century, the bishops and learned men attending it, "after a long disputation, refused to comply with the entreaties, exhortations, or rebukes of the saint and his companions, but preferred their own traditions before all the churches in the world, which in Christ agree among themselves."
- D'Agincourt, "Painting," plates xxviii. xxix. xxx.
- This precious volume and its illustrations were first figured and described by Mr. Westwood.
- "Life of Gregory the Great," by Johannes Diaconus, lib. ii. cap. 37.
- The words are, "quæ omnia illustrantur Romano habitu, figuris, et antiquitate. Imperatoris Valentiniani tempora videntur attingere." This mistake of the old librarian has been corrected with much care and learning by the Baron van Tiellandt.—See his "Naspeuringen nopens zekeren Codex Psalmorum in de Utrechtsche Boekerij berustende, door W. H. J. Baron van Westreeinen van Tiellandt."
- The MS. department of the British Museum possesses some tracings from the Utrecht Psalter, and on confronting them with the Harleian 603, it requires a sharp eye to detect the slight differences existing between several of the illustrations to each of the volumes. In the Harleian volume, all the subjects have not been filled in; some are left out altogether, spaces being reserved for them in the text, and others are faintly traced with a leaden or silver point, preparatory to inking in: very few artists of the present day could block in the general forms in so peculiar a style with greater freedom or more complete conveyance of expression, by similarly slight indications.
- The whole of the illuminations are given in the twenty-fourth volume of the "Archæologia." The manuscript stands in the Bodleian Catalogue, "Junius, No. II."
- Introduction to Shaw's "Illuminated Ornaments," pages 4 and 5.
- The following inscription, written in letters of gold on the reverse of the fourth leaf and the bottom of the recto of the fifth, identifies both the artist and the patron under whose auspices the volume was executed, between the years 970 and 984, the term of Ethelwold's occupation of the see of Winchester:—
"Presentem Biblum jussit perscribere Presul
Wintoniæ Dñs quē fecerat esse Patronum
Magnus Æthelwoldus * * *
* * * * * *
Atque Patri magno jussit qui scribere librum hunc
Omnes cernentes biblum hunc semper rogitent hoc
Post meta carnis valeam celis in herere
Obnixe hoc rogitat Scriptor supplex Godemann."
- If the celebrated coronation book of the Anglo-Saxon kings should turn out to have been written and illuminated in this country, it would afford a striking illustration of this reaction. The general opinion, however, appears to be, among the learned, that it may have been given to Athelstan by Otho of Germany, who married his sister, and by Matilda, Otho's mother. The arguments in favour of, and against, the Anglo-Saxon origin of the volume would be too long to discuss in this place. The writing is mainly Carlovingian.
- "Bib. Dec." vol. i. p. cxxii.
- It is to be regretted that the propriety of those just and learned remarks of Muratori, in which he exhibited himself as one of the earliest foreign scholars inclined to do justice to the ancient Irish and British schools,—"Neque enim silenda laus Britanniæ, Scotiæ, et Hiberniæ, quæ studio liberalium artium eo tempore antecellebant reliquis occidentalibus regnis; et cura præsertim monachorum, qui literarum gloriam, alibi aut languentem aut depressam, in iis regionibus impigrè suscitarent atque tuebantur" (Murat. "Antiq. Ital." diss. 43),—should have been impugned by the Rev. Mr. Berington in his "Literary History of the Middle Ages," pages 180, 181.
- These pious monks, until probably some time after the Norman conquest, generally worked together in an apartment capable of containing many persons, and in which many persons did, in fact, work together at the transcription of books. The first of these points is implied in a curious document, which is one of the very few specimens extant of French Visi-Gothic MS. in uncial characters, of the 8th century. It is a short but beautiful form of consecration or benediction, barbarously entitled "Orationem in Scripturio," and is to the following effect: "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to bless this Scriptorium of thy servants and all that dwell therein; that whatsoever sacred writing shall be here read or written by them, they may receive with understanding, and bring the same to good effect, through our Lord," &c.—See Merryweather's "Bibliomania in the Middle Ages."
- "Dark Ages," second edition, p. 193.
- Librarian of the town of Evreux.
- Cornemillot, Evreux, 1846.
- Du Sommerard, in "Les Arts du Moyen Age," has given copies of all the illuminations, and Mr. Westwood a page of specimens.
- Count Bastard gives no less than six grand facsimiles from this volume, which is one of the greatest lions of the Bibliothèque Impériale at Paris.
- One of the most curious illuminations in the book, the celebrated "fontaine mystique" of the church, is altogether antique in style and execution.
- The colouring in this MS. is very elegant, being mainly restricted to gold, purple, white, and a little very brilliant vermilion;—the forms are principally Saxon.
- Described at length by Dr. Waagen, "Treasures of Art in Great Britain," pages 104-106.
- Many illustrations, but unfortunately without colour, are given by D'Agincourt, "Pittura," plates 40 to 45 inclusive.
- The folio Vulgate (B. M. Addl. MSS. No. 10546) purchased by the British Museum authorities from M. Speyer Passavant, of Basle, in 1836, for £750, was considered by its late possessor to have been the original transcript "diligently emended" by Alcuin himself, for presentation to Charlemagne on his coronation as Emperor of Rome, in the year 800. It is a very fine and interesting volume, but has been referred, by more recent authorities, to the reign of Charles the Bald. Mr. Westwood, however, considers that "it appears to have better claims than any of the several Caroline Bibles now in existence, to be considered as the volume so presented." Its chief rival is the great Bible of the Fathers of Sta. Maria, in Vallicella, at Rome. Sir Frederick Madden has entered into a minute analysis of the claims of the Speyer Passavant volume, in a series of most learned articles in the "Gentleman's Magazine" for 1836. See also Westwood's "Palæographia Sacra," and the pamphlet, by its late possessor, J. H. de Speyer Passavant, "Description de la Bible écrite par Alchuine, &c." Par. 1829, pp. 112.
- It is singular, considering how generally Hiberno-Saxon ornament was adopted by continental illuminators, that the peculiar Saxon fluttering outline never obtained a footing.
- The learned and most eloquent author of the "Poésie Chrétienne," M. Rio (from whom it was my privilege, while yet a youthful student, to receive many a valuable lesson), in noting this "total eclipse," remarks that "two rolls of parchment, one of which is preserved in the library of the Barbarini Palace, the other in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Pisa, are ornamented with miniatures which may serve to give us an idea of the state into which the arts of design had fallen in Italy in the 11th century. Those which were executed rather later, in the manuscript of a poem on the Countess Matilda (written by a certain 'Donizo,' in 1125), which is preserved in the Vatican, display no trace either of chiaroscuro or of correct imitation of form. "The Romano-Christian school ceased from this time to exist, after having fulfilled the whole of its mission, which had been to form the connecting link between the primitive inspirations of Christian art and the new schools which were destined to reap the harvest of this rich inheritance, and turn it to good account. "As for the Germano-Christian school, it may be compared to a vigorous shoot severed from a dying trunk, to revive and flourish in a better soil."
- The "Menologion" of the Vatican, a magnificent volume, containing no less than 430 miniatures of remarkable interest and excellence, is the standing illustration of this assertion. The work was engraved and published at Urbino, in three folio volumes, in 1727, under the auspices of three pontiffs, Clement XI., Innocent XIII., and Benedict XIII.
- It would be difficult to find in the production of the best Roman age anything nobler than several of the compositions in the Paris "Psalter," with commentaries (Imperial Library, Gr. No. 139), a Greek manuscript of the 10th century. One of the finest of the figures contained in it, that of "Night," I caused to be enlarged, and painted on the exterior of the Byzantine Court at Sydenham, as giving a more favourable impression of Greek art than any other pictorial representation I could meet with. A replica of this subject occurs in the Vatican "Prophecies of Isaiah." The two may be compared from the works of D'Agincourt and Seré. Most noteworthy also among the best of this class of Byzantine manuscripts, are the Paris "Commentaries of Gregory Nazianzen," the British Museum Psalter (Egerton, No. 1.139) of early 12th century work, and the Bodleian "Codex Ebnerianus."
- Of this ornamental style the most remarkable specimens are the Vatican "Acts of the Apostles," and a beautiful volume in the library of the Duke of Hamilton. From the former, I have given some facsimiles in "The Geometrical Mosaics of the Middle Ages" (plate 20), in order to show the similarity of design between the gold ground mosaics of the Greeks and early Italians, and the embellishments of the illuminated manuscripts of the former.
- Ingulphus was at that very time indebted directly to the Conqueror, his early patron, for his abbacy.
- See Martene Const. Canon. Reg. in "de Ant. Eccl. Ritibus," tom. iii., for full details.
- This indulgence was, after all, not very luxurious, for, as Mr. Maitland remarks ("Dark Ages," 2nd edition, p. 406), "Many a scribe has, I dare say, felt what Lewis, a monk of Wessobrun, in Bavaria, records as his own experience during his sedentary and protracted labours. In an inscription appended to a copy of Jerome's Commentary on Daniel, among other grounds on which he claims the sympathy and the prayers of the readers, he says,—
"'Dum scripsit friguit, et quod cum lumine solis
Scribere non potuit, perfecit lumine noctis.'"
For whilst he wrote he froze, and that which by daylight he could not bring to perfection, he worked at again by the aid of the moonlight.
- In Italy the propensity for large letters was never relinquished.
- W. H. Blaauw, Esq.
- Edited by James Raine, Jun., for the Surtees Society. 8vo. Durham, 1859.
- The same series of rolls contain many very interesting entries; as, for instance,— "1393 A.D. Soluti—de 4l. 6s. 8d. sol. hoc anno fratri Willelmo Ellerker pro scriptura duorum gradalium pro choro. de 40s. solutis domino Ricardo de Styrton pro eluminacione dictorum duorum gradalium—de 22s. 7½d. solutis dicto Willelmo pro pergameno empto per ipsum Willelmum. "A.D. 1395. Roberto Bukebinder pro ligatura unius magni gradalis pro choro ex convencione facta 10s. Eidem pro IIII. pellibus pergameni pro eadem custodiendo 20d. Eidem pro I. pelle cervi pro coopertura dicti libri 3s. 2d. Fratri Willelmo Ellerker pro pergameno 4s. Domino Ricardo de Styrton in plenam solucionem alumpnyng tryum gradalium, 40s. de 3s. 4d. solutis domino Johanni Brignale pro VIII. pellibus pergameni emptis pro magno gradali predicto." "Domino Ricardo de Styrton pro alumpnacione magni gradalis novi in choro, 20s. "A.D. 1402. In expensis in alumpnacione magni gradalis in choro per dominum Ricardum de Stretton, 20s." Throughout these accounts, and others too lengthy to note, it will be noticed that the value of the parchment, gold, colours, and current expenses, falls not very far short of the total cost of the labour of the illuminator.
- "Treasures of Art in Great Britain," vol. i. p. 160. The same distinguished critic, who has made a special study of the illuminated MSS. of Europe, and especially of the French (see his "Kunstwerken und Kunstlern in Paris"), in describing some of the pictures in Queen Mary's Psalter (unquestionably English), observes (p. 166), "Upon the whole, I am acquainted with no miniatures, either Netherlandish, German, or French, of this time" (the 14th century) "which can compare in artistic value with the pictures executed by the best hand in this manuscript."
- It is to be regretted that Count Bastard failed to complete more than thirty-two plates of the splendid work he announced under the title of "Librairie de Jean de France, Duc de Berri, frère de Charles V., publié en son entier pour la première fois." Paris, 1834. Fol. max. &c.
- "De l'Art en Allemagne," tome ii. page 153. Paris, 1842.
- See casts from his bronze doors and columns in the Crystal Palace, and his Three Gospels in the treasury of the Cathedral at Hildesheim. In Dr. F. H. Müller's "Beiträge zur teutschen Kunst und Geschichtskunde," very careful engravings of the plastic art of Bernward and Willigis may be compared with facsimiles of contemporary German illumination.
- The steps of the transition are also well indicated, and illustrated by reference to special MSS. in Kugler's "Kunstgeschichte," in his article on the "Nord., vornehml. Deutsche Malerei der Roman. Periode."
- The subject is one that I am unable to find has been treated with any great ability. The reader may, however, be referred to the following old Spanish works on the subject:—Andres Merino de Jesu-Cristo, "Escuela Palæographica, ó de leer Letras universas, antiguas y modernas, desde la entrada de los Godos en España" (Madrid, 1780, in fol. fig.);—Estev. de Terreros, "Palæographia Española, que contiene todos los modos conocidos, que ha habido de escribir en España, desde su principio y fundación" (Madrid, Ibarra, 1758, in 4to. fig.); and Rodriguez-Christ., "Bibliotheca Universal de la Polygraphia Española" (Madrid, 1738, fol. fig.).
- That art which is called "illumination" in Paris.
- "Lettere Sanese," tom. i. p. 278.
- The well-known passage in which Dante alludes to Oderigi occurs in the eleventh canto of the "Paradiso," and is as follows:—
"Oh, dissi lui, non se' tu Oderisi,
L' onor d' Agubbio, e l' onor di quell' arte
Che alluminar è chiamata a Parisi?
Frate, diss' egli, più ridon le carte
Che pennelegia Franco Bolognese:
L' onor è tutto or suo, e mio in parte.
Ben non sarei stato si cortese
Mentre ch' io vissi per lo gran disio
Dell' excellentia, ove mio cor intese.
Di tal superbia qui si paga il fio."
- Vita di Giotto.
- "Storia Pittorica," vol xi. p. 13, ed. Pisa, 1815; and vol. v. pp. 8, 9, 10.
- Lanzi speaks of these choral books as "De' più considerabili che abbia l'Italia."
- The Kensington Museum possesses two splendid leaves from a great "Chorale," which contain miniatures completely in the manner of Fra Angelico.
- The Duke of Hamilton possesses some beautiful MSS. illuminated by, or in the manner of Memmi. Mr. Layard is the fortunate owner of one leaf of surpassing grandeur and elevation of style.
- The style, if not the hand, of Taddeo Bartolo, another of the great early masters of the Siennese school, may be distinctly traced in several existing miniatures.
- "Poetry of Christian Art," p. 140.
- "Ornò i libri corali di figure nobillissime."—Cittadella, "Catalogo dei Pittori e Scultori Ferraresi," vol. i. pp. 1-27.
- Rio. It must be a matter of delight to all lovers of true art that that most useful society, the "Arundel," has been of late turning its attention to the production, by means of chromo-lithography, of some of the finest examples extant of Italian quattro and cinque-cento illumination.
- A small volume, which passed from the hands of the late Mr. Dennistoun into the collection of Lord Ashburnham, contains a series of arabesques and miniatures of the most interesting character, recalling in different pages, and in the highest perfection, the varied styles of Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Lo Spagna, and others. The Duke of Hamilton's library is extraordinarily rich in Italian MSS.; his Grace's Dante with outline illustrations being of great importance.
- See Mr. Shaw's truly beautiful reproduction, in that gentleman's "Illuminated Ornaments," &c., of a portion of Arabesque border from this volume, containing a medallion portrait, Plate XXXV. A very beautiful Sforza MS. has lately been transferred from the possession of Mr. Henry Farrer to that of the Marquis D'Azeglio.
- That Andrea exercised a great influence upon miniature-painting may be recognized in the works of Girolamo: a grand leaf from a folio, on which is painted a seated allegorical figure of "Rome," in the possession of Mr. T. Whitehead, is so noble in every way, and so entirely in Andrea's manner, that it seems almost impossible to doubt its being by his hand. It may, however, possibly have been executed by his contemporary in the Mantuan school, "Giovanni dei Russi," who in 1455 illuminated the great Bible of the house of Este, for Borso, Duke of Modena.
- "Vita di Fra Giocondo e di Liberale, e d'altri Veronesi."
- The Celotti sale, which took place at Christie's on the 26th of May, 1825, and which included by far the most important collection of Italian illuminations ever brought to the hammer, contained no less than nineteen beautiful specimens extracted from the choral books of that pope.
- See Baglioni, "Vite dei Pittori ed Architetti fioriti in Roma, dal 1572 sino al 1642,"—Vita di Giulio Clovio.
- Facsimiles of the exquisite pages of this volume are given in Mr. Noel Humphrey's work; they are perfect triumphs of chromolithographic skill, and their production by Mr. Owen Jones formed what Germans may hereafter call a "standpunkt" in the history of that art, of which this volume presents no unfavourable sample.
- Grenville Collection.
- In his catalogue of the sale of the Celotti collection.
- The Kensington Museum possesses a beautiful specimen by this artist, formerly in Mr. Ottley's collection. Two others of equal excellence are treasured among other gems of art, by Mr. Ram, of Ramsfort, Ireland. They all came from Celotti.
- Mr. Whitehead's small but choice collection of specimens includes one quite worthy of the hand of Tintoretto.
- Mr. S. Leigh Sotheby, in his admirable "Principia typographica," Dr. Dibdin in his "Bibliotheca Spenceriana," and the Baron de Heinecken in his "Idée générale d'une Collection complète d'Estampes, &c.," give the best literary and graphic illustrations of the block books of the middle ages.