Category Archives: Illuminated Manuscripts

Simon Bening’s Virgin and Child

Virgin and Child, Attributed to Simon Bening, Oil on wood, 10 x 8 1/4 in. (25.4 x 21 cm), ca. 1520, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Virgin and Child, Attributed to Simon Bening, Oil on wood, 10 x 8 1/4 in. (25.4 x 21 cm), ca. 1520, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Measuring at just under the size of a piece of letter paper, this magic little painting sits quietly and unassumingly in Gallery 640 in the European Paintings Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The work is attributed to Simon Bening, the great Netherlandish miniaturist and son of illuminator, Alexander Bening. He is most widely known for creating books of hours for royal patrons and rulers.

One of the most remarkable qualities of this finely painted Virgin and Child is its plainness. Though her hair is golden, the mother is mostly unadorned. The child’s hair is also golden, but their are no halos. The scene is one of quiet, stillness, and knowing. The mother’s face, though somewhat idealized, is pensive, almost distracted, while the child turns his gaze outward with a glint of providence in his eye.

The landscape behind is meticulous and simple with each leaf singular and distinct. In the distance, a small cottage with its lone figure sits by a stream where two swans drift. The figures are seated on what could be a simple garden wall in any village.

The child extends his spoon toward us, and the accompanying text for the painting notes that…

…Mary is presented as the very model of a nurturing mother. A stream of milk flows from her breast to the lips of the Child, who turns toward the viewer and gestures with a spoon, linking physical nourishment with the spiritual nourishment he offers.

Other works by Simon Bening in the Met’s online collection can be found here…

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The Seven Thrones of Jami

The Haft Awrang, or Seven Thrones, is a classic of Persian literature that spans seven books and was written by poet Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami between 1468 and 1485. In the mid sixteenth century, Prince Sultan Ibrahim Mirza commissioned an illuminated version of the work which became a masterpiece of Persian miniature painting. Referred to as the Freer Jami, it now resides in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Scene from The Haft Awrang by Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami, opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, folio: 35.9 x 23.2 cm, 1556-65, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Scene from The Haft Awrang by Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami, opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, folio: 35.9 x 23.2 cm, 1556-65, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Scene from The Haft Awrang by Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami, opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, folio: 35.9 x 23.2 cm, 1556-65, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Scene from The Haft Awrang by Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami, opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, folio: 35.9 x 23.2 cm, 1556-65, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Scene from The Haft Awrang by Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami, opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, folio: 35.9 x 23.2 cm, 1556-65, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Scene from The Haft Awrang by Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami, opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, folio: 35.9 x 23.2 cm, 1556-65, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Book…

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Turin-Milan Hours

The Turin-Milan Hours, which was partially destroyed by a fire in 1904, is an illuminated manuscript and book of hours. It was begun in the late fourteenth century and was completed in various stages. At times in the possession of Jean, Duc de Berry and eventually John III Duke of Bavaria (Count of Holland), the Turin and Milan Hours was worked on by a number of different artists and was originally thought to be two separate volumes. Several miniatures completed in the latter stages of the work, probably around 1420, are credited to an artist called “Hand G”.

The Birth of John the Baptist (above) and the Baptism of Christ below, The Turin-Milan Hours (also Les Très Belles Heures de Notre Dame de Jean de Berry), illumination on parchment, circa 1420, Museo Civico d'Arte Antica di Torino

Hand G (Jan Van Eyck), The Birth of John the Baptist (above) and the Baptism of Christ below, The Turin-Milan Hours (also Les Très Belles Heures de Notre Dame de Jean de Berry), illumination on parchment, circa 1420, Museo Civico d’Arte Antica di Torino

Jan Van Eyck, illumination on parchment, 28 × 19 cm (11 × 7.5 in), circa 1420, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino, destroyed by fire

Hand G (Jan Van Eyck), illumination on parchment, 28 × 19 cm (11 × 7.5 in), circa 1420, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino, destroyed by fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is most likely the Van Eyck brothers, Jan and Hubert, legendary, especially Jan Van Eyck, for revolutionizing painting in Europe in the fifteenth century. The parts of the manuscript attributed to them are widely regarded as the most masterful and interesting.

Jan Van Eyck, Self-portrait?, oil on panel, 26 × 19 cm (10.2 × 7.5 in), 1433, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Jan Van Eyck, Self-portrait?, oil on panel, 26 × 19 cm (10.2 × 7.5 in), 1433, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Hubert van Eyck (1366–1426) by Edme de Boulonois, Illustration from a book by Isaac Bullart, Académie des Sciences et des Arts…, 1682

Hubert van Eyck (1366–1426) by Edme de Boulonois, Illustration from a book by Isaac Bullart, Académie des Sciences et des Arts…, 1682

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Turin National University Library, partially destroyed by fire in 1904 and subsequently bombed in 1942, photo 2008 by Claudio Cavallero.

The Turin National University Library, partially destroyed by fire in 1904 and subsequently bombed in 1942, photo 2008 by Claudio Cavallero.

It was reported that an electrical fire in the Turin National University Library was responsible for the destruction of the portions of the Turin-Milan Hours that were kept there and along with it around 100,000 volumes and other priceless manuscripts. Fortunately, photographic reproductions of the destroyed parts remain intact.


Books about Jan Van Eyck…

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