Illumination of the Written and Scientific Kind

COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, until 30th December 2016

Historiated initial from an Antiphoner, St Lawrence holding a palm branch, the gridiron and a book (c. 1390) Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci, Niccolo Rosselli, Cenni di Francesco di Ser Cenni Florence, Italy © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Historiated initial from an Antiphoner, St Lawrence holding a palm branch, the gridiron and a book (c. 1390) Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci, Niccolo Rosselli, Cenni di Francesco di Ser Cenni Florence, Italy
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

In this the Museum’s bicentenary year visitors have a wonderful opportunity to learn and understand more about the world of Illuminated Manuscripts. The exhibition combines the art of the original creators of these works with up-to-the minute research into the technique and ingredients used. Some one hundred and fifty manuscripts and fragments, with many of the exhibits being drawn from the Museum’s own collection, are displayed and date from the tenth to the sixteenth centuries. Those from the Viscount Fitzwilliam Founder’s bequest cannot be loaned out to other museums.

Book of Hours c. 1480 – c. 1490 Illuminated by Vante di Gabriello di Vante Attavanti (active c. 1480 – 1485) Florence, Italy © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Book of Hours c. 1480 – c. 1490 Illuminated by Vante di Gabriello di Vante Attavanti (active c. 1480 – 1485) Florence, Italy
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Over the last four years research has covered many interesting facts such as the use of smalt (ground blue glass) on a Venetian illumination book indicates that the artist had contact with the nearby glass-makers on the island of Murano and interestingly enough it pre-dates the use of smalt by Venetian artists by fifty years. It has been discovered that egg yolk, more usually associated with artists working on panel who used it as a binder, was also sometimes used in the production of these ravishing manuscripts.

Historiated initial from a Gradual, Louis XII healing the sick (c. 1500) Paris, Northern France © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Historiated initial from a Gradual, Louis XII healing the sick (c. 1500) Paris, Northern France
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

The exhibition takes us to the artistic centres where they were created in Europe and also dispels the belief that most manuscripts were produced by monks since from the eleventh century scribes and professional artists were involved in the production of manuscripts.  It also looks at later alterations to manuscripts and how some have been faked in later times.

The Macclesfield Psalter c. 1330 – 1340 The Anointing of David East Anglia (probably Norwich), England © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

The Macclesfield Psalter c. 1330 – 1340 The Anointing of David East Anglia (probably Norwich), England
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

It is a revealing and fascinating exhibition that draws (no pun intended) the viewer in and allows them to understand the magnificent, rich and colourful world of Illuminated Manuscripts.

Miniature, Pentecost showing the Virgin surrounded by the twelve apostles. Hainaut, Valenciennes, circa 1480-1490. Marmion, Simon (follower or assistant of). © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Miniature, Pentecost showing the Virgin surrounded by the twelve apostles. Hainaut, Valenciennes, circa 1480-1490. Marmion, Simon (follower or assistant of).
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/

Historiated initial mounted within a roundel with medallion scenes, John the Baptist, Hermit Saints and scenes of Christ’s Passion. Bologna, Parma, Italy, 1490-1500. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Historiated initial mounted within a roundel with medallion scenes, John the Baptist, Hermit Saints and scenes of Christ’s Passion. Bologna, Parma, Italy, 1490-1500.
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

 

 

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