Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bifolium with the Decretals of Gratian

Style of Master Honore
ca. 1290
Made in Paris, France
Tempera and gold on parchment, brown ink; modern leather binding
Binding: 19 × 11 13/16 × 1 in. (48.2 × 30 × 2.5 cm) Folio: 18 9/16 × 11 7/16 in. (47.2 × 29.1 cm) Opening (approx.): 6 1/4 in. × 21 1/16 in. × 19 in. (15.9 × 53.5 × 48.2 cm)
Manuscripts and Illuminations
Credit Line:
Gift of John Feldman, 1990
Accession Number:
Not on view
Like the Crucifixion from a Missal, this illuminated bifolium, or double page, ranks with the finest painting produced in thirteenth-century Paris. The bifolium, which formed part of a manual of medieval canon law, the Decretals of Gratian, was compiled by a monk who taught at Bologna in the mid-twelfth century. On the sheet shown here, a gloss, or commentary, written by Bartolomeo of Brescia, frames the central, two-column text block representing the work of Gratian, which is preceded by an illustration of the chapter, or causa.

The bifolium incorporates parts of causae 16-19. The miniature signals the beginning of causa 19: "Two clerics wished to transfer to a monastery; both sought permission from their bishop. One left his church against the will of his bishop, the other after having renounced his regular canonicate." The bishop's prerogative is manifest in the miniature: Mitered and enthroned, he holds a crosier and a document with a seal, as he gestures toward two kneeling clerics, who appear to petition him with raised hands. Their facial features and their hair are rendered with a few fine pen strokes. The elegance of line, combined with an almost cartoonlike presentation of the composition, creates an easily legible narrative that is typical of Parisian Gothic manuscript illumination.

The leaf is one of two known to have been extracted before 1910 from a manuscript now in the state archives of the Czech Republic at Olomouc (ms. no. C.D. 39). Both sheets have been associated with Maître Honoré, a native of Amiens, whose name has become synonymous with the best illuminations produced in thirteenth-century Paris. There is, however, only one documented manuscript by Honoré and his workshop--a copy of Gratian's Decretals at Tours (Bibl. Mun. ma. 558), dated 1288. It is conceivable that the Metropolitan's bifolium and the Olomouc manuscript also are the work of an illuminator in Honoré's atelier; the illumination for causa 19 of the Tours Decretals has compositional and iconographic elements in common with the Metropolitan's bifolium. Since Honoré himself was only one of a number of prominent Parisian illuminators active at the time, working in close proximity to and in collaboration with one another, the generic similarities to the Tours Decretals help to confirm a date for the Museum's illumination of about 1290 but not its authorship.
[ Bernard Quaritch, London (sold 1910 ?)]; Dr. Arthur Simony, London (from 1910 ?); Sir Sydney Cockerell (1910–1957), Cambridge; Brian S. Cron, Kew, England (1957–?); [ Bernard Quaritch, London]; [ Bruce Ferrini, Akron, Ohio (sold 1987)]; John L. Feldman, Egan, Minnesota (until 1990)
Millar, Eric George, and Dominican Laurent. An Illuminated Manuscript of La Somme le Roy Attributed to the Parisian Miniaturist Honoré. 219 ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953. p. 12.

Millar, Eric George. The Parisian Miniaturist Honoré. London: Faber and Faber, 1959. p. 14.

Kosmer, Ellen. "Master Honoré: A Reconsideration of the Documents." Gesta 14, no. 1 (1975). pp. 63-68.

Melnikas, Anthony. The Corpus of Miniatures in the Manuscripts of Decretum Gratiani. Studia Gratiana, Vol. 16-18. Rome and Columbus, Ohio: Libreria Ateneo Salesiano, 1975.

Schmidt, Gerhard. "Materialen zur französischen Buchmalerei der Hochgotik I: Kanonistische Handschriften." In Malerei der Gotik in Süd- und Westeuropa Studien zum Herrscherportrait. Malerei der Gotik: Fixpunkte und Ausblicke. Vienna: Akad. Dr.-und-Verlag-Anst., 1975. pp. 159-170.

de Hamel, Christopher. "Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts from the Library of Sir Sydney Cockerell." The British Library Journal 13 (1987). p. 202.

Ferrini, Bruce, and Sandra Hindman. Important Western Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts and Illuminated Leaves. Catalog (Bruce P. Ferrini Rare Books), Vol. 1. Akron, Ohio: Bruce Ferrini, 1987. no. 5, pp. 14-16.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1990-1991." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 49, no. 2 (Fall 1991). p. 17.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "One Hundred Twenty-First Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year July 1, 1990, through June 30, 1991." Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 121 (1991). p. 35.

Wixom, William D., ed. Mirror of the Medieval World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999. no. 143, pp. 122–23.

Related Objects

Jaharis Byzantine Lectionary

Date: ca. 1100 Medium: Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment; leather binding Accession: 2007.286 On view in:Gallery 303

Manuscript Leaf with the Crucifixion, from a Missal

Date: ca. 1270–80 Medium: Tempera and gold on parchment Accession: 1981.322 On view in:Not on view

Plaque with Christ in Majesty and the Four Evangelists

Date: 1000–1100 Medium: Tempera, ink, and metal leaf on parchment; leather, leather binding with ivory Accession: 41.100.168 On view in:Gallery 304

Initial A with the Battle of the Maccabees

Date: ca. 1360–70 Medium: Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment Accession: 23.21.4 On view in:Gallery 306

Scenes from the Legend of Saint Vincent of Saragossa and the History of His Relics

Date: ca. 1245–47 Medium: Pot-metal glass, vitreous paint, and lead Accession: 24.167a-k On view in:Gallery 304