Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015
In the course of the last three months, we have had the privilege of exhibiting the Winchester Bible—one of the masterpieces of medieval painting—and seeing it reunited with the Morgan Leaf, one of most spectacular paintings from the year 1200 and originally part of the Bible. Because of the possibility of displaying multiple openings of volume one of the Bible and three bi-folios of volume two—currently in the midst of conservation treatment and rebinding—one was able to compare and contrast the multiple artists who created this special work.
Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2015
The team of artists producing the Winchester Bible, on view through March 8, were among the most original and inventive in Europe before 1200. The display of the Bible within the Museum's collection of contemporary medieval works enhances the picture of the larger setting and warrants a closer look. The connection between the Winchester Bible and Spain, explored in an earlier blog post, is one of the more fascinating instances of artistic migration. Let's explore three others that look to Burgundy in France, the Meuse Valley in Belgium, and Sicily.
Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Each book of the Winchester Bible, on view through March 8, begins with an oversized, decorated first letter called an initial. The initials' decorations vary from fancy foliate designs to narrative scenes framed within the letter itself. The initial prefacing the Winchester Bible's book of Genesis is especially complex in its composition because it serves an extraordinary purpose: to encompass the entire Bible—and with it the entire history of salvation—in a single composition. This ambitious endeavor presents a way of thinking about the Bible that would have been second nature to its original readers, a community of Benedictine monks.
Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2015
It is a common misconception that people living during the Middle Ages rarely traveled. In fact, many did—to go on a pilgrimage, to trade commercial goods, or to forge political ties in far-off lands. Artists also traveled, taking their own styles, techniques, and ideas with them. Yet, because so little information about medieval artists has survived, especially from the earlier Middle Ages, we know little about their itineraries from when they did venture out into the world. The Met's exhibition of the Winchester Bible, however, allows me to highlight one fascinating instance in which we actually can track the movement of a specific workshop of painters from Winchester in southern England to a monastery in Aragon, northern Spain. That's quite a distance to cover!
Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2015
One of the most ambitious artistic enterprises of twelfth-century England, the Winchester Bible offers a critical glimpse into the process of its creation, in part, because it was left unfinished.
Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2015
The Winchester Bible: A Masterpiece of Medieval Art offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine one of the great surviving monuments of twelfth-century art. Presented together with the Morgan Leaf, which is reunited for the first time with the book to which it once belonged, the exhibition occupies the heart of the Museum's medieval European galleries. This setting offers an ideal context for exploring the Winchester Bible.
Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Deluxe giant Bibles were prestige works for major ecclesiastical institutions, but there is no record, written or otherwise, that clearly identifies the patron of the Winchester Bible. We assume that the bishop of Winchester, Henry of Blois (about 1098–1171) patronized its creation since he was of privileged background and the younger brother of King Stephen of England (r. 1135–54) and grandson of William the Conqueror. As a child oblate dedicated to become a monk at the great Burgundian abbey of Cluny, he quickly rose in the ranks of the Church to become abbot of Glastonbury in 1126, the richest abbey in Norman England, and in 1129 the bishop of Winchester, the richest cathedral in the land.
Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Giant Bibles such as the Winchester Bible, the subject of the current exhibition at the Metropolitan, were among the most ambitious enterprises for major medieval scriptoria. They are massive volumes containing the Holy Scriptures as they were translated into Latin by Saint Jerome (ca. 342–60), and the great age of their creation was the later eleventh and twelfth centuries. Giant Bibles probably started out as prestigious papal gifts—several were produced in Rome itself—but they quickly became more widespread.
Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Winchester Bible has resided in the place of its making since the Middle Ages, and has left for only brief periods of time for such occasions as its current exhibition at the Metropolitan. It is the centerpiece of the holdings of the Winchester Cathedral Library. Marking the high point of manuscript production at Winchester, the great Bible was the culmination of a long tradition of creating sumptuous manuscripts central to the spiritual life of the cathedral and its affiliated monastic communities. Before larger European cities became the driving force for artistic production, places like Winchester—which was both the royal seat of power and a spiritual and pilgrimage center—fostered the creation of amazing works for many years.
Posted: Monday, December 15, 2014
During the early centuries of the first millennium B.C., sophisticated elites throughout the Mediterranean shared a number of social and religious rituals. Banqueting and feasting were among the most common, along with hunting and warfare. Banquets took place on the occasion of religious festivals, or celebrations of victory, or during some of the sumptuous funerals held for heroes and kings. Banquet ceremonies accompanied by music and dancing are described in literary sources such as the Bible, Homeric epics, and mythological poems from the ancient port city Ugarit (in modern-day Syria), as well as being depicted on works of art (fig. 1). Equipment used for these banquets include bronze cauldrons and andirons to cook meat, metal bowls to drink wine, and ewers to pour the drink, examples of which have been found in archaeological sites all around the Mediterranean. A large selection of these luxurious implements are presented in the exhibition Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age.