Monday, November 28, 2011

The Royal Anjou Bible

"By any definition, it is one of the supreme Bibles of the gothic period"
[Christopher de Hamel*, Cambridge]

Anjou Bible illuminated manuscript page

Anjou Bible - illuminated manuscript parchment

illuminated manuscript page from Anjou Bible

parchment bible manuscript page - highly decorated

14th cent. decorated ms page from Naples

latin text with ornate decoration

Anjou Bible folio with extra-textual decoration

detailed manuscript decoration - 14th century Italian bible

parchment manuscript page (text + decoration)

14th c. Sicilian manuscript page

Anjou Bible folio 305r text and decoration

illuminated bible manuscript page

Anjou Bible folio 309r

"The House of Anjou ruled over Central and Southern Europe for two centuries. The different areas gradually became close-knit states boasting efficient institutions, lucrative trade and a flourishing cultural life. It was the era of great artists and writers like Giotto, Simone Martini, Boccaccio and Petrarch. Music was also given a new lease of life at the Neapolitan court: even under Charles of Anjou (1226-1286), investments were made in more and better musicians.

This healthy artistic climate provided scope for musical experimentation. One of the most gifted musicians at Charles’ court was undoubtedly the trouvère Adam de la Halle, who wrote the celebrated musical pastoral play Le Jeu de Robin et Marion while in service in Naples.

Charles’ successor, Robert of Anjou, was a particularly well-read and sophisticated sovereign and [a] supporter of Pope Benedict XII and patron of numerous musicians from the latter’s entourage in Avignon. [..] The numerous musical instruments and musical scenes in the Anjou Bible are a unique, artistic externalization of this heyday of music." [source]

"The 14th century Anjou Bible, was created at the court of Robert I of Anjou, King of Naples. After peregrinations in royal circles, in 1509 the book ended up on Brabantine soil. During the course of the next 500 years, this unique manuscript fell into oblivion. Until 2008. On March 10th the bible was officially recognized by the Flemish Community as 'a Masterpiece' and that year a major project was launched which involved researching and conserving the book and making it accessible to the public." [source] ::
[The manuscript now resides in the strongroom at the Maurits Sabbe Library of the Theology Faculty at K.U.Leuven]

I recommend (more than usual, let's say) seeing this magnificent parchment manuscript online via the (often tri-lingual) Anjou Bible site [direct link to a flash zoom presentation of 91 illuminated folio pages that allows you to see the details at high magnification]

The manuscript decoration work is said to have been carried out (or overseen) by Cristophorus Orimina, the leading illuminator in Naples, whose signature appears in the Anjou Bible.

'The Anjou Bible: A Royal Manuscript Revealed. Naples 1340 (Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts)' 2010, edited by J van der Stock & L Wateeuw was released at the time of the exhibition last year.

manuscript miniatures

text decoration (detail)

manuscript border decoration

cropped manuscript decoration

{all the images in this post were spliced together from screencaps : the full page images - after clicking through - are at 25% magnification and the details towards the end of the post were spliced from 50% zoom captures}

Friday, November 25, 2011

China Court Service

manuscript painting - royal Chinese man served by flag bearing court attendant

colourful Chinese royal court scene - seated nobleman and attendant

noble Chinaman and court attendant

Chinese court scene

Chinese Court servant with noblewoman - 19th cent.

servant kneels before nobleman in China

chinese nobility scene

Chinese nobleman on throne and attendant

nobility scene in 19th century China

nobleman + servant in China

royal court scene in China

nobleman + servant in 19th century China

Scenes of Service from a small album known as 'Chinese Drawings: Court and Society', hosted by the John Rylands University Library in Manchester.

We are told that these illustrations (scanned from colour transparencies) depict 19th century Chinese society and costumes and that these (slightly cropped) illustrations are bordered by blue silk.

This collection of delicate hand-painted scenes is part of a much larger set of Chinese cultural material owned by the Rylands Library [Chinese Collection description]. About fifty of these items are hosted on the Rylands' Luna Imaging site. Some of these sketches are just exquisite.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blake Illuminations

Example pages from William Blake's:

  • Songs of Innocence
  • Songs of Experience
  • The Book of Thel
  • Visions of the Daughters of Albion
"If a method of Printing which combines the Painter and the Poet is a phenomenon worthy of public attention, provided that it exceeds in elegance all former methods, the Author is sure of his reward." WB 1793

"The great advance in Blake's printmaking occurred in 1787, following the untimely death, probably from tuberculosis, of the artist's beloved younger brother Robert [..]. Blake reported discovering his wholly original method of "relief etching" — which creates a single, raised printing surface for both text and image — in a vision of Robert soon after his death.

Relief etching allowed Blake to control all aspects of a book's production: he composed the verses, designed the illustrations (preparing word and image almost simultaneously on the same copper printing plate), printed the plates, colored each sheet by hand (where necessary), and bound the pages together in covers. The resulting "illuminated books" were written in a range of forms — prophecies, emblems, pastoral verses, biblical satire, and children's books — and addressed various timely subjects — poverty, child exploitation, racial inequality, tyranny, religious hypocrisy." [source] [Also see: Illuminated Printing]

etched title page by William Blake: 'Songs of innocence and of experience : shewing the two contrary states of the human soul'

Songs of innocence (parent + winged child)

Songs of Innocence (Introduction)

Songs of innocence (frontispiece)

Songs of innocence (The Divine Image)

Songs of innocence (the Blossom)

Songs of Experience - title page (cropped)

Songs of Experience (The Sick Rose)

Songs of Experience (The Clod of the Pebble)

Songs of Experience (The Tyger)

Songs of Experience (The Human Abstract)

The Book of Thel (title page)

The Book of Thel (..Then Thel astonish'd..)

The Book of Thel (.. But he that loves the lowly..)

The Book of Thel (..The Eternal Gates..)

Visions of the Daughters of Albion (title page)

Visions of the Daughters of Albion (The Argument)

Visions of the Daughters of Albion a

Visions of the Daughters of Albion (The End)

"William Blake was born in London on November 28, 1757 [d. 1827], to James, a hosier, and Catherine Blake. Two of his six siblings died in infancy. From early childhood, Blake spoke of having visions—at four he saw God "put his head to the window"; around age nine, while walking through the countryside, he saw a tree filled with angels.

Although his parents tried to discourage him from "lying", they did observe that he was different from his peers and did not force him to attend conventional school. He learned to read and write at home. At age ten, Blake expressed a wish to become a painter, so his parents sent him to drawing school. Two years later, Blake began writing poetry. When he turned fourteen, he apprenticed with an engraver because art school proved too costly. One of Blake's assignments as apprentice was to sketch the tombs at Westminster Abbey, exposing him to a variety of Gothic styles from which he would draw inspiration throughout his career. After his seven-year term ended, he studied briefly at the Royal Academy." [continued]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Danse Macabre Collection

woodcut of danse macabre gravedigger in cemetery
Title: Der Tod von Basel : acht Holzschnitte von Rudolf Schiestl zu dem alten Volksliede [LINK]
Author: Rudolf Schiestl, 1924

totentanz skeleton in suit laughs, derailing train
Title: Ein moderner Totentanz : dreiundzwanzig Blätter aus dem Bilderbuch des Todes [LINK]
Author: Tobias Weiss, 1913

lithograph of danse macabre figure taking young man to death

litho of death in form of skeleton taking knight
Title: La Danse des Morts à Bâle [LINK]
Illustrator: (after) Hans Holbein, 1846

dancing skeletons inside triangular illustration border
Title: The dance of death on the Muhlenbruke at Lucerne [LINK]
Author: Caspar Meglinger, 1893

silhouette of death's dance figure downing WWI plane

danse macabre silhouette figure dressed as lady takes upper class gent to death

silhouette of danse macabre skeleton
Title: Ein Totentanz [LINK]
Authors: Walter Draesner & Max von Boehn, 1922

winged totentanz figure in sky

death's dance skeleton puts carpenter into casket

death's dance figure with sword stands behind blindfolded young person
Title: Bilder des Todes oder Todtentanz für alle Stände [LINK]
Illustrator / Author: Johann Gottfried Flegel / Carl Merkel, 1850

line drawing of death's dance in middle of war
Title: Auch ein Todtentanz [LINK]
Author: Alfred Rethel & Robert Reinick, 1902

skeleton - danse macabre figure - in rocking chair
Title: Daud un Düwel [LINK]
Author / Illustrator: Karl Wagenfeld / August Heumann, 1919

many dance of death skeletons celebrate, blowing horns and wearing headdresses
Title: Schau-Platz des Todes oder Todten-Tanz in Kupffern und Versen vorgestellet [LINK]
Author: Salomon van Rusting, 1736

The Heinrich Hein University of Düsseldorf recently uploaded the Graphiksammlung „Mensch und Tod“ (Danse Macabre Collection). There are more than ninety books available, many of them from the later (lesser known) Totentanz / Death's Dance period. The complete books are available for all but one or two of the entries.

Previous related entries (the first 3 in particular have a lot of background and links about the Death's Dance genre):
Heidelberger Totentanz ::: Death's Dance ::: Totentanz Blockbook ::: Ars Moriendi ::: Los Calaveras de Posada ::: The Day of The Dead - Papercuts ::: The Antikamnia Chemical Company ::: Speculum Musico-Mortuale.

UPDATE: See the Wurzeltod post: A Mid-November's Dance of Death in which the inimitable Suzanne puts some personal flesh on the bones of 'Bilder des Todes oder Todtentanz für alle Stände' by Carl Merkel & Johann Gottfried Flegel.

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