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Masterpieces

Text: Author: Family: Time:  
King David with two Musicians and two Dancers (Ref:1172)

Author:

Family: Psalter    Time: IX century

David is depicted under an arch spanning two twisted columns, in front of a purple ground; he is beardless and clad in a short skirt. A young and active person, he does not really feel at ease on his throne with the slanted footstool in front of him. Gazing up to the top left, he appears about to use the plucking stick in his right hand to play the string instrument on his left thigh. David’s performance seems to be inspired by the angel in the left-hand spandrel of the surrounding arch. Seated high up in the arch, the young psalmist is the protagonist of the scene. The angel on the top left, and the Hand of God appearing in the right-hand spandrel of the arch are both pointing to him.

Initial In (Ref:1143)

Author:

Family: Gospels    Time: IX century

The fascinating art of initial pages in luxurious liturgical manuscripts of the Middle Ages was an invention of Scottish-Irish origin. During the Carolingian period, an unparalleled coalescence took the place of elements from this art and those of Merovingian and late antique art.

In Northern Gaul, once occupied by the Romans, the late antique influence still developed in fertile ways when integrated with insular ornament; that was transmitted by the monasteries of Irish origin together with zoomorphic Merovingian patterns. It was after Charlemagne’s death (in 814), and long into the 9th century, that is an extremely rich art of initial-decoration flourished in the Benedictine monasteries of the Western Frankish Empire; they had already been fostered by Charlemagne himself. Our initial page from St John’s Gospel (in principio erat verbum…) is an outstanding example of this art.

Initial Q (Ref:1143)

Author:

Family: Gospels    Time: IX century

In the initial letters of the magnificent sacred manuscripts of the Middle Ages, the elemental task of book illustration found its appropriate theme: it is the artistic arrangement of the letters which ceremoniously introduce the words of the gospels. Wall-painting, panel-painting, as well as illustrations of scenes in manuscripts, stem from a different tradition. But in the initials and their ornamental lines the script image is dominant as they are literal and decorative at the same time – their size, the coloring, and the gold, serve to emphasize their symbolism.

The Four Evangelists (Ref:1110)

Author:

Family: Gospels    Time: IX century

This picture is a striking example of the resurgence of late antique traditions of the Imperial Court of Charlemagne. For his Palatine Chapel at Aix-la Chapelle the codex had been destined from the very beginning. The splendor of the manuscript is reflected in the ornate gold frame with painted semi-precious stones of blue and green colors. Its blue border line awakes the connection with the dominating color of the picture. Under a pale violet sky with tree silhouettes there rises up a picturesque landscape of mountains in evocative shades of blue. The Evangelists sitting in the four corners, reading and writing are separated by the cloud-like mountains as well as by their deep absorption.

The Fountain of Life (Ref:1133)

Author:

Family: Gospels    Time: IX century

At Easter in the year of 827 a ceremony took place in which the relics of St. Sebastian of Rome were transferred to the church of St. Médard at Soissons, northwest of Reims. On this occasion, Emperor Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne and his wife, Empress Judith, who both attended the ceremony, presented the church with several precious objects from the treasury of Charlemagne and this magnificent Gospel Book were among them. It remained in Soissons until 1790, then it was taken to Paris and at the beginning of the 19th century, entered the National Library.

Initial Page to Genesis (Ref:2101)

Author:

Family: Bibles    Time: IX century

The arrangement of the Bible, as it is known today, with the sequence of its single books is the result of a long development. The fundamental and pathbreaking version of the Bible texts was the Latin translation and new revision, which in 382/83 Pope Damasus ordered to be compiled by Jerôme, scholar and later teacher of the church. Known as the Vulgate, this version was continuously revised and ‘purified’ throughout the centuries. During the ninth century, the scriptoria of Charlemagne played a special part in the history of efforts to achieve textual precision in manuscripts. In 781 Alcuin, whom Charlemagne had called from the Benedictine monastery of York, became responsible for the entire education program of the Empire and he was instrumental in realizing the Emperor’s endeavor.

The Apotheosis of Boethius (Ref:1153)

Author:

Family: Bibles    Time: X century

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (CA 480-524), the Roman philosopher, writer and statesman during the time of the East Gothic invasion to Italy, belonged to a circle of responsible Romans of the nobility who offered their services as administrators and advisors to King Theoderic the Great, King of the East Goths, in order to re-establish Roman control in Italy. During the first period, Boethius became highly respected and he was successful in protecting some provinces and individual persons from the random access of the East Goths. But in the case of his friend, Counselor Albinus, who was politically accused, Boethius help became disastrous for himself. He was accused of committing high treason by aiming at a “free Roman State”. Without interrogation, he was imprisoned for years and condemned to death in 524 at Pavia.

Calendar Page Illustration the yearly cycle (Ref:1125)

Author:

Family: Bibles    Time: X century

This leaf, painted on one side, was, together with a second leaf, glued into the cover of a manuscript of the letters of St. Paul. The two single leaves must have originally belonged to a sacramentary which was written in the scriptorium of Fulda during the Ottonian period.
The figure of the god “Annus” (the year) dominates the centre and everything else is grouped around him: as an old, blind man he is enthroned inside a wheel which symbolises the eternal flight of time. Within the rim of the wheel is the inscription Bissena mensuum verticine volvitur annus ebdom (in a cycle of twelve months the year turns round in 52 weeks). In his right hand Annus holds the circle of the year and in his left hand a vine which connects the wheel to the seasons and personifications of the twelve months. Spring (ver) and summer (aestas), autumn (autumnus) and winter (hiemps), all with Phrygian caps, stand at the four corners around Annus. Spring and summer hold the breastplate of the day (dies) in their hands and autumn and winter are bound with a cloth while over and around her shines the starry sky. Spring is marked as floridus (with flowers), summer as frugifer (bringing fuits), autumn as fertilitis (fruitful), and winter as horribilis (horrible). The text over the centre reads Tercentenis bisque triceni quinque diebus (the year has 365 days).

Isaiah at Prayer (Ref:1119)

Author:

Family: Psalter    Time: X century

This magnificent miniature showing the prophet Isaiah at prayer, between Nyx, the night and Orthros, the young day, belongs to the world-famous book of psalms known as the Paris Psalter. It is an X century manuscript from Byzantium, from the metropolis Constantinople and was brought to Paris, only in the year 1557/9, by the ambassador Jean Hurault de Boistaillé. The Psalter takes its place in the history of art as a prominent witness to the “Macedonian Renaissance”. Following the extended and destructive crisis of Iconoclasm (726-843), when the worship of images and indeed all representation of religious figures were forbidden, and many artists fled from Byzantium, a revival of Byzantine art and science occurred in the IX century under the Macedonian emperors. With the approval of the Roman Court and Hellenistic, models appeared in art in a classical Rebirth, side by side with the Christian subject matter.

Washing of Feet (Ref:1148)

Author:

Family: Gospels    Time: XI century

Shortly before the events of the Passion, during the Last Supper, when the Master has gathered his disciples around him, he gives them an example of mutual respect, love, and humility so that they may remember this after his death and his return to God. It is the beginning of a series of discourses in which Jesus conveys his spiritual heritage to his disciples. The scene is described in St. John’s Gospel (XIII, 3-10): Jesus rose from table… and took a towel, tied it around him. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to wipe them with a towel. This has been an action usually performed by slaves, and, therefore, Peter, always the most spontaneous of the disciples, outraged when it was his turn: You, “Lord, You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered with a symbolic meaning of his action (What I do, you do not realize now but you will understand hereafter) now explaining in a more plausible way for Peter: If I do not wash you, you have no part with me. Peter enthusiastically replies: Then, Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head. He still does not understand the meaning of his master’s intention. Jesus eventually explains to his disciples: … If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do just as I have done to you.

       
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