The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Monday, May 21, 2018

Exhibition explores the fascinating history and global adventures of manuscripts through the ages
Coëtivy Master (Henri de Vulcop?) (French, active about 1450 - 1485) and Boethius (Italian, about 480 - 524/526) and Jean de Meun (French, about 1240/1260 - 1305), Miniatures from Boethius, Consolation de philosophie, about 1460 - 1470. Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and ink on parchment. Accession No. 91.MS.11. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 42

LOS ANGELES, CA.- For hundreds of years, medieval manuscripts have been bought and sold, gifted and stolen, preserved and rearranged, loved and forgotten, hidden and displayed, cut into pieces, hung on walls, and glued into albums. They have survived wars, fires, floods, religious conflict, political tumult, the invention of printing, and changes in taste. They have at times been valued for their beauty, for their spiritual significance, or simply for the strength of their parchment pages. Featuring works from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, the Getty Research Institute, Hearst Castle, and other outside loans, Untold Stories: Collecting and Transforming Medieval Manuscripts, on view February 26–May 12, 2013 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center includes medieval books, leaves, and cuttings with a variety of rich stories to be told.

The exhibition is the product of a collaboration between outside scholar and former Getty graduate intern Abby Kornfeld; the Getty Museum’s Kristen Collins, associate curator of manuscripts; and Nancy Turner, manuscripts conservator. The show offers a fascinating historical overview alongside a display of some of the Getty’s most treasured manuscripts. Each piece in the exhibition has its own ‘life story,’ whether it journeyed through the mountains of Peru or graced the courts of kings. Some manuscripts escaped unscathed, while others were damaged and painstakingly conserved.

“J. Paul Getty once referred to the ‘eventful lives’ led by art objects before they entered a museum’s collection. This exhibition explores the centuries of use and ownership of a number of manuscripts and is an excellent showcase for the research and conservation measures that take place before works are shown to the public,” explains Timothy Potts, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “It also demonstrates the significance and value these precious objects held for their previous owners though the centuries.”

Eventful Lives
The provenance, or ownership history, of an object provides a record of the individual for whom the artwork was originally made as well as subsequent owners, when known. Evidence of ownership in manuscripts, including book plates, inscriptions, coats of arms, collectors’ marks, or notes tucked between the pages enable a reconstruction of the many hands through which these books passed. Catastrophic world events or even a simple change of ownership can obscure the origin of manuscripts, but diligent research can sometimes bring these tumultuous stories into view.

As was often the case throughout history, wars were a catalyst for the re-appropriation of manuscripts. This is demonstrated by the epic journey of the Getty’s famed Murúa manuscript, an illustrated history of the eminent line of Inca kings and their customs. The Spanish friar Murúa carried the manuscript throughout Peru before returning to Spain, where it became part of the royal collection, was seized as loot by Joseph Bonaparte and then finally surrendered to the Duke of Wellington, who brought the manuscript to England during the Napoleonic wars.

Additionally, pride of ownership often made new owners of manuscripts employ novel approaches to erasing the evidence of the previous owner, which makes the job of the researcher more difficult. For example, the Flemish manuscript leaf “Vasco de Lucena Giving his Work to Charles the Bold,” once featured the heraldic arms of the owner proudly painted on the lower margin. However, a later owner of the manuscript effaced the original patron’s coat of arms, painting over them with a decorative border, thus erasing his identity.

The Gothic Revival
The nineteenth century ushered in a widespread fascination with the Middle Ages. As a response to the cultural and social instability of the late 1700s and early 1800s, this bygone era came to be idealized for its perceived unity, piety, romance, and chivalry. The inspired and intricate craftsmanship of the medieval artist was celebrated as more authentic than the mass production of the modern age. This interest in the Middle Ages, sometimes called the Gothic Revival, led to the appreciation of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts as well as the creation of new ones—whether honest reproductions or forgeries that masqueraded as older works.

“The demand for illuminated manuscripts during the Gothic Revival led to a number of skilled and not-so-skilled forgeries,” notes Nancy Turner. “An example is an elaborately adorned manuscript leaf depicting the Roman emperor Augustus, which has been loaned to us by a generous collector. The forgery was accomplished by scraping the page clean of its decoration, then using original manuscripts as inspiration to repaint it. While the forger was an adept artist, he appears to have gotten the most basic technique wrong by applying gold leaf last, not first as medieval painters did.”

A particularly destructive practice took place in the 1800s alongside the renewed interest in medieval manuscripts, when illuminations were cut away from text in order to mount the cuttings into albums or in frames for a better viewing experience. These cuttings appeared in public museums and private homes and, while celebrating the art of illumination, further damaged or destroyed original pieces.

One of the more recent and startling manuscript transformations is a lampshade on loan from Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. A medieval choir book, probably Spanish in origin, supplied the raw materials for the lampshade. Media mogul and art collector William Randolph Hearst commissioned architect Julia Morgan to create it, and was closely involved in its design. This provides a dramatic example of how manuscripts came to be valued as aesthetic rather than historical artifacts.

Repurposing Manuscripts
As their utility and efficacy changed, medieval manuscripts were sometimes refashioned to serve a different purpose. For books whose liturgical or devotional use might have become outmoded, picture cycles were presented in a new format to fulfill a more current function. With the invention of printing, centuries-old manuscripts were replaced by mechanically produced books. Since the earlier volumes were no longer needed, they came to be valued not for their text or images but for the strength of their parchment pages.

In 1540, one English commentator complained that cuttings from manuscripts were being used as rags to clean shoes and candlesticks, as grease-proof wallpaper, as jam jar covers, as gun wadding, and for sale to grocers, soap sellers, and book binders. An example of this kind of repurposing is a Bible that was written and illuminated in the abbey of Saint Martin at Tours in the 800s. Once valued for its beauty and didactic qualities, the book was dismantled in the fifteenth century and used to reinforce the bindings of early printed books. Pages were cut into thin strips that served as sewing guards, preventing widening of the sewing holes in the soft, handmade paper.

“One of the reasons manuscripts have survived over the centuries is their portability—they’ve been rescued from burning buildings and carried off by monks who were evicted from their monasteries,” says Collins. “Having entered the possession of the museum, the manuscripts will lead slightly less eventful lives, as they are exhibited for the public, studied by scholars, and kept safe for years to come.”

Untold Stories: Collecting and Transforming Medieval Manuscripts will be on view February 26–May 12, 2013 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by outside scholar and former Getty graduate intern Abby Kornfeld; Kristen Collins, associate curator of manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum; and Nancy Turner, manuscripts conservator at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Today's News

February 26, 2013

Mexican archaeologists reveal studies made on sacrificial stone found at Templo Mayor

New exhibition at Museo Picasso Málaga looks at Pablo Picasso's earliest years as an artist

Exhibition explores the fascinating history and global adventures of manuscripts through the ages

Innovative exhibition encourages visitors to explore their preferences in the Decorative Arts

Roy Lichtenstein's widow, Dorothy, recalls artist's macro diet, Miles Davis worship

Desperate art galleries gasp, give up as Chelsea rents double, big players keep getting bigger

Hermann Historica oHG offers a wide range of objects from all fields of collectibles in military history

Sotheby's announces ground-breaking arts week in Saudi Arabia: Jeddah Art Week

Curator David J. de la Torre named new Director of The Mexican Museum in San Francisco

Whyte's announces outstanding collection of works by Irish & British artists in sale to be held March 2-4

Sea Bird by Lucian Freud set to take flight at Bonhams Modern British and Irish Art Sale in London

Exceptional Chinese ceramics and works of art to be offered at Christie's New York in March

Philadelphia Museum of Art appoints Matthew Affron as Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art

Mike Eruzione's 1980 'Miracle on Ice' game worn jersey and goal scoring stick bring $920,000+

ADAA Art Show announces highlights as show's 25th edition approaches

The Dayton Art Institute commemorates 1913 flood anniversary with trio of special exhibitions

Allentown Art Museum Director completes oversight of expansion project

Phillips announces highlights from its April New York photographs single owner sale

Christie's announces the sale of The Hildegard Schonfeld Collection of Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles

Nobel prize for discovering DNA up for auction

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Boy and an amateur archaeologist unearth legendary Danish king's trove in Germany

2.- Exhibition at The Met illustrates what visitors encountered at The palace of Versailles

3.- Philadelphia Museum of Art opens "Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950"

4.- Exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery presents a cross-section of works from Thomas Mailaender's career

5.- New York's Chelsea Hotel celebrity door auction raises $400,000

6.- Stevie Ray Vaughan's first guitar drives Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Auction to nearly $2.9 million

7.- Lichtenstein's Nude with Blue Hair tops $2.4 million sale of Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples

8.- $6.7 million Fancy Intense Blue Diamond sets auction record at Sotheby's New York

9.- Mexico court blocks sales of controversial Frida Kahlo Barbie doll

10.- Dutch museums to conduct new research on the paintings of Pieter de Hooch

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful