Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Illuminated Manuscripts.

Images from The macclesfield Psalter
 By any normal standards, I can't deny that I am quite prolific!  My mind is full of  snippets of conversation, images that have stuck with me, and all manner of assorted crap . For that I feel blessed. But I am  keenly aware that quantity has nothing to do with quality, I do however maintain that the more work an artist produces the more his ideas become focused and his execution is honed and refined. So far so good. But like every creative human being that ever existed there are days where I draw a blank. My thoughts get stuck in the bottleneck of my mind. I just can't seem to pull the right image out. I have a few techniques I save for these awkward times just to get functioning again. A mental syrup of figs if you will. These include going over my sketchbooks. looking on the Internet at what other artists are doing. Reading my favourite poets like Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell. Lines of beautiful text are a very effective way to trigger images , and bring forth memories and dreams that lead me to new pastures.
Carnal Sinners, 15th century manuscript by Yates Thompson
 For the days when I feel particularly low and unmotivated I save the most potent medicine; Illuminated Manuscripts! Sadly I don't own any but that isn't a problem, I own the next best thing, a couple of big fat, beautiful anthologies of collected manuscripts. Yum!
The Lamb, By William Blake
 Strictly speaking, Illuminated Manuscripts are texts decorated with silver or gold but has evolved to include any decorated text. The earliest of these survives from 400 to 600 AD, but more usually come from the middle ages. Every rich member of society aspired to flash their wealth around by commissioning a small volume of decorated liturgical texts. There are many examples of these collected from all over Europe. The colours and subject matter are breathtakingly rich. The bored scribe entertaining himself by taking flights of fancy so original and weird, they appear as fresh and delicious as the day they were painted.
Petrarch's Vigil, c.1336 Bibliotica Ambrosiana, Milan
 This is a very large subject and I shan't bore you all by giving a lecture on the origins, collection and maintenance of these treasures. I just wanted to offer you a taste of what dazzles and inspires me. If you want to see further examples, there is the Macclesfield Psalter which is beautifully reproduced on it's own website. The 'Splendor solis', which is a stunning collection of medieval art. and many others just waiting to beguile you.
Saint Nicholas Rescues a ship, C 1410. Belles Heures Of Jean De france
 The Illuminated Manuscripts come from every continent, religion and culture. Islamic manuscripts come mainly from Persia where the Shia' sect, unlike the Sunnis who are not permitted to create images of anything living as it is seen to usurp Allah's powers, had no issue with the artistic reproduction of a living entity. You will even find images of Mohammed lovingly depicted. Japanese woodcuts and prints are in the same vein, with the flat 2 dimensional look that doesn't deal with perspective.
 I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do. Contemporary art isn't where it all starts and ends.
Splendor Solis, 1532-1535. The Prussian State Museum, Berlin

Splendor Solis

Splendor Solis

Splendor Solis

Splendor Solis

Splendor Solis

Splendor Solis

St Margaret Of Antioch. C. 1440
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