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Masterpieces  / Gospels

Text: Author: Family: Time:  
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.

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.

St. Luke the Evangelist (Ref:1157)

Author:

Family: Gospels    Time: XI century

The Acts of the Apostles (CA. 80-90 AD) and the third gospel (CA. 80 AD), emerging from the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, do not mention the name of the author, which is transmitted since the second century as St. Luke. Some traces of his origins and personality are, however, spread throughout these writings. From his precise knowledge of the Greek version of the Old Testament (Septuagint) and from his interest in the life and works of the “Missionary of the Heathens”, Paul the Apostle, we can assume that Luke was a Heathen-Christian of the second generation, born perhaps in Asia Minor (the legend of Luke quotes Antioch). He was well educated in Greek culture. Before his Christianization, he may have been close to the Synagogue, because he shows a remarkable familiarity with the Jewish conventions of the time.

John the Evangelist (Ref:1111)

Author:

Family: Gospels    Time: XIII century

Bloodletting Man (Ref:1163)

Author:

Family: Gospels    Time: XV century

The twelve large calendar images in the Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry now in Chantilly are famous with good reason: They have reshaped the way we look at landscapes and the change of the seasons. What one tends to forget, however, is that there is a thirteenth leaf belonging to this cycle, which may also claim an important place in the history of mankind: It shows – according to an old tradition albeit in a completely new way – the image of the naked man within the cosmic space of the zodiac, not only in a generous front view but also in a somewhat enigmatic view from behind. What at first sight may look like a mirrored image of the blond figure gazing at the viewer, turns out to be a second figure, now with brown hair, standing back to back with the first.

       
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