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date: 21 August 2019

Author portraitlocked

  • Don Denny


The representation of an author in a volume of his or her writings, usually at the front of the book. Such portraits were made throughout the history of European manuscript illumination, from antiquity to the early Renaissance, and the custom continued, with decreasing artistic significance, into the era of printed books. Compositions similar to those of author portraits were also used to represent translators, especially St Jerome, and scribes. Except for certain works from later periods, manuscript illuminators were seldom aware of the actual appearance of the authors and the term ‘portrait’ is merely a convention.

There is evidence that author portraits were included in ancient literary rolls, although no examples have survived. The first extant portraits are in Late Antique codices, as in the 6th-century ad Byzantine copy of the writings of the physician Dioskurides (Vienna, Österreich. Nbib., MS. med. gr. 1), in which the author is shown in two paintings (see Weitzmann, ...

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Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie (Rome, 1968–)
Lexikon des Mittelalters (Munich, 1980–)
O. Schmitt and others, eds: Reallexikon zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte (Stuttgart, Metzler and Munich, 1937–)