Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cranach's Saxon Nobility

Saxony lineage

Saxony lineage p

Saxony lineage i

Saxony lineage l

Saxony lineage k

Saxony lineage c

Saxony lineage f

Saxony lineage o

[all of these images have been background cleaned to one degree or another and the
colour saturation has been slightly boosted -- click through to see much larger versions]

'Das Sächsische Stammbuch' [subtitled as:] 'Sammlung von Bildnissen sächsischer Fürsten, mit gereimtem Text; aus der Zeit von 1500 - 1546' is available online from the State University Library in Dresden (click the book icon for thumbnail pages).

The Saxon pedigree book OR Collection of Saxon Prince portraits with rhyming verse from 1500 to 1546, contains sketches of some two hundred members of he nobility from the German state of Saxony, accompanied by the family or town crests and a snatch of descriptive text.

This is a significant manuscript for a couple of reasons. The charming sketches often present the people in informal poses, as though they are chatting with their friends. That lends the work a certain authenticity: it's more likely that the subjects have been drawn faithfully as opposed to the work being overly embellished to curry favour with the royal court for instance. So beyond tracking the nobility of the period, the sketch album offers a useful resource for historical costume research and particularly so because the figures are presented in full, half and three-quarter views.

What really marks this portrait and coats of arms series as a work of considerable distinction, however, is the belief that the figures were painted by none other than Lucas Cranach the Elder (d. 1553). Along with Albrecht Dürer, Hans Burgkmair, Albrecht Altdorfer and Hans Holbein, Cranach was one of the great German artists of the northern Renaissance during the first half of the 16th century.
"He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known for his portraits, both of German princes and those of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, whose cause he embraced with enthusiasm, becoming a close friend of Martin Luther. He also painted religious subjects, first in the Catholic tradition, and later trying to find new ways of conveying Lutheran religious concerns in art. He continued throughout his career to paint nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion." [W]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Beatus Apocalypse

"The Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation, is not only the last Book of the New Testament, but its most difficult, puzzling, and terrifying. It provided challenges to medieval illustrators and was the source for a number of popular images, such as Christ in Majesty, the Adoration of the Lamb, and the Madonna of the Apocalypse and contributed to the widespread use of the Evangelists' symbols." [source]
"The term "Beatus" identifies a particular medieval manuscript, generally of Spanish origin, that contains a collection of textual comments on the apocalypse of Saint John. The aim of the author, Beato of Liébana, was that of indoctrinating and educating the clergy, although, in some cases the manuscript was also used for certain rites and rituals.

The first version of the commentary was successively edited by the very hand of Beatus, as well as by later authors, each of whom contributed in creating different versions. There are 27 illuminated manuscripts that have been identified as having these characteristics and are, therefore, named "Beatus of Liébana" and are conserved in various libraries around the world." [source]

Bird killing serpent a
Bird (symbol of Christ) killing serpent (symbol of satan)

City of Babylon Surrounded by Serpents

This miniature of Babylon functioned as a frontispiece to the Book of Daniel. It was from Babylon that Nebuchadnezzar came and besieged Jerusalem. The entire city of Babylon is surrounded by two enormous serpents whose heads and tails fall on the central axis. Two more serpents flank the large doorway at bottom.

Above the door an arcade houses the silver coffins of the three Jews who were saved from the burning furnace: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, worshiped as saints in Spain). An inscription below relates how Nebuchadnezzar took vessels from the temple of Jerusalem and how the wrath of God inflicted dragons, ostriches, and seductively singing owls and sirens on the city. Such accounts may have been inspired by the protective reliefs of dragons on Babylon's famous Ishtar Gate.

MS M.429 (fol. 147)

Although it was once thought that the author was Daniel, a Jewish exile in Babylon in the sixth century B.C., most scholars agree the book was written between 168 and 165 B.C. in support of Jews persecuted by the Seleucid emperor, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The book was used as a pattern for later Jewish and Christian apocalypses, including the present Apocalypse of John, which also told of the fall of Babylon and the coming of Christ and his church. The Daniel cycle was added to Beatus manuscripts about 945, the same time that Maius introduced the prefatory cycle. The Daniel cycle, however, was not invented for this manuscript but derives from earlier illustrated Bibles.

Destruction of Babylon
Destruction of Babylon: the splendid city of Babylon — engulfed in flames — is a symbol of Satan and of all evil.

"And I saw another angel descending from heaven, saying: "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. And she has become the habitation of demons, and the keepsake of every unclean spirit, and the possession of every unclean and hateful flying thing." For this reason her afflictions shall arrive in one day: death and grief and famine. And she shall be burned with fire. And the kings of the earth, who have fornicated with her and lived in luxury, shall weep and mourn for themselves over her, when they see the smoke of her conflagration, standing far away, out of fear of her torments, saying: "Woe! Woe! to Babylon, that great and strong city. For in one hour, your judgement has arrived." And the businessmen of the earth shall weep and mourn over her, because no one will buy their merchandise anymore." [Revelations 18:1–11]

The Antichrist
Top: Satan freed (Revelation 20:7) -- Horned seven-headed Beast (Antichrist) from Sea flanked by two groups of men representing nations

Middle: Satan, Siege of Holy City (Revelation 20:9) -- Men in upper part of gate of Holy City flanked by Antichrist crowned, holding book, and groups of men armed with swords and shield, representing Gog and Magog

Below, three groups of men seek refuge in the mountains

Satan's Last Attack: Gog and Magog

"And when the thousand years will have been completed, Satan shall be released from his prison, and he shall go out and seduce the nations which are upon the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog. And he shall gather them together for battle, those whose number is like the sand of the sea. And they climbed across the breadth of the earth, and they encompassed the camp of the saints and the beloved city." [Revelations 20:7–9]

The Antichrist (detail)
The Antichrist (detail)

Mappa Mundi
Mappa Mundi
World Map
Beatus Map

This double-page world map is one of the manuscript's most intriguing illustrations. It is not called for by the Apocalypse text itself but is alluded to by Beatus, who writes about the various regions the twelve apostles were to evangelize (Peter, for example, went to Rome, Andrew to Acaya, Thomas to India, James to Spain, and John to Asia). The two vertical green areas on either side of the gutter* represent the Mediterranean Sea (the yellow rectangles are islands, such as Crete and Corsica). Europe is at the bottom left. In Spain, only Andalusia (Betica), Asturias, and Saragossa (Cesaraugusta) are listed. Africa is at the bottom right page, while Asia fills the top half of both pages. Below Adam and Eve in paradise are Jerusalem and Mt. Sinai.

*Ed. allow some poetic license here: this description pertains to a near-identical map from another version of the manuscript and maybe technical constraints prevent us seeing the scene in full]

Lamb with cross
Lamb with cross

Vision Of The Lamb And The Four Living Creatures

"And in the middle of the throne, and all around the throne, there were four living creatures. The first resembled a lion, the second an ox, the third had a face like a man, and the fourth resembled a flying eagle. And while those living creatures were giving glory and honor and blessings to the One sitting upon the throne, the twenty-four elders fell prostrate and adored him. And in the right hand of the One sitting on the throne, I saw a book, written inside and out, sealed with seven seals. And in the midst a Lamb was standing, as if it were slain. And when the lamb received and opened the book the four living creatures and elders fell down before the Lamb, each having stringed instruments, as well as golden bowls full of fragrances, which are the prayers of the saints. And they were singing a new canticle, saying: "O Lord, you are worthy to receive the book and to open its seals, because you were slain and have redeemed us for God, by your blood." "[Revelations 4:6–5:14]

At the end of the second century the four living creatures were connected with the evangelists, becoming their symbols (the man represents Matthew; the lion, Mark; the calf, Luke; the eagle, John). The creatures and fiery disks under them derive from Ezekiel's vision of the cherubim. The vision is enclosed by a starry border supported by four angels; and below John converses with an angel.

Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark

Noah's Ark (detail)
Noah's Ark (detail)


Climbing a palm tree
Climbing a palm tree

Hic populus meus et habitauit deus cum eis
Hic populus meus et habitauit deus cum eis

Christ Enthroned Over the River of Life

"He took me up a high mountain and showed me the river of the water of life, shining like crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of its main street, and on both sides of the river, was the Tree of Life, bearing twelve fruits, offering one for each month, and the leaves are for the health of the nations. But the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants shall serve him. They shall see his face and his name shall be on their foreheads. Night shall be no more, and they will need neither lamp nor sun because the Lord God will illuminate them. And they shall reign forever and ever." [Revelations 22:1–5]

The enthroned figures holding books and acclaiming God are not mentioned in the text, but the inscription identifies them as "the people of God with whom he lives who will reign forever and ever."


Hell mouth
Hell mouth

The commentary on the Apocalypse (Commentaria In Apocalypsin) was written in Spain by Beatus of Liébana in the 8th century.

There are about thirty extant copies of the commentary in illuminated manuscript format, the earliest being from the 9th century. One of the later versions is the Rylands Beatus from the 12th century, owned by the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester : from which the above images were sourced.

The image notes above are adapted or quoted from captions that appear with equivalent illustrations found in the Morgan Museum's 'Apocalypse Then' exhibition site from a couple of years ago [thumbnail page].

The Morgan appears to own two Beatus manuscripts: MS 644 - the Morgan Beatus - from the 10th century, accessible via the Corsair-Morgan site [MS pdf page descriptions] AND MS 429 - The Las Huelgas Apocalypse - from the 13th century that dominates the exhibition site linked in the paragraph above.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chinese Bird Album

Bird Album j

Bird Album j (detail)

Bird Album d

Bird Album f

Bird Album g

Bird Album g (detail)

Bird Album

Bird Album a

Bird Album a (detail)

Bird Album

Bird Album b

Bird Album c

Bird Album c (detail)

Bird Album e

Bird Album h

Bird Album h (detail)

Bird Album i

Bird Album i (detail)

[click through to full-sized versions; all images are spliced together
from screencaps; some background blemishes have been removed]

This exquisite gouache album of bird paintings from China was sketched in the 19th century and is available online at the Royal Digital Library of Belgium.

The album may have been produced to cater to a strong European market for Oriental artworks, although no definitive information about these sketches has been retained. It is a stable-mate of another (stylistically similar) anonymous watercolour sketch album owned by the Belgian Library, featured here on BibliOdyssey a few months ago: The Butterfly Album.

Previously: fauna.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Pleasure Garden

In the 15th century, Pierre de Luxembourg laid out the boundaries of a park in the forest surrounding his castle in Enghien (Anguien), a small medieval fortress town near Brussels in Belgium. By the time the estate had been acquired by the aristocratic Arenberg (Aremberg) family at the beginning of the 17th century, the park boasted jousting fields, a menagerie, game reserves, flower gardens and irrigation systems.

The famed Renaissance-Baroque garden configuration at Enghien, depicted in the prints below, evolved during the 1620s to 1650s, guided by the elaborate landscape and architectural design choices of Le Père Charles de Bruxelles (Arenberg family member and architect). They were an amalgam of French and Italian influences. Elements were grouped around a central axis (French feature). They included formal parterres adorned with classical statuary, tree-lined avenues, an orangery, a large viewing mound (an Italian feature), a grand pavilion on an island surrounded by imitation bastions, an ornate sculptured fountain in the middle of a reservoir, a small terraced garden on an artificial island (another Italian feature), and a series of more traditional gardens surrounded by hedged tunnels.

Although technically outside of the Dutch Republic, Enghien gardens conformed to the Dutch garden aesthetic. And it was close enough to the border with Flemish Brabant that it could be easily reached by Dutch visitors who found it to be an exemplary and accessible Baroque garden model, whereas the gardens of Italy and France were not. For these reasons, the monumental Dutch topographical review from the mid-1700s by Christoffel Beudeker conspicuously included the Belgian Enghien gardens.

"They made plentiful use of water, by way of ponds, canals and moats. Using hedges, often cut into spectacular shapes, they created a series of outdoor green "rooms" or "cabinets", palaces, theatres and stage sets. Unlike the prevailing, unadorned green of Italian formal gardens, the Dutch created beds or parterres filled with the vivid colours and the beautiful scents of flowers, sometimes supplemented with coloured stones. Unlike their French counterparts, Dutch gardens fitted into their landscapes and did not dominate them.

The design of the gardens embraced sophisticated intellectual allegories deriving from classical legends and philosophy and they were created in accordance with the rules of architecture and logic. As well as pleasing the eyes, the gardens were also intended to appeal to the mind, their designs symbolising the earthly paradise and being intended to impart moral and philosophical lessons to the select few who understood them. Political often co-existed with philosophical symbolism, and many Dutch gardens were platforms for political propaganda that was all the more effective for being relatively subtle."
[BL: Dutch Baroque Gardens - Intro.]

The estate suffered from neglect and fires over the centuries and there were various attempts by successive owners to rebuild the chateau(s), rejuvenate the gardens and generally transform the property according to whim.

The estate became the property of the municipality of Enghien in the mid-1980s and major public works have seen faithful restoration of a Renaissance garden and a couple of pavilions, with overgrown woodlands felled and replanted and medicinal and flower gardens added in recent years. The efforts are ongoing.

The etched engravings below were produced in about 1680, commissioned from Romeyn de Hooghe by the Amsterdam map dealer and publisher, Nicolaes Visscher II.

View Larger Map

Plan du Parc Danguien
General design plan for the gardens at Enghien near Hainault in Belgium.
The Enghien park plan identifies the main features of the garden and shows how they fitted into the wider landscape. The Duke's palace (Chateau) looks out over the park at the bottom, with the old walled town (ville) to its right and the suburbs (fauxbourg) and cemetery on the other side.

The plan shows that the gardens were still under construction in the mid-1680s. While the main features and the formal gardens closest to the palace seem to be in their final form, Mount Parnassus (14), the fountain and colosseum (30) and the planned gardens in front of it (31) are noted as being unfinished (imparfait). Most of the estate within the old walls of the original hunting park (15) is still occupied by meadows and rough hunting land.

Le Parc d'Anguien - Het Perk van Anguien

Birds-eye views of the park design (both [?] by Romeyn de Hooghe)

Note from BM in reference to the B&W image:

"Bird's-eye view of the renaissance gardens at Enghien near Hainault, with a pavilion surrounded by concentric plantings in a pentagonal design at centre, parterres and fountains in foreground, a large pond at right; title in banderol at top centre with putti and coat of arms; lettered a-z and numbered 1-17 within composition indicating locations; unsigned. 1680
Engraving with etching."

{The BL suggests this B&W version of the engraving was done twenty years later, in 1700, by a different artist elaborating on de Hooghe's original: see here. If nothing else, this reinforces the notion that de Hooghe had perhaps recorded an 'intended' design rather than a completed garden layout}

Aangezicht op het grote paviljoen in het centrum van het park
As well as giving a more realistic idea of the actual size of the park than is conveyed by the bird's-eye views, this pavilion view is able to convey an idea of the sort of people who likely visited the park. Almost without exception they seem to be prosperous burghers and aristocrats.
Fourteen lanes and avenues (the so-called allées) radiate out from this central pavilion, each bearing a unique character according to the specific landscape design and plant species in use.

Aangezicht op de berg van Parnas
Parks often contained a model Greek Mountain of Parnassus [see Catshuis for example]. In antiquity, the Parnassus, dedicated to Apollo and the Muses, was the traditional home of poetry and music. Deer are being hunted at the foot of the 'mountain' and some boys are climbing over the low walls of the bastion to join in.

Aangezicht op de] Orangien Hoff met de marmere fonteyn van de drie gratien
An orangery (citrus orchard) first began to appear as an element of landscape design in the Renaissance gardens of Italy. Orangeries became a staple of the Dutch baroque gardens (often built in glass-enclosed hot-houses or warmed with fires to protect against the harshness of Northern European winters) and were associated with the legendary gardens of the Hesperides*, where Hercules received the golden apples as reward for his virtues. It is no coincidence that a statue of Hercules can be seen in the far background of this print.
The scene juxtaposes a foliage niche enclosing a statue of the Greek hero Hercules with a fountain showing the Three Graces. Like Hercules, the Graces were the illegitimate children of Zeus, the King of the Gods. While Hercules epitomised strength, the Graces, Euphrosyne, Aglaea and Thalia, were the embodiment of beauty, grace and wisdom. Whether these associations meant much to the garden's visitors is another matter. It is a hot day and a family is shown enjoying the shade. A beggar woman sits in the full sun while a group of friars to the right debate whether or not to give her any alms.

Fonteyn en colise van groente - Fontaine et colise de Verdure
One of the fountains seen against a background of green hedges. The "colosseum" is clearly modelled on the one in Rome.

Uitzicht op het] Groot rond met de bouteveue op den berg
The print records the view across the large reservoir, with the kitchen garden and pavilion of Samson to the left and the herb garden to the right. Enghien houses can just be seen over the town wall to the right; straight ahead are the garden gates and beyond it a hill and a well-placed tree to round off the view. The Vicereine of the Southern Netherlands is on the point of leaving the gardens and to the left, a young man gives a farewell salute on a hunting horn.

Aangezicht van de triomfboog bij de ingang van het park
The print shows the main entrance to the park, a triumphal arch (the Slave Gate or La Porte de l'Esclave *I think*). Visitors entered here into the groote allee oft groene laan, the lane that led to the main pavilion in the centre of the park. To the left can be glimpsed the large basin or pond with the island garden on a mound.

(Uitzicht op) Moestuinen
The orchard and vegetable and spice gardens formed an integral part of Enghien park estate. These plots, separated by high green hedges, were built on both sides of the entrance ways to the park.

Uitzicht vanaf de bloemhof op de grote ronde trap en in haar verlengde de triomfboog
The print shows the bloemhof (flower garden) with an extensive variety of plants and flowers (not in-bloom). During the second half of the 17th century such flowerbeds were very popular. Beyond simply presenting a large variety of colours and fragrances, gardeners and their employers were obsessed with collecting exotic flower specimens from all over the world. The diversity of the Enghien park collection contributed greatly to its reputation as one of the finest gardens in Europe. The garden front of the Duke of Aremberg's palace looms beyond the hedges on the left. The blue-roofed pavilions in the middle distance are grottos which housed small fountains. The hedges along the sides have been clipped to provide niches for the statues that are well integrated into the overall design. Gardeners at work, friars and beggars add interest to the scene.

Uitzicht vanaf de fonteingrotten op de triomfboog
With this grotto fountain, the garden architect tried to invoke an imaginary world of stones, shells and water. This was an attempt at imitating nature and is linked with classical ideas about the natural world, art and, above all, love.

Uitzicht vanuit de Laan van Essenbossen op het paviljoen
View of the grand pavilion from one of the maple-lined allées leading to it. A carriage drawn by six (?)white horses and accompanied by three footmen drives down the centre of the avenue: it is probably occupied by the Marquesa de Castagna, the wife of the King of Spain's viceroy in the Southern Netherlands (Vicerine, one presumes). Meanwhile, a gardener wheels a wheelbarrow into the avenue and a child plays. A steep wooden staircase enabled visitors to reach the viewing gallery at the top of the grand pavilion.

Het labyrinth oft doolhof met de schoone fonteyn van Amphitrite - Le labyrinthe avec la magnifique fontaine d Amphitriae
Visitors are seen navigating their way through the popular maze or labyrinth (which was created at the same time as the surviving maze at Hampton Court) while onlookers enjoy a flagon of wine. A large statue of Amphitrite, Poseidon's wife and goddess of the seas in Greek mythology, is placed at the centre of the maze. Taken together with Mount Parnassus and the numerous other statues of Greek gods and goddesses that adorned the park, this statue seems to underline the message that the gardens of Enghien were indeed a heavenly place and a terrestrial equivalent of the pantheon of the Greek gods.

Rondt net groene schutten en perken met naintjes oft dwergboomtjes - Rondeau avec clotures de haye et parcs des nains
Pride of place in this scene goes to the hedges that have been clipped to form screens, foliage tunnels and an obelisk. The mature orange trees in the foreground are laden with fruit which is being picked: a surprising harvest in a location as far north as Enghien. The aristocratic lady in the foreground is about to be presented with fruit.

Aangezicht op het pavilioen van Samson en het meer van] sijn Hoogheyt
De Hooghe has drawn his visitors at the crossroads of two lanes. The view on the left leads through an avenue and across a large reservoir and the extensive kitchen gardens to the pavilion of Samson in the background. To the right the view extends northwards through almost the full extent of the park to another fountain. The avenue leading to this is called the "Maille" or Mall. Like the London streets of the same name it takes its name from the game pell mell, a form of croquet which was very fashionable at the time and which two gentlemen are shown playing. Behind them others are practising fencing.

Uitzicht vanuit de Triomfboog op la Motte
The view from the grand entrance to the Italian-style island garden. Visitors are stepping onto the island from a small boat. On the right a man pulls on a rope hauling another boat, that cannot be seen, across the water. Deer graze in the enclosure between the water and the old park wall in the distance.

Aunguien me syn Omleggende Landen en Steden
The map was meant to guide visitors of the famous pleasure gardens of Enghien located south of Brussels, the proud property of the princes of Arenberg.

Romeyn de Hooghe (1645-1708) was an energetic Dutch etcher/engraver, painter, sculptor, author, goldsmith, art dealer and teacher, who was active in Amsterdam and, later, Haarlem.

Operating at a time when the production of graphic work and books from Dutch publishers was at its pinnacle of volume and variety, de Hooghe produced single-leaf prints, broadsheets, pamphlets, sea charts and maps, and book illustrations, etching well over four thousand plates in all.

De Hooghe was industrious, tireless, inventive and his work covered the gamut, from political satires and portraits, to allegorical fantasy, landscapes and even pornographic prints. He is often described as the most or one of the most important Dutch artists of the late 17th century, a comment that may say as much about his prolific work ethic as it does about his place in the pantheon of art.
"His line-work is never less than immensely skillful and meticulous; still, the impression is often predominantly one of workaday laboriousness. His oft-repeated trick of juxtaposing dark, shadowy foregrounds against light middle-to-backgrounds is dramatic but sometimes over-mannered." [source]
"Above all, Romeyn de Hooghe was a master in illustrating contemporary events, such as the 'Disaster Year' of 1672, the coronation of the Dutch Stadholder William III as King of England in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and the wars of the Habsburg Emperors against the Ottoman Turks in Eastern Europe. His was a tumultuous time both politically and socially, but it has not received as much attention as the earlier years of the Dutch Golden Age. The great masters – Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer – had already passed away by the time Romeyn de Hooghe became the representative of the later Golden Age. Luckily, we have his works to help us get a picture of that time." [source]

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