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....
Béla Zsolt Szakács
Luxuriously illustrated hagiographical picture book from the 14th century. The codex is fragmented; the biggest part is preserved in the Vatican (Rome, Vatican, Bib. Apostolica, Vat. Lat. 8541, 106 fols),while single pages are kept in St Petersburg (Hermitage, 16930–16934), Berkeley (U. CA, Bancroft Lib., f2MSA2M21300–37), New York (Met., 1994.516) and Paris (Louvre, RF 29940), and 85 miniatures are in the Morgan Library, New York (M.360.1–26).
Presently 549 miniatures of the original of more than 700 are known on 142 folios. The manuscript consists of pictures exclusively, without the full texts of the legends; one-line tituli are written in rubrics beside the images. The 58 existing cycles depict the life of Christ, the Death of the Virgin, and the legends of John the Baptist, the apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins and holy women in hierarchical order. The narrative follows the Legenda aurea or Golden Legend of Jacopo da Voragine and, in the cases of Eastern and Central European saints (Gerhard of Csanád, Ladislas, Emeric, Stanislas), other local legends, creating an extraordinarily rich iconographic treasury. The longest cycle is dedicated to James the Greater, originally with 72 scenes; other legends consist of between 2 and 24 scenes. The selection of saints points to a commission from the Hungarian Angevin court. Its style, typical of the second quarter of the 14th century, is closest to Bolognese manuscripts but with unique features, and as such Hungary has also been proposed as the place of execution....
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 ...
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....
Lucy Freeman Sandler
Group of twelve manuscripts, primarily Psalter and Book of Hours, nearly all illustrated by in-house artists for members of the Bohun family in the second half of the 14th century. The owner–patrons were the successive earls of Essex, Hereford and Northampton: Humphrey de Bohun VI (1309–61), the 6th Earl of Hereford and 5th Earl of Essex and his nephew Humphrey de Bohun VII (1342–73), the 7th earl of Essex and 2nd Earl of Northampton, Humphrey VII’s wife Joan Fitzalan (d 1419) and their daughters Eleanor (1366–99), who married Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester (see Plantagenet, House of family §(5)), son of King Edward III, and Mary (c. 1369–94), who married Henry of Bolingbroke (1366–1413; from 1399 King Henry IV), son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Known to have been active between c. 1360 and ...
Japanese Zen monk, scholar, calligrapher, poet and painter. He began his training as a monk at Nanzenji in Kyoto, under Shun’oku Myōha, the nephew and disciple of Musō Sōseki, one of the leading Zen prelates of the Muromachi period (1333–1568). His other teachers included the Zen recluse Shakushitsu Genkō and Gidō Shūshin, under whom he studied literature. A trusted adviser of the fourth Ashikaga shogun, Yoshimochi, Gyokuen was appointed to the prestigious abbacies of Kenninji (c. 1409) and Nanzenji (1413) in Kyoto. His true wish, however, was to retire from the world, and in 1420, after a disagreement with Yoshimochi, he left Kyoto to lead a life of seclusion. An accomplished poet, Gyokuen also brushed colophons on many shigajiku (poem-painting scrolls) of the period, including Josetsu’s Catching a Catfish with a Gourd (c. 1413–15; Kyoto, Myōshinji). His own painting, which shows the influence of the mid-14th-century Chinese priest–painter Xue Chuang and of Tesshū Tokusai, strongly reflects his literary disposition. He is especially well known for his subdued monochrome ink paintings of orchids (emblems of moral virtue), 30 of which have survived (...
Rebecca W. Corrie
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
Typological work conceived and produced by the German Cistercian Ulrich von Lilienfeld and completed between 1351 and 1358. It contains material for sermons organized de Tempore and de Sanctis and the Commune sanctorum followed by a shorter final section consisting of sermon material on the Ten Commandments and a pictorial cycle covering various religious topics (e.g. vices and virtues) that Munscheck has recently termed a Bilderkatechismus. According to the prologue, the work is intended to aid the simple and poor clergy suffering from a lack of resources: Boreczky argues that this probably meant the lay brothers and monks of Lilienfeld (see Lilienfeld Abbey). Influenced among others by the Biblia pauperum, the Speculum humanae salvationis, the Rota in medio rotae, Vincent de Beauvais’s Speculum naturale and the work of Christian von Lilienfeld, the Concordantiae caritatis is especially significant for its consistent inclusion of allegories from the natural world.
Six illustrated and at least 36 unillustrated manuscripts survive, including the original (Lilienfeld, Stiftsbib., Codex Campililiensis 151), which has more than 1220 illustrations spread over 245 folios. The pictures are colour-washed pen drawings by three artistic hands (for colour reproductions see Roland and Douteil). A typical illustrated page has a tripartite structure: the top section presents a New Testament (or Saint’s life) scene surrounded by four authority figures, the middle presents two Old Testament scenes and the lowest two scenes are from the natural world; all are read typologically. Brief text, including labels, is also contained in the illustrations....
(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 ...
Vyvyan Brunst and James Cahill
[zi Mengduan; hao Youshi]
(b Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, 1362; d Beijing, 1416).
Chinese painter, calligrapher and poet. Following early promise as a painter and poet, Wang Fu passed the provincial examinations—the second stage in the civil service examination ladder—to receive his juren degree in 1376. He went to Nanjing soon after to take up a government post, but in 1380 was banished to the northern frontier, near Datong, Shanxi Province, as the result of alleged political activity against the Ming (1368–1644) government. For the next 20 years Wang served as a frontier guard, after which he returned to the south to paint and write. From 1403 to 1412 he worked as a calligrapher in the imperial palace at Nanjing, and in 1414 he went to Beijing to join the Central Draughting Office; he died there two years later.
Accounts of Wang’s character and artistic skill have the ring of conventional formulae. It is said that he painted infrequently, while travelling and often when drunk. In spite of his reputation for eccentricity, his extant works reveal a diligent hand and serious application to his art. In his ...
Cecil H. Uyehara
(b 1265; reg 1287–98; d 1317).
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 (1185–1333). Instead of following the then popular calligraphy styles, he emulated those of the 10th-century masters, Ono no Michikaze and Fujiwara no Sari (see Fujiwara family, §1), two of the Sanseki (‘three brush traces’; Three Masters). He was regarded as a greater calligrapher than even the celebrated Fujiwara no Kōzei (see Fujiwara family, §2) of the later part of the Heian period (794–1185). Fushimi’s calligraphy eschewed strong, vigorous strokes and was instead clear, graceful and elegant. He developed a Wayō (native) style, which now bears his ...
Richly illuminated manuscript of the Passover liturgy together with a series of liturgical poems to be read during the Passover week (London, BL, Add. MS. 27210), possibly made in Barcelona, c. 1320. This text was to be recited during the seder ceremony at the eve of the Passover holiday. Like most medieval Haggadot (see Haggadah), the Golden Haggadah has no colophon, and its scribe and patrons are unknown. It contains both marginal decorations and a series of full-page miniatures preceding the text and displaying a fully fledged cycle of biblical illustrations following the books of Genesis and Exodus from the Creation of Man to the Crossing of the Red Sea. Stylistically both types of decoration are indebted to early 14th-century Catalan Gothic art.
Similarly, the imagery of the biblical picture cycle also draws on Christian Old Testament iconography and reflects a familiarity with Christian art. The artists and patrons of the Golden Haggadah adopted Christian pictorial sources in a complex process of adaptation and modification, translating the Christian models into a Jewish visual language meaningful in its messages to the Jewish readership. Avoiding themes and iconographic features of a particular Christological concern, the imagery also reflects a close affinity with the traditions of late antique Bible interpretation (Midrash). This points to a specific circle of scholars active in Iberia during the 13th and early 14th centuries as being responsible for the imagery of the cycle. The use of traditional midrashic Bible exegesis is typical for Sephardic Rabbis of anti-rationalist standing, who opposed earlier philosophical trends and followed, rather, scholarly trends common among the Tosafists of northern France. It has also been observed that some images adopt a more specific anti-Christian stance and address polemical issues....
Qingli Wan and Chu-Tsing Li
[Huang Kung-wang; zi Zijiu; hao Yifeng, Dachi, Jingxi Daoren]
(b Changshu, Jiangsu Province, 1269; d Changshu, 1354).
Chinese painter. He was designated one of the Four Masters of the Yuan, together with Ni Zan, Wu Zhen and Wang Meng. Born into a family named Lu, he was orphaned when very young. The impoverished Lu family had him adopted when he was seven or eight by a Mr Huang of Yongjia, Zhejiang Province, who was living in Changshu at the time. Since Huang was about 90 years old and without male offspring, the names Huang Gongwang and Zijiu were chosen, which together mean ‘Mr Huang has desired a son for a long time’.
Huang Gongwang received a good education, and some documents suggest that he was a child prodigy. In his youth, he served as a legal clerk in the Office of Surveillance in western Zhejiang Province and was put in charge of matters related to the collection of land taxes for helping poor peasants. In 1315, when he was working in Beijing at the Investigation Bureau of the Office of the Imperial Censor, Zhang Lu, he was imprisoned for alleged involvement in mishandling of land taxes in Zhejiang. A plan to collect taxes that Zhang proposed to the court in fact had been undermined by rich landowners and corrupt officials; later, when Zhang was cleared, Huang was released. As a result of this Huang decided to give up official life, changing his name to Yifeng (‘One Peak’)....
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 (c. 1000; Reykjavík, N. Mus.) or through such ornamental hammers as those from north Jutland in the Copenhagen Nationalmuseum, and Freya, head of the Valkyries, was painted riding a cat on the walls of Schleswig Cathedral.
The Fall of Troy is most celebrated in the early 13th-century copy of Heinrich von Veldecke’s ...
Illuminated Hebrew Machzor (Leipzig, Ubib., MS. Voller 1002/I–II)—prayer book for holy days—made c. 1310–20. Its two volumes contain the optional liturgical poems commonly recited according to the Ashkenazi rites. The text reflects the specific prayer rite of Worms and, even though this assumption cannot be confirmed by a colophon, it must have served this particular community up to the early 17th century when it was transferred to Poland.
Both volumes are richly illustrated in a style that recalls upper Rhenish schools of illumination and may have been decorated by artists trained in that region. At least two different hands, one of them most probably Christian, were involved in the layout of the book. The decorative programme includes elaborate initial panels and marginal images. The former display complex allegorical and symbolic compositions relating to the poems or the subject matter of the holy days. An example is the juxtaposition of various symbols related to the New Year showing a man with a Jewish hat blowing a ...
English illuminated Psalter (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam, MS. 1–2005) from East Anglia, dating to the 1330s. The manuscript was discovered in the library of the Earl of Macclesfield at Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire, and sold at Sotheby’s (22 June 2004, lot 587), and acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum. Containing the 150 Psalms, the Office of the Dead, a Calendar, Litany and prayers, it is one of the most richly illuminated English manuscripts in existence. The Calendar and the prominent image of St Edmund of Bury place it in East Anglia, while the style and iconography combine local traditions with metropolitan fashions and Continental trends of the 1320s and 1330s.
The Psalter exemplifies the ‘Italianate’ tendencies in 14th-century English painting: the anatomically accurate depiction of the human body, the expressive rendering of emotions, and the three-dimensional simulation of volume and texture. It hints at the underexplored collaboration between manuscript illuminators and panel painters. The Macclesfield Master, who was responsible for most of the illumination, produced three other manuscripts of the 1330s: a copy of John of Fribourg’s ...
The medieval term mappa mundi (also forma mundi, historia/istoire) covers a broad array of maps of the world of which roughly 1100 survive. These have resisted systematic classification, but the clearly dominant type is one that aims at comprehensively symbolistic representation. Its early, schematic form is a disc composed of three continents surrounded and separated from one another by water (“T-O Map”) and associated with the three sons of Noah: Asia (Shem) occupies all of the upper half, Europe (Japhet) to the left and Africa (Ham) to the right share the lower half. Quadripartite cartographic schemes included the antipodes as a fourth continent, but the tripartite model was adopted by the large majority of the more developed world maps in use from the 11th century on and—with important variations—well into the Renaissance. While details were added as available space permitted, the Mediterranean continued to serve as the vertical axis and, with diminishing clarity, the rivers Don and Nile as the horizontal one. The map also continues to be ‘oriented’ towards Asia, where paradise sits at the very top. A circular ocean forms the perimeter and not infrequently the city of Jerusalem constitutes its centre....
[zi Shuming; hao Huanghe Shanqiao, Xiangguang Jushi]
(b Wuxing, Zhejiang Province, c. 1308; d 1385).
Chinese landscape painter, poet and scholar–official. He is traditionally ranked as one of the Four Masters of the Yuan, with Huang Gongwang , Ni Zan and Wu Zhen . He was the leading figure in the development of a type of landscape that blended monumental, powerful visual presence with complex, ambiguous structures evocative of mental states and personal situations. Later generations of artists painted landscapes in imitation of Wang Meng, creating an image of his style that at times has obscured his own achievement and identity.
Wang Meng was born into an eminent family of scholars, artists and officials. His father, Wang Guoqi (1284–c. 1366), was a poet, calligrapher and connoisseur; his maternal uncle was the painter–official Zhao Yong, and his maternal grandfather was Zhao Mengfu, the leading painter and calligrapher of the early part of the Yuan period (1279–1368). Little is known of Wang Meng’s early life except that he had a talent in poetry. Family connections were probably crucial in his securing an introduction into cultured circles. Wang moved to Mt Huanghe near Hangzhou, from which derives his literary name, Huanghe Shanqiao (‘Fuel gatherer of Mt Huanghe’), and embarked on a career as a painter, perhaps in the early 1340s, although no genuine works survive from this period. He also travelled widely in nearby areas of south-eastern China, including Suzhou and Wuxi (Jiangsu Province) and Songjiang (in modern Shanghai Municipality), visiting famous sites, attending literary gatherings and becoming acquainted with the leading writers and painters of the day....
[Wang Mien; zi Yuanzhang; hao Zhushi Shannong]
(b Zhuji, Shaoxing District, Zhejiang Province; d Kuaiji, in modern Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, 1359).
Chinese poet and painter. He was the most influential master in the later momei (‘ink-plum’) tradition and the only early plum specialist with a substantial surviving oeuvre.
Born into a modest family of the gentry, Wang, like many southern Chinese scholars under the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1279–1368), was thwarted in his ambition to enter official life. He became an eccentric itinerant, winning recognition as a scholar, poet and painter but failing to obtain sustained private or political patronage. He depended on painting plum blossoms for his living. In 1348, on returning south from the capital Dadu (modern Beijing), he predicted chaos and withdrew to Mt Jiuli. In 1359, shortly before his death, he emerged from seclusion to offer strategic advice to the rebel forces of Zhu Yuanzhang; Zhu later became the emperor Taizu (reg 1368–98), first ruler of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). A problematic figure in his own time, Wang was idealized by later scholars; he remains best known for his fictional role as a paragon of virtue in the 18th-century novel ...
Lucy Freeman Sandler
Composite volume (Cambridge, Corpus Christi Coll., MS. 53) consisting of a Psalter (fols 1–180) and chronicles of England and Peterborough Abbey (fols 180v–187v) produced in England in the first quarter of the 14th century, richly illuminated by several artists, and followed by a contemporary Bestiary (fols 189–210v) differing in script and format, and illustrated by another English artist. The two sections of the manuscript have been bound together since they were given to Corpus Christi College by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 16th century. Although its place of origin and original destination are uncertain, the Bestiary takes its name from the Peterborough Abbey provenance of the first part of the volume. The manuscript contains accounts of the physical form and habits of animals, birds, reptiles and fish, many supplied with Christian moralizations identified as spiritualiter (that is, spiritual, as opposed to physical), with small text illustrations and decorated initials at the beginning of each of the 104 entries. The animals are represented in profile, sometimes alone and sometimes in narrative situations in which human actors play a role. The elegant script, page layout, and execution of the miniatures and decoration reach the high level of refinement characteristic of the so-called Court style of English illumination, continuing the tradition of such manuscripts as the Alphonso Psalter (London, BL, MS. Add. 24686) of ...