Benjamin C. Withers

title.none: Kauffmann, Biblical Imagery (Benjamin C. Withers)

identifier.other: baj9928.0403.002 04.03.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Benjamin C. Withers, Indiana University South Bend,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Kauffmann, C.M. Biblical Imagery in Medieval England, 700-1500. London: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2003. Pp. xxxiii, 365. $124.00 1-872501-04-4. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.03.02

Kauffmann, C.M. Biblical Imagery in Medieval England, 700-1500. London: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2003. Pp. xxxiii, 365. $124.00 1-872501-04-4. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Benjamin C. Withers
Indiana University South Bend

Developed from the 1977 exhibition "The Bible in British Art" and from a series of seminars taught over a decade at the Courtauld Institute, C. M. Kauffmann's new book provides a dependable overview of art produced in a variety of media from the time of the first missionaries to the Protestant Reformation. This a welcome introductory survey to an important subject, well-illustrated, and with helpful supporting matter.

The brief "Introduction" addresses the importance of biblical imagery in medieval society, noting the role that the Bible played in clerical education, history, and law and, more broadly, through religious lyrics, mystery plays, secular poetry, and general spiritual authority. It also outlines the concerns of "Text and Image" and "The Viewer's Interaction with the Text and Image" which will recur at points throughout the book.

Though each of the nine chapters that follow begins with a general historical and art historical summary, Kauffmann varies his approach to issues and objects covered in each chapter. Chapter 1, entitled "Visual Contrasts and Identical Message," glances at the shape of Northumbrian art around the year 700, before pairing the Book of Durrow with the Codex Amiatinus and the Athalone Crucifix with Ruthwell Cross. He argues that contemporary audiences were certainly cognizant of the stylistic differences of Roman and Irish art production, yet the Christian messages they share overcome these differences. The following chapter, "The Old Testament in Anglo-Saxon Art," however, singles out two late Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, Oxford, Bodleian Library Ms. Junius 11 and London, British Library Claudius B.iv (The Old English Hexateuch) for individual study. Quickly skimming two hundred years of English history, Kauffmann describes the extensive narrative imagery of these two manuscripts and summarizes previous debates over their iconographic heritage and potential audiences.

The heart of the book lies in the next two chapters. Chapter 3, "The Twelfth Century: Golden Age of Monasticism--Bibles: Narrative and Symbolism," begins with a fast-paced overview of the Gregorian Reform, the manufacture of Italian Giant Bibles, and the history of narrative illustration (from the Cotton Genesis to the Eton Roundels), leading to a survey of the Winchester, Dover, and Lambeth Bibles. Kauffmann selects the Bury Bible for a detailed "Case Study," describing each of its surviving illustrations and their iconographical connections. This is a thoughtful updating of a study published by Kauffmann nearly fifty years ago. The brief title of Chapter 4, "Psalters," belies its broad scope. With just a side-glance at innovations in Anglo-Saxon Psalters (including the Vespasian Psalter, and the three copies of the Utrecht Psalter made in England) Kauffmann concentrates on twelfth century material provided by the St. Albans, Winchester, and Shaftsbury Psalters. The latter is chosen for another "Case Study".

Kauffmann devotes two chapters to the thirteenth century. The opening paragraphs of Chapter 5 ("The Thirteenth Century: Private and Public Devotion") cover the influence of the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 and the arrival of Franciscan, Dominican, and Augustinian orders in England. Part I of this chapter focuses on manuscripts, first on continuity and change in the illustration of Bibles and Psalters before moving on to Books of Hours and Apocalypses, both new types of books developed or popularized for use by the laity. Part 2 considers the relative lack of surviving evidence of larger-scale, public art by first discussing the biblical imagery found on the facade at Wells Cathedral, the interior of the Salisbury Chapter house, and finally the fragmentary evidence for the existence of wall painting. Chapter 6, "The Political Use of the Bible" provides a broad historical overview of imagery developed to promote secular, particularly royal, agendas. Starting from the Ottonian Gospel of Otto III (c. 1000) and its visual assimilation of Christ and king, Kauffmann considered the political implication of depictions of King David in the initials to several English Psalters. The bulk of this chapter concentrates on wall paintings presenting Biblical imagery in secular settings, paying particular attention to the Painted Chamber at Westminster during the reigns of Henry III and Edward I.

"The Fourteenth Century: Narratives in the Margin; Vernacular Texts and Popular Themes," as Kauffmann titles Chapter 7, ironically suffers from the wealth of material it covers. The chapter commences with a discussion of marginalia. Kauffmann's attention to "word illustration", references to fabliaux, and the rise of extensive narrative cycles pushed to the bas-de-pages (such as the Old Testament narratives in the Carew-Poyntz Hours) does not quite capture the animated spirit and excitement of many of the "images on the edge." Subsequent sections compress discussions of the Queen Mary Psalter, Edgerton Genesis, the group of Psalters created for the Bohun family together with an all-to-brief consideration of lay ownership and patronage AND the question of the influence of "popular culture" on the Holkham Bible Picture Book. Given its richness, the fourteenth century could easily fill two chapters, as Kauffmann did for the twelfth and thirteenth.

Chapter 8, "The Late Medieval Parish Church," extends the discussion of popular culture developed in the previous chapter into the fifteenth century. Kauffmann quickly takes in hand the organization of parishes and the opportunity for lay patronage before turning to how the churches were furnished and decorated. He reviews the history, characteristic subjects for historiated initials, and developments in the iconography of the Crucifixion in the text of the Missal. He also surveys larger-scale imagery in wall-paintings (scenes of the Last Judgment) stained glass (where narrative scenes from the Bible are even rarer than in wall painting), and retables (passion scenes predominate). Chapter 9, "The Reformation and Beyond" addresses one of the reasons we know so little about some aspects of biblical imagery from the Middle Ages, as Kauffmann appraises the iconoclastic tendencies in reformist and heretical groups before chronicling the more centralized, state-sponsored destruction of images under the Tudors. The chapter and the book conclude with the illustration (derived from leading German artists) of the vernacular translations of Tyndale and Coverdale.

The breadth and scope of this extensively illustrated volume will make it a convenient book of reference for the study of biblical imagery. It valuably pulls together and condenses information from the author's previous published studies of the Bury Bible, the Shaftsbury Psalter, and the Holkham Bible Picture Book and places these detailed "Case Studies" against the larger backdrop of art historical scholarship. Two appendices list the prefaces to the Biblical Books in the Bury Bible (Appendix 1) and the Old Testament Iconography in Romanesque Bibles (Appendix 2) in addition to an extremely useful and complete Iconographical Index, as well as a Glossary and General Index. The illustrations, though predominantly black and white, are well- produced and well-chosen, providing a rich compendium for comparison and study. The Bibliography is less satisfactory. It is complete up to the mid- nineties, and while it lists some important recent studies, it is rather spare for works after 1999. There are also rather more typographical errors in the bibliography than one would expect from reading the main text.

Kauffmann's understanding of twelfth and thirteenth century art makes these chapters the strongest in book, though this is at a cost to periods before and after. The chapter covering the fourteenth century is not as strong as it might be, not only because the material is overly compressed, but also because the provocative imagery from this period frustrates the iconographical approach which dominates so much of this study. Similarly, the discussion of Anglo- Saxon art disappoints, primarily because it lacks the contextual richness provided by Kauffmann's discussion of later material. There is only a cursory consideration of some key monuments like the Lindisfarne Gospels, a brief reference to the New Testament found on a fragment now in the Getty, and almost no discussion of the biblical cycles prefacing eleventh-century Psychomachia manuscripts. The rich and innovative tradition represented by Anglo-Saxon Psalters is condensed into the introduction to chapter 4, while many works of Anglo-Saxon art, such as the Benedictional of St. Ethelwold, are mentioned only as an example of the iconographical pre-history of later manuscript illustrations.

Of course, it is much easier to review a book like this than it is to write it. The caveats above included, Kauffmann's book is a much-needed survey, notable its broad chronological sweep and its coverage of a variety of media from manuscripts, sculpture, and later wall painting, stained glass, to printed books. The book will prove very useful for future generations of scholars and is a fitting tribute to the author's knowledge and long, distinguished career as teacher and scholar. Any university with a program in art history, religion, or medieval studies should add this book to their collection.