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Jane Geddes

Deluxe manuscript (Aberdeen, U. Lib., MS. 24) made in England around 1200. It is remarkable for its lavish illustrations, amply covered in gold leaf; for the wealth of its codicological data and for its close relationship to the Ashmole Bestiary. The book was left unfinished, so sketches and the detailed instructions for its colouring and assembly remain visible. The last few pages were completed in the 14th century. The book begins with a Creation cycle of full-page miniatures culminating in ...

Article

Alchemy  

Laurinda Dixon

Ancient science from which modern chemistry evolved. Based on the concept of transmutation—the changing of substances at the elemental level—it was both a mechanical art and an exalted philosophy. Practitioners attempted to combine substances containing the four elements (fire, water, earth, and air) in perfect balance, ultimately perfecting them into a fifth, the quintessence (also known as the philosopher’s stone) via the chemical process of distillation. The ultimate result was a substance, the ‘philosopher’s stone’, or ‘elixir of life’, believed capable of perfecting, or healing, all material things. Chemists imitated the Christian life cycle in their operations, allegorically marrying their ingredients, multiplying them, and destroying them so that they could then be cleansed and ‘resurrected’. They viewed their work as a means of attaining salvation and as a solemn Christian duty. As such, spiritual alchemy was sanctioned, legitimized, and patronized by the Church. Its mundane laboratory procedures were also supported by secular rulers for material gain. Metallurgists employed chemical apparatus in their attempts to transmute base metals into gold, whereas physicians and apothecaries sought ultimately to distill a cure-all elixir of life. The manifold possibilities inherent in such an outcome caused Papal and secular authorities to limit and control the practice of alchemy by requiring licences and punishing those who worked without authorization....

Article

Spanish ruler and patron. He was a man of wide learning, a legislator and a poet. Although moderately successful in the Reconquest, following the tradition of his father Ferdinand III, King of Castile and León (reg 1217–52), he provoked opposition by raising taxes and seeking election as Holy Roman Emperor (...

Article

Joan Isobel Friedman

Italian writer. He is universally recognized as the greatest poet of the Middle Ages. His masterpiece, the Divine Comedy (begun 1307 or 1314), contains many passages in which Dante expressed his appreciation of painting and sculpture, and the themes in the poem have challenged artists from the 14th century to the present day....

Article

Artistic manifestations of Arthurian legends antedate surviving textual traditions and sometimes bear witness to stories that have not survived in written form. Thus the Tristan sculptures (c. 1102–17) carved on a column from the north transept of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela...

Article

Debra Higgs Strickland

Richly illustrated bestiary manuscript (275×185mm, 105 fols; Oxford, Bodleian Lib., Ashmole 1511), written in Latin and illuminated probably in southern England around 1210. The original patron is unknown. It contains the text and illustrations of a complete bestiary, with prefatory Creation scenes and excerpts from Genesis and part of Hugh de Folieto’s ...

Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time....

Article

French official and writer. He belonged to a family of mayors and magistrates from Orléans. His marriage to Marguerite de la Guesle is recorded in 1225, but the date of his appointment as Provost of Paris is uncertain. In the Histoire de Saint Louis (...

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In the 20th century, discussion of the relationship between Byzantine art and the art of the Latin West evolved in tandem with scholarship on Byzantine art itself. Identified as the religious imagery and visual and material culture of the Greek Orthodox Empire based at Constantinople between ...

Article

Janet Southorn

Italian writer. He studied logic, medicine, natural science, and law at the University of Bologna. After retiring from public life Crescenzio wrote the Liber ruralium commodorum (c. 1304–9), better known as the Trattato della agricoltura, the first agricultural treatise composed in Europe since the 5th century ...

Article

Katrin Kogman-Appel

Hebrew Bible (Jerusalem, National.. Library of Israel., MS. Heb 4°790, and a single page in Toledo, El Transito Synagogue and Sephardic Museum), copied c. 1260, perhaps in Toledo by Menachem ben Abraham ibn Malikh for Isaac bar Abraham Hadad, both members of known and documented Toledan families. At some later stage further decorations were added, apparently in Burgos. The Damascus ...

Article

Catherine Harding

Italian parish priest, manuscript illuminator and scholar. His drawings explored the connections between vision, reason and spirituality. In particular, he was drawn to the idea of training the ‘inner eye’ of reason, and he hoped that his images would provide tools for spiritual discernment. He worked as a schoolmaster and priest until ...

Article

Term used to refer collectively to a group of Chinese scholars and poets active in Wuxing in the 1280s. The group seems to have disbanded in 1286 when their leading figure, Zhao Mengfu (see Zhao family, §1), accepted the invitation to go to court. ...

Article

Stephen T. Driscoll

Scottish royal centre in Perthshire, which reached its zenith in the late Pictish period (8th–9th centuries ad) and is the source of an assemblage of high quality ecclesiastical sculpture. Occupying the fertile heart of Strathearn, Forteviot has been more or less in continuous use as a ceremonial centre since the 3rd millennium ...

Article

Fushimi  

Cecil H. Uyehara

Ninety-second emperor of Japan, calligrapher and poet. The second son of Emperor GoFukakusa (reg 1246–60), he abdicated in favour of his son GoFushimi (reg 1298–1301) in 1298 and later retired to a monastery. He was one of the most talented calligraphers among Japanese emperors and indeed one of the outstanding calligraphers of the Kamakura period (...

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GoToba  

Nicole Fabricand-Person

Emperor of Japan during the Kamakura period (1185–1333), patron, scholar and poet. The dual-polity government that prevailed in Japan just before GoToba’s reign in the late 12th century rested uneasily on a complex political relationship between the shogunate (bakufu) under the Hōjō family in the eastern capital of Kamakura and the emperor in the capital at Heian (now Kyoto). At the age of 18 GoToba ceded the throne to his son, and during his ascendancy as the ‘abdicated’ or ‘cloistered’ emperor (...

Article

Yi Sŏng-mi

Korean literati painter, calligrapher and writer . He wrote the P’ahanjip (Chin. Poxian ji: ‘Breaking the doldrums’), a collection of poems and miscellaneous stories in the sihwa (Chin. shihua) literary genre. Active in the Koryŏ period (918–1392), he was born into a well-to-do family; he became a monk but soon abandoned the religious life, passing the civil service examination in ...

Article

Chu-Tsing Li

Chinese painter, calligrapher, essayist and poet. When the Mongols became rulers of China as the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368), Gong Kai became known chiefly as one of the loyalists of the preceding Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). Like many intellectuals of the Song period, he received a standard classical education. However, having apparently failed to distinguish himself in the official civil service examinations, he had to serve on the staff of commanders guarding the area of Lianghuai (now Jiangsu Province, north of the River Yangzi) against the constant threat from the north by the Ruzhen (Jürchen) and the Mongols. After the Yuan dynasty became established, Gong lived a secluded life with his family, mainly in the cultural centre of Suzhou and in Hangzhou, the old Southern Song dynastic capital, although he remained active in literary circles. His final years seem to have been spent in poverty. It was said that, lacking furniture in his house, he wrote or drew by resting the paper on his son’s back. Nevertheless, his artistic and literary accomplishments earned him the respect of many of his friends....

Article

Chu-Tsing Li

Chinese painter, poet and government official. Of Muslim Uygur descent, he was the eldest of five sons from a family that combined Muslim and Han cultures and enjoyed favourable social status when the Mongols ruled China as the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). From an early age he was taught by his father, a highly respected Confucian scholar who instructed Gao in the Chinese classics, preparing him well for government service. Gao began his service in the Yuan government at the age of 27, eventually achieving the high rank of governor and a minister of justice. In addition to serving at the court in Dadu (Khanbalik, now Beijing), he held various positions in many parts of China, including Shandong, Henan, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces....

Article

Alison Stones

Legends and myths in medieval art are often symbolic rather than narrative, appearing as isolated representations on monuments and portable objects and following the tradition of Greek vase painting where individual subjects are depicted and rely on prior knowledge of the stories for recognition and understanding. World histories celebrated great heroes of the past, starting with Creation and biblical history, then the ancient and medieval world with the exploits of the Trojan heroes, Alexander the Great, King Arthur and the campaigns of Charlemagne and his nephew Roland. Northern gods such as Thor were depicted in cult statues (...