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Nabil Saidi

[ Jamāl al-Dīn ibn ‛Abdallah al-Mawṣulī Yāqūt al-Musta‛ṣimī ]

(d Baghdad, 1298).

Ottoman calligrapher. Yaqut served as secretary to the last Abbasid caliph, al-Musta‛sim (reg 1242–58), and reportedly survived the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 by seeking refuge in a minaret. He perfected the ‘proportioned script’ developed by Ibn Muqla and refined by Ibn al-Bawwab , in which letters were measured in terms of dots, circles and semicircles ( see Islamic art, §III, 2(iii) ). By replacing the straight-cut nib of the reed pen with an obliquely cut one, Yaqut created a more elegant hand. A master of the classical scripts known as the Six Pens (thuluth, naskh, muḥaqqaq, rayḥān, tawqī‛ and riqā‛), he earned the epithets ‘sultan’, ‘cynosure’ and ‘qibla’ of calligraphers. He is said to have copied two manuscripts of the Koran each month, but surviving examples are rare (e.g. 1294; Istanbul, Topkapı Pal. Lib., E.H. 74). Despite their small size, a typical folio has 16 lines of delicate ...



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....


French, 13th century, male.


A number of miniatures are attributed to this artist, particularly those in a book he wrote in Amiens in 1286.


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 show that the story was in circulation at least a generation before the earliest surviving written text was composed. The one surviving manuscript of Béroul’s Tristan is unillustrated, while the fragments of Thomas’s version include a single historiated initial showing Tristan playing the harp (Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Fr. d. 16, fol. 10). Although Eilhart von Oberge’s Tristrant, composed in the late 12th century, is the earliest version of the Tristan story to survive complete, the only surviving illustrated copy dates from the 15th century (c. 1465–75; Heidelberg, UBib., Cpg 346), while the Munich manuscript of Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan was made in south Germany ...


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 Aviarium (Book of Birds). It is a luxury manuscript with lavish use of gold leaf, sometimes tooled, in the backgrounds of the full-page miniatures and numerous smaller framed animal ‘portraits’. Its images are especially notable for their ornamental qualities, evident in both the pictorial compositions and a wide variety of geometric framing devices. The prefatory cycle includes a full-page miniature of Adam Naming the Animals. The Ashmole Bestiary is considered a ‘sister’ manuscript to the Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen, U. Lib., MS. 24), to which it is iconographically very closely related, but owing to major stylistic differences the two manuscripts have been attributed to different artists. The chronological relationship between the two has been disputed: based on proposed workshop methods, Muratova (...


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.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....


Claire Donovan

(fl c. 1230–60).

English illuminator. A William de Brailes (variously spelt) is cited in six documents (c. 1230–60) relating to Oxford. These establish that he lived with his wife Celena in Catte Street among other professionals engaged in book production. None of these documents, however, mentions his trade. It seems most probable that the documented William de Brailes may be identified with the illuminator W. de Brailes, whose name appears in two manuscripts associated with Oxford. The name occurs twice in a Book of Hours (c. 1240; London, BL, Add. MS. 49999; see), beside historiated initials that open the final prayers. Both initials contain the bust of a tonsured figure, one of which (fol. 43r) is identified by a caption in French that clearly identifies his profession: w. de brail’ qui me depeint. In the Last Judgement miniature of the six leaves from a Psalter in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (...


British, 13th century, male.

Painter, miniaturist, illuminator. Murals, designs for stained glass.

In 1260 this artist was working in the scribes' and illuminators' district of Oxford. He illustrated various manuscripts and psalters between 1230 and 1250, among them The Last Judgement and a Sarum Book of Hours...


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 ad 330 and 1453, studies of Byzantine art often encompassed Post-Byzantine art and that of culturally allied states such as Armenian Cilicia, Macedonia, and portions of Italy. As such fields as Palaiologan family manuscripts and wall paintings, Armenian manuscripts, and Crusader manuscripts and icons emerged, scholars identified new intersections between Western medieval and Byzantine art. Subtle comparisons emerged with the recognition that Byzantine art was not static but changed over time in style and meaning, although most analyses identified Byzantine art as an accessible reservoir of the naturalistic, classicizing styles of antiquity. Scholars considering the 7th-century frescoes at S Maria Antiqua and mosaics at S Maria in Cosmedin, both in Rome, and the 8th-century frescoes at Castelseprio and Carolingian manuscripts such as the Coronation Gospels of Charlemagne (Vienna, Schatzkam. SCHK XIII) used formal comparisons with works such as pre-iconoclastic icons at St Catherine’s Monastery on Sinai, along with the history of Byzantine iconoclasm, to argue for the presence of Greek painters in the West. Similarly, Ottonian and Romanesque painting and luxury arts, such as ivories, provided examples of the appropriation of Byzantine imperial imagery. Yet the study of works such as the great 12th-century ...



James D’Emilio

Legal document typically written in documentary script on a single parchment sheet and authenticated by subscriptions, notarial signs or seals. In archives, originals were sometimes stitched into booklets or rolls. Notarial charters were registered, while deeds of ecclesiastical and civil institutions were copied in cartularies organized by place, date or issuer. Charters include contracts, property transactions, marriage agreements, dispute settlements, official privileges and decrees.

Besides their value as historical documents, collections of early medieval charters, such as those at St Gall, Lucca or Catalonia, furnish insights into law, literacy and linguistic change. In the mid- to late Middle Ages, the texts, scripts and physical features of papal bulls, charters from monastic or episcopal scriptoria, and the burgeoning output of royal chanceries and civil notaries chart pathways of education and cultural exchange geographically and through social strata. In relation to medieval art, charters have fourfold importance. As historical sources, some document artists, patrons or artworks. Signed and dated originals of known provenance help to date manuscripts and reveal practices of scribes and scriptoria responsible for book production and illumination. In contrast with the dearth of medieval artists’ signatures, signed charters represent a sizeable corpus of securely attributed work with ample contextual information that facilitates study of individual style and artistic careers. Lastly, some are of artistic interest for their execution in a book hand or embellishment with decoration comparable to that in manuscripts: decorated lettering; calligraphic flourishes; the chrismon, cross and other religious symbols; validation signs, monograms and seals; and, rarely, illuminations....


German, 13th century, male.

Copyist, illuminator.

The Munich library has several manuscripts produced by this copyist, and a variety of authors cite, altogether, more than 30 books that he wrote and decorated.

Munich (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek)


Patrick M. de Winter

(fl 1278–82).

Italian illuminator. The treasury documents of Charles I, King of Naples and Sicily (reg 1266–85), record that when the German illuminator Minardus was not available, the King had directed that the monk Giovanni da Monte Cassino should be his substitute. Giovanni thus illuminated a translation into Latin of Rhazes’s medical encyclopedia al- Ḥāwī (Paris, Bib. N., MS. lat. 6912). In August 1282 Johannes de Nigellis, royal physician and librarian, paid him two and a half ounces of gold for two and a half months of work (‘faciendis ymaginibus’) on this mammoth treatise and perhaps also on another text. Giovanni, not recorded at the abbey of Monte Cassino itself, worked from the palace of the archbishop of Naples. His small compositions set within initials are explicative, with gesticulating figures on gold grounds, framed by stiff acanthus ornaments or tendrils. His work suggests roots in the scriptoria of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem but recast to reflect the French-influenced illumination favoured at the Angevin court. Most remarkable are the three miniatures on folio 1 depicting the Prince of Tunis giving the Arabic text to Angevin envoys, the presentation to Charles I, and the King commissioning the translation from Farag Moyse of the School of Salerno. Attributed to Giovanni is the illustration, with simplified compositions, of another copy of the same treatise entitled in Latin ...


Alessandro Conti

(fl 1265–c. 1300).

Italian illuminator. He is recorded in many documents relating to the copying of books, and he signed the decoration of a copy of Gratian’s Decretals (Rome, Vatican, Bib. Apostolica, MS. Vat. lat. 1375) to which several illuminators contributed. If this signature is accepted as belonging not to a stationer who had the manuscript illustrated, but to the principal illuminator who organized the work and was himself responsible for the most important decoration, then Jacopino can be identified as the most important Bolognese master working in the Byzantine style at the end of the 13th century, and the illuminator of the Bible of Clement VII (Paris, Bib. N., MS. lat. 18). Compared with the equally Byzantine-influenced but more lively narrative style of the Girona Master who illuminated the Bible of Charles V (Girona, Bib. Capitolare), Jacopino evolved an extremely courtly style in which Byzantine elements are combined with decorative features derived from Limoges enamels and others that suggest knowledge of the Isaac Master at Assisi. His illustrations tend to be included as small pictures, rather than being in a freer relationship with the rubrics and script. The stylistic tendencies of his collaborators suggest that the Paris Bible, another in London (BL, Add. MS. 18720), the Book of Psalms in Bible D.II.3 (Turin, Bib. N. U.) and probably Aristotle’s ...


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 Keter is an outstanding exemplar out of approximately 120 decorated Bibles from Iberia and belongs to a group of three very similar codices from the middle of the 13th century, produced in Toledo. It thus represents a rich tradition of Jewish art flourishing between the 13th and the 15th centuries. These Bibles were used either by scholars for private study, or for biblical readings during synagogue services.

Typical of numerous Bibles from the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula, the decoration consists of numerous carpet pages executed in Micrography and enriched by painted embellishments. This is a technique typically used in Hebrew decorated books and harks back to Middle Eastern manuscripts of the 10th century. Apart from the carpet pages, the Damascus ...


Catherine Harding

(b Lomello, Dec 24, 1296; d Avignon, c. 1354).

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 1329, when he fled Pavia for political reasons and entered the papal court in Avignon. One year later, he was employed as a scribe in the office of the papal penitentiary.

He produced two illuminated works, both of which are untitled (Rome, Vatican, Bib. Apostolica, Pal. lat. 1993 and Vat. lat. 6435). The former, known simply as the Palatinus manuscript, encompasses 52 large individual parchment sheets drawn in pen and ink with images on both sides; they feature schematic compositions that combine portolan charts, zodiacs, calendars and human figures, to form complex composite images. The second work, the Vaticanus manuscript, is done in pen and ink on paper and is more of an author’s daybook, collecting thoughts, meditations and images on a variety of topics. His work was not known until the publication of the Palatinus manuscript by R. G. Salomon in ...


Helmut Brinker

[Lanqi Daolong]

(b Sichuan Province, 1213; d Kamakura, 1278).

Chinese Zen master and calligrapher, active in Japan. He was the first recognized Chinese Chan (Jap. Zen) teacher to reach Japan. He became a major figure in the transmission of the doctrines and spirit of Rinzai (Chin. Linji) Zen and the introduction of Chinese Song-period (ad 960–1279) monastic practice. He entered a Buddhist monastery in the Chinese provincial capital of Chengdu at the age of 13 and later moved to the Hangzhou area, where several of the most distinguished prelates resided at Chan centres. Travelling from one monastery to another, he seems to have met the most renowned religious masters, among them the venerated abbot of Mt Jing, Wuzhun Shifan (1177–1249). He was accepted as a direct disciple by Wuming Huixing (1160–1237). After learning about the condition of Zen in Japan from the pilgrim monk Getsuō Chikyō, Rankei and two of his friends went to Japan to propagate their religious ideals. After a short stay in Hakata, Kyushu, Rankei went on to Kyoto to visit Getsuō Chikyō, who probably advised him to go to Kamakura, where Zen was more readily tolerated by traditional Buddhist sects. In Kamakura, Rankei was invited to Jufukuji by the Zen monk Daiketsu Ryōshin, who was acquainted with the Regent, Hōjō Tokiyori (...


Flemish School, 13th century, male.



This illuminator was the abbot of Marchiennes.


Danielle B. Joyner

From the time John Cassian established the first female foundation in Marseille in ad 410, monastic women lived in varying states of enclosure and were surrounded by diverse images and objects that contributed to their devotion, education and livelihood. The first rule for women, written in 512 by St Caesarius of Arles, emphasized their strict separation from men and the world, as did the Periculoso, a directive issued by Pope Boniface VIII (reg 1294–1303) in 1298. Various architectural solutions developed throughout the Middle Ages to reconcile the necessities of enclosure with the access required by male clerics to celebrate Mass and provide pastoral care. Nuns’ choirs, where the women would gather for their daily prayers, were often constructed as discreet spaces in the church, which allowed women to hear or see the Mass without interacting with the cleric, as in the 10th-century choir in the eastern transept gallery at St Cyriakus in Gernrode, Germany. In some Cistercian examples, the nuns’ choir appeared at the west end of the nave. Dominican and Franciscan architecture was largely varied. Double monasteries, which housed men and women, also required careful construction. A 7th-century text describing the church of St Brigida in ...


Cristina De Benedictis

(fl 1288–1324).

Italian painter and illuminator. He was the son of the goldsmith Filippuccio (fl 1273–93). In 1948 Longhi attributed a fresco of the Virgin and Child Enthroned with SS James and John the Evangelist in the church of S Jacopo, San Gimignano, and others in the tower of the Palazzo del Popolo there to Memmo, who is documented as having lived and worked in the town from 1303 to 1317. A document of 1303 also records him as having worked in the upper church of S Francesco, Assisi, and Longhi suggested this might have been on the frescoes of the St Francis cycle, which would account for the Giottesque influence he had noted in the frescoes in San Gimignano. Previtali (1962) further attributed to Memmo the frescoes of Carlo d’Angio Administering Justice (1292; San Gimignano, Pal. Pop., Sala dell’Udienza), an altarpiece of the Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints...


Italian, 13th century, male.

Active in Bologna in 1297.