Once more a very unusual opportunity is to be afforded the residents of Boston and vicinity to see a portion of the valuable collection of Illuminated Manuscripts belonging to J. Pierpont Morgan. About twenty-five of these manuscripts will be on exhibition at the Fogg Art Museum of the University from March 16 Until April 16. Some of the manuscripts were shown at the Museum in 1918. Many of them have not been exhibited here before. The exhibition includes fine examples of French, English, Italian, Flemish, German, Greek, Armenian, Dutch and Spanish Work.
The French manuscripts, seven in all, date from the ninth to the fifteenth censures and are of unusual beauty and excellence. A Book of Gospels of the ninth entry has for its most elaborate place of decoration the Eusebian Canons under arches. "The arches are supported by purple and other colored columns, means to represent marble. They have gold bases and capitals. . . . Outside the arch on each side are birds, two on a page. They include peacocks, doves, storks, ducks, cocks and blackbirds with red legs."
A Life of Christ of the twelfth century shows rather crude but effective paintings suggesting the technique of the earliest painted glass.
Another interesting French manuscript is a fragment of a Bible Moralisee, probable executed in Parts for St. Louis, King of France, about 1240. The main decoration consists of "eight large roundel linked together in two columns in diapered backgrounds, containing illustrations of the Apocalypse alternating with mystical interpretations. The Latin text and Commentaries are placed in narrow strips on the left of each column of illustrations and both text and illustrations are enclosed in a border of gold and colors."
"Book of Hours" Exhibited
An interesting Book of Hours, exhibited in the style of the School of Tours, dates from 1490-1505 and is probably by the same artist who illuminated the book attributed to Jean Bourdichon, exhibited at the Museum in 1918.
There are three Flemish manuscripts; a Psalter dating from the late twelfth century characterized by somewhat bold and rough drawing; a beautiful little thirteenth century Psalter, probably executed for a lady named Katherine, showing delicately executed pictures, of which the full-page miniatures are on grounds of burnished gold; and a Book of Hours by the Masters of the famous "Grimace Breviary" now preserved in St. Mark's Library, Venice.
Among the works of the English school are a Book of Gospels dating from about 700, written in good on vellum dyed purple; a thirteenth century Life of Christ; and twelfth century Bestiary. The so-called Bestiaries, or Handbooks of Natural History, formed a large and interesting class of manuscripts, "often illustrated profusely, especially during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with colored drawings of beasts, birds and fishes, actual or fabulous; more rarely with fully illuminated miniatures in gold and colors". In Mr. Morgan's manuscript the animals are colored blue, brown or red, shading into white. The miniatures are framed in bands of color with a plain background, usually of gold. Herbert, in his "Illuminated Manuscripts", says that the book is one of the finest of extant Bestiaries. It was executed about 1170, and in 1187 Phillip, Canon of Lincoln, gave the book with others to the Augustinian Priory of Radford, now called Workshop. At one time the manuscript belonged to William Morris.
Among the Italian manuscripts are an eleventh century Gospel, painted for Mathildsa of Tuscany; a twelfth century Martyrology; and a fifteenth century Missal of the North Italian school, executed at Ferrara.
The Spanish work is represented by two Commentaries on the Apocalypse by the monk Beatus. After the Gospels and Psalms the Apocalypse was a popular book for illumination. "The first, appearance of a regular series of Apocalypse pictures is in the Illuminated copies of a Commentary on the Apocalypse, composed by the Spanish monk Beatus, towards the end of the eighth century. These range in date from the ninth century to the thirteenth, and are all, or nearly all, of Spanish origin. With this exception, Spain occupies quite a secondary position in the history of illumination generally. The Morgan manuscripts date from the ninth and twelfth centuries.
In connection with the exhibition there will be at the Fogg Museum two conferences:--one on Thursday, March 31, at 4.30, by Professor Charies R. Morey of Princeton University, on Medieval Illumination; and one on Thursday, April 7, at 4.30, by Professor Edward K. Rand of Harvard University, on Medieval Script.