Matthew Heintzelman

title.none: Hourihane, Between the Picture and the Word (Matthew Heintzelman)

identifier.other: baj9928.0610.039 06.10.39

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Matthew Heintzelman, Hill Museum and Manuscript Libary, MHEINTZELMAN@CSBSJU.EDU

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Hourihane, Colum, ed. Between the Picture and the Word: Essays in Commemoration of John Plummer. Index of Christian Art Occasional Papers, vol. 8. University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005. Pp. 388, 21 plaes, 273 figures. $75.00 (hb) ISBN-10: 0-9768202-0-X, ISBN-13: 978-0-9768202-0-8 (hb). ISBN: $35.00 (pb) ISBN- 10: 0-9768202-1-8, ISBN-13: 978-0-9768202-1-5 (pb).

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.10.39

Hourihane, Colum, ed. Between the Picture and the Word: Essays in Commemoration of John Plummer. Index of Christian Art Occasional Papers, vol. 8. University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005. Pp. 388, 21 plaes, 273 figures. $75.00 (hb) ISBN-10: 0-9768202-0-X, ISBN-13: 978-0-9768202-0-8 (hb). ISBN: $35.00 (pb) ISBN- 10: 0-9768202-1-8, ISBN-13: 978-0-9768202-1-5 (pb).

Reviewed by:

Matthew Heintzelman
Hill Museum and Manuscript Libary

Taking the Picture Bible from the Pierpont Morgan Library as its point of departure (Ms. M. 638), this collection of 14 essays showcases a wide variety of approaches and new insights into medieval manuscript art. These results of an exhibition and symposium at Princeton in 2004 also celebrate the career of John Plummer, whose relationship with the Morgan Picture Bible extends back to the 1969 facsimile edition. This manuscript's popularity has also resulted in facsimile editions for the Roxburghe Club (1927) and by the Faksimile Verlag (1998)--each superseding the previous in detail and accuracy. Not all of the contributions here, however, focus on this manuscript; as described in Colum Hourihane's introduction and Lucy Freeman Sandler's reminiscence of John Plummer, some research reported here takes the Morgan Picture Bible as a point of comparison, and some hardly mentions it at all.

In the following, I will treat emerging thematic groupings from these papers separately, focusing on the provenance and history of the Morgan Picture Bible; on Jews, Christians, and manuscript culture; on the Morgan Picture Bible specifically; and on those which largely take it as a point of departure. Of course, there is much overlap between these groupings.

William Voelkle briefly recounts the medieval and early modern history of the Morgan Picture Bible, before turning his attention to the efforts through which the Morgan Library's curator, Belle da Costa Greene, was able to bring the manuscript to New York. After Sydney Cockerell had failed repeatedly to purchase the manuscript from the heirs of Sir Thomas Phillips, the trustees of the Phillips estate turned to Sotheby's, which tried to sell it to the Morgan Library in 1910. At first, John Pierpont Morgan (and later his son, J. P. Morgan) refused, but da Costa Greene was finally able to acquire it-- without receiving permission from her new boss. Eventually, however, the younger Morgan was impressed enough by the manuscript's beauty to offer the Morgan Picture Bible for a Roxburghe Club facsimile. Out of Voelkle's description emerges an image of a shrewd, intelligent, and determined library curator who understood the power of medieval manuscripts, while maintaining a certain creative relationship to her own past.

Shifting our attention further back to the early seventeenth century, Marianna Schreve Simpson describes the relationship of the Morgan Picture Bible to the gift-giving between Iran and Europe during the reign of Shah 'Abbas I (1587-1629). In 1604, three Carmelite monks were dispatched by Pope Clement VIII to bring gifts to the shah of Iran. As Simpson shows, such exchanges were not entirely uncommon during a time of shifting alliances, prompted by threats from the Ottoman Turks. Hoping that such signs of generosity would encourage the shah either to convert to Christianity, or at least to form an alliance with the West, they traveled from Rome to Isfahan, via Poland. While they were in Cracow, Cardinal Maciejowski added a magnificent manuscript--today called the Morgan Picture Bible--to the collection of gifts. The journey of this primarily visual masterpiece to Iran has been commemorated in the manuscript itself: upon receiving the gifts in January 1608, the shah ordered that the images be analyzed by one of his learned scholars and their contents noted in Persian. Ultimately, however, the numerous trips made in both directions during this time were unsuccessful in bringing about either an alliance or a conversion. After the shah's death, the manuscript lost its role in international diplomacy and eventually found its way back to Europe.

Finally, Alison Stones pursues the history of the manuscript back further still. Stones finds evidence in the style of the Morgan Picture Bible that contradicts arguments that the manuscript is the product of the thirteenth-century royal court surrounding Louis IX of France. While much research has pointed to England or Paris as the likely homes of the manuscript's artists, she sees similarities with a manuscript from Tournai. To support this claim, Stones appends to her article a lengthy list of the shields in the manuscript. In addition, images of heavy weaponry (such as the trebuchet and hoists) and the excessive blood and gore may parallel manuscripts from northeastern France. Ultimately, Stones argues that the Morgan Picture Bible may have been made for a relative "nobody," but that modern tastes prefer to associate such impressive works with major historical figures.

Although Anne-Marie Bouche also speculates on the origin of the artists of the Morgan Picture Bible, her discussion centers on the various chimneys presented in the manuscript. Drawing also on actual examples of contemporary chimneys, as well as examples in other manuscripts, Bouche finds a relationship between those in this manuscript and similar ones in the stained glass at the cathedral in Chartres. The three groups of chimney representations also provide a social hierarchy for the houses depicted and as such are generally associated with figures of power and rule.

Indeed, among the more evident themes in the Morgan Picture Bible is the depiction of power and ruling figures. Gerald B. Guest describes the careers of two important rulers--Saul and David--who dominate the artistic program that relates events from the Pentateuch up to the first two books of Kings. Of the episodes presented, about 60% relate to the stories of David and Saul. Guest sees reminders in these two leaders that royalty must maintain a proper relationship between God and earthly power: rulers must follow God's law and respect justice or lose their power. The punishment of Saul for not killing Agag and Saul's ultimate humiliation provides the framework for contemplation on the fragility of rule, which points to an audience that was likely connected to the royal court.

Libby Karlinger Escobedo turns her attention to noteworthy women in the Morgan Picture Bible and compares these to Old Testament women in the Bible historiale from the Morgan Library (Morgan Ms. M.394). The two manuscripts approach the relationship between image and text from opposite directions: the Morgan Picture Bible is primarily a visual presentation, with the Latin text (added later) being primarily a brief gloss on the images. The Bible historiale, on the other hand, focuses on the verbal text--albeit a richly illustrated one--and thus its images function essentially as "aids to understanding, placemarkers, and visual summaries" (100). Other highly illustrated biblical sources from the late Middle Ages, such as the Bible moralisée and the Biblia pauperum, also demonstrate the complex interrelationship between text and image. Escobedo looks at five women--Hannah, Ruth, Judith, Jael, and Delilah- -whose struggles demonstrate problems of childlessness or heroic acts that change the course of salvation history.

Another major discourse in which the Morgan Picture Bible plays a role concerns the relationship between Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages. Laura H.Hollengreen looks at the political re-definition of Old Testament violence to assert an ideology of sacred kingship that included the persecution of contemporary Jews. While violent images promoted Crusades against Muslims in the Holy Land, they also promoted an ideology that found cultural diversity at home to be a threat. Katrin Kogman-Appel turns to Mahzor manuscripts to analyze the appropriation by fourteenth-century German Jews of the Christian image of the Tree of Life. This interesting article describes how a few Jewish manuscript artists inverted the meaning of the Tree of Life to depict the hanging of Haman. The identification of Haman, as an early persecutor of the Jews, with contemporary Christian persecutors of Jews was just below the surface of the discourse. Thus, going beyond parody, this use of the image became an attack on Christian enemies. Kogman-Appel broadens our view of the hostile discourse between medieval Jews and Christians. At the same time, these mockeries act not only as polemical attacks against an oppressor, they also warn Jews not to sympathize with the Christian symbol of the Cross.

As we have already seen in the contribution from Gerald Guest, depictions of power prompt many questions. Using examples from the Index of Christian Art, Judith K. Golden has compiled a list of nearly 400 instances of seated, cross-legged authority figures. These figures are overwhelmingly male and are mainly rulers; however, scientists, thinkers and scribes also appear. The common thread appears to be that of power, and not evil as has occasionally been asserted. Thus, while figures like Herod and Pilate are considered evil, other cross-legged figures--like Charlemagne--are definitely not.

Adelaide Bennett looks at a parallel account of the life of King David from a thirteenth-century French Psalter-Hours (Morgan Ms. M.730). This manuscript from northeast France has a clearer provenance than the Morgan Picture Bible: while this psalter emulates Benedictine and Cistercian office books, it was made for lay owners. Bennett demonstrates the manuscript's heritage through its numerous references (especially in the heraldry) to the Boisleux and Neuville-Vitasse families, both strong supporters of the Crusades. In the 62 miniatures that focus on the life of David, Bennett finds a chivalrous, rather than devotional, interest, and in fact the book resembles more the "medieval romance of a hero whose triumphs and travails marked his career" (124). Bennett closes her essay with three appendices containing a full collation of the Psalter-Hours, a list of illustrations from the life of David, and a list of the authentic heraldic charges of the two families involved.

Whereas the text is only an appendage to the images in the Morgan Picture Bible, the images and text in a vernacular fourteenth-century manuscript from Austria exist side-by-side. Alison L. Beringer describes apocryphal legends concerning the life of Judas before he met Jesus: abandoned as an infant by his parents, he later kills his father and marries his mother. In a manuscript of the Klosterneuburger Evangelienwerk now in Schaffhausen, Judas' legend is expanded upon and given a pictoral treatment as well. Beringer notes that images and episodes offer several opportunities to contrast the early life of Judas with those of Jesus and of Cain. From the mutual narrative independence of the text and the images, Beringer concludes that the artist was more interested in the art itself than on drawing a relationship between the text and the image.

Patricia Stirnemann focuses on the discovery of a manuscript related to the Hunterian and Copenhagen Psalters. Within the context of a larger shift in the treatment of illuminated initials in England and France in the twelfth century, Stirnemann describes the work of one artist whose career started in the late 1150's or early 1160's- possibly an Augustinian canon trained in England. The same artist's work appears in a few other manuscripts, to which Stirnemann is adding a copy of Peter Lombard's Commentary on the Psalms from the Bibliotheque Mazarin (Ms. 205).

As we have seen in the Morgan Picture Bible provenance, manuscripts often travel great distances and have a life of their own. In tracing the "peregrinations" of an Old English Gospel Book (Morgan Library, Ms. M.869), Jane Rosenthal was able to follow this luxury manuscript from Christ Church, Canterbury (where it was written around the year 1100), to Deutz and Cologne, eventually to Bonn, Brussels, and finally to New York. From accretions in the manuscript, it is evident that the manuscript was used in liturgies, as well as for the cult of Saint Heribert, archbishop of Cologne. After secularization in the early nineteenth century, the manuscript came briefly to the library of the former canon, Franz Pick, and eventually landed in the collections of the Dukes of Arenberg. With the onset of World War I, the Arenberg collections were crated up and remained so until after World War II, at which time the Gospel Book was sold to the Morgan Library. As with all such manuscript histories, fascinating details are often interspersed with frustrating gaps in our knowledge.

Finally, Judith Steinhoff turns to questions of the patronage of medieval manuscripts. In the marginalia from a Book of Hours (Morgan Library, Ms. M.754 and British Library, Ms. Add. 36684), one can find the concerns of the book's patrons, in particular the desire of its owner to become pregnant. The marginalia is indeed a part of the program of the book's decoration, not merely a later addition. Steinhoff finds the manifestation of these concerns in such probable symbols for sexuality and pregnancy as images of ovens and of fish in the margins.

This very readable and fascinating collection provides a useful introduction to the complexities inherent to our reception of medieval manuscripts. As these essays demonstrate well, manuscripts often carry many stories with them--stories that can reward researchers with new insights into cultural history. While not all of these essays will prove useful to all readers, there is more than enough in this collection to recommend it to a broader audience, especially if John Plummer's excellent facsimile edition of the Morgan Picture Bible can accompany the reader.