PARIS – Reflecting Roman influences and distinguished by unprecedented forms of power, the start of the Middle Ages is marked by the development of original forms of expression which have often been overlooked. The exhibition The Merovingian Age, which will be shown at the Cluny Museum in Paris, France, from October 26th 2016 to February 13th 2017 offers a lavish panorama of the artistic and intellectual productivity of this period of three centuries, beginning with the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451 and culminating with the deposition of the last of the «Kings who did nothing» in 751.
More than 150 objects, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, works of gold and silversmiths, coins, textiles and even charters have been brought together thanks to a partnership with the National Library of France. Many masterpieces from the Cabinet des Médailles are on show, including the remains of the treasure of King Childeric, the treasure of Gourdon and the famous throne of Dagobert. The Frankish kingdom was one of a multitude of new kingdoms loyal to an enduring imperial ideal inspired by Rome but influenced by Germanic and Anglo-Saxon practices.
The spread of Christianity led to the development of new beliefs : the cult of relics, at the same time as some pagan traditions were incorporated into the liturgical rituals which emerged during this period. This profound originality reveals itself in the artistic production of the Merovingians, and in the wealth of materials and colors that are astonishing even today. The diversity of written forms demonstrates the intellectual expansion which enlivens monastic and episcopal centers, the creative sources where an erudite culture developed. Works of art such as the chasuble of Queen Bathilde, coins, or the charters of Frankish kings attest to the complexity of expressions of power, combining a classical heritage with innovative forms. Manuscripts of the VIIth and VIIIth centuries coming notably from the department of Manuscripts of the National Library of France, the libraries of Laon and Autun, the National Library of Russia, the Vatican Library, and the National Archives of France, are placed in a new dialogue with the collections of the Cluny Museum and the loans from the National Museum of Archaeology at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the British Museum; the Museum of the art and history of the Jura at Delemont, and the Museum Alfred-Bonno at Chelles.
Musée de Cluny – National Museum of the Middle Ages
6, place Paul Painlevé 75005 Paris
T. + 33 (0)1 53 73 78 16 musee-moyenage.fr
Days and hours of opening
Every day except Tuesday, from 9:15 am to 5:45 pm. Desk closes at 5:15 pm. Closed 1st January, 1st May and 25th December
Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated #Manuscripts on display at Fitzwilliam’s in #Cambridge @FitzMuseum_UK
CAMBRIDGE (UK) – A new exhibition in Cambridge, UK celebrates the Fitzwilliam Museum’s 2016 bicentenary with a stunning display of 150 manuscripts from its rich collections – many on display for the first time. “Colour. The Art and Science of Illuminated manuscripts” shows a collection which ranges from the prayer books of European royalty and merchants to local treasures like the Macclesfield Psalter, from an alchemical scroll and a duchess’ wedding gift to the ABC of a five-year old princess.
The Fitzwilliam preserves the finest and largest museum collection of illuminated manuscripts in existence, and manuscripts were at the heart of the Founder’s collection with which the Museum was established in 1816. Among the treasures which Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion (1745-1816), bequeathed to the University of Cambridge were 130 illuminated manuscripts.
In his 1895 catalogue of the Founder’s collection, the Fitzwilliam Director Montague Rhodes James appealed to potential benefactors to think of the Museum as a place where their ‘manuscripts would be choicely valued, religiously preserved, and minutely investigated.’ Among the bequests and donations which flowed into the Museum over the next two decades was one of the largest and finest private collections of medieval manuscripts. In 1904, the astronomer and inventor Frank McClean bequeathed over 200 volumes and some 130 illuminated fragments. The 1912 bequest of Charles Brinsley Marlay’s eclectic collection included one of the largest groups of illuminated fragments ever amassed – well over 250. These bequests quadrupled and diversified the Museum’s holdings.
The collection grew further under James’ successor, Sydney Cockerell, the longest serving and most acquisitive Fitzwilliam Director (1908-1937) to date. His vision, scholarship and passion for manuscripts have inspired more recent acquisitions, notably the Macclesfield Psalter, purchased in 2005 with overwhelming public support.
The exhibit also showcases advanced research undertaken by the Fitzwilliam’s curators, scientists and conservators involved in the Cambridge Illuminationsand MINIARE projects. It celebrates modern-day discoveries inspired by collections assembled over 200 years. These discoveries can be seen on display at the Museum until December 30th or can be explored online at this link.
VISIONS OF A JUDGEMENT – As reported on the World Digital Library, around the year 776, a monk by the name of Beato or Beatus, possibly the abbot of the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, wrote a work entitled Comentarios al Apocalipsis (Commentary on the apocalypse), which had an extraordinary success in the following five centuries. Thanks to his great erudition, Beato combined in this text, as a summa, many commentaries on the topic of the apocalypse by such authors as Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Isidore of Seville, and the 4th-century scholar Ticonius. The genre of apocalyptic literature appeared in the Jewish tradition in the second century BC and had never ceased to be practiced. Obsessed like his contemporaries with the imminent coming of the end of the world, which, according to the calculations of the six ages was to take place in the year 800 (838 in the Spanish era), Beato wrote this work for the edification of his monks. He emphasized that, after the final terrifying catastrophes announced by Saint John the Evangelist, good would triumph over evil.
The original codex, which most likely was illuminated, has not been preserved. Even though the dreaded date passed without the world coming to an end, copies of Beato’s work continued to be made in the monasteries of the peninsular north (only one extant manuscript was written abroad). Then came the terrifying year 1000 and other feared dates, so the text, linked to a fixed cycle of illustrations, continued to appeal to readers. Thirty-five manuscript copies dating from the ninth century to the 13th century have survived. By semantic extension, these manuscripts are called beato, and 26 of them are illuminated. Two are preserved at the BNE, the National Library of Spain.
EXPO & WEBSITE – The BNE exposition will mainly feature the most iconic manuscript of the corpus, the Codex Vitr/14/2, commissioned in 1047 by King Fernando I of León and Castille and Queen Sancha, and possibly done byFacundo in San Isidoro de León. Its 98 miniatures, endowed with amazing expressiveness, are distributed mostly on colorful horizontal stripes in a unique and unmistakable style that blends the Romanesque with various Mozarab and North African influences. Prominent among them are the Four Horsemen, the vision of celestial Jerusalem, the seven-headed snake, and the destruction of Babylon. The manuscript, owned by the Marquis of Mondéjar in the late 17th century, was confiscated with the rest of his library by Philip V during the War of the Spanish Succession.
The BNE has also announced the creation of a website entirely dedicated to the corpus of manuscripts. The series of the Beatus codexes have been included in the Unesco Memory of the World Register in 2015.
CAMBRIDGE (UK) – (via Cambridge University Library) The wills of William Loring and William Hunden, both dated March 1416, bequeathed books to the library of the University of Cambridge. Their gifts are the earliest surviving references to a library specifically associated with the University. Six hundred years on it has grown from a small collection of manuscripts kept in chests into one of the world’s greatest university libraries. Today, the Library holds over eight million items, ranging from ancient clay tablets, illuminated medieval manuscripts and early printed books to electronic journals, e-books and digital archives. The physical library now fills more than 128 miles of shelving and unseen terabytes of digital content support a global community of scholarship. This long fascinating history is the main feature of “Discoveries that changed the world. Lines of thought“, the oustanding exhibition open at the Cambridge University Library until Sept. 30th, 2016.
Across six themes, this exhibition highlights key moments in the evolution of human thought. They show how the collections in Cambridge represent and underpin some of the most significant developments in human history. Selected items from the exhibition have been digitised in full and added to the Lines of Thought collection in Cambridge Digital Library. Highlighted items from the exhibition are also available in an iPad app, Words that Changed the World, accompanied by discussions by Cambridge University experts; it can be downloaded free from the App Store. An introductory film gives an overview of the themes of the exhibition.
Weekly half-hour drop-in sessions, hosted by members of Library staff, introduce the exhibition every Friday morning at 10.30. More in-depth tours of the physical exhibition presented by specialist curators can be booked here.