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Collections and Critiques

Fogg's Most Important Exhibit In Two Years With Show of Morgan Loan

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

The illuminated manuscripts and old master drawings that have just come to the Fogg as a special loan from the J. P. Morgan Library make the most important exhibition that the Museum has had in the last two seasons. The manuscripts in particular are so valuable that, except at the New York Library, they have never been shown before. The twenty-eight books and many separate pages, rich with color and gold, some as old as the ninth century, contrast vividly with the twenty original drawings from Perugino to Watteau. Yet they combine together in presenting an unusual survey of the art of draughtsmanship.

Great Names

The selection of drawings touches great names an types in this field. Typical of the Florentines are the figures by Fillipino Lippi and Andrea del Sarto; of the Venetians, a boarded head by Carpaccio. Among the Germans are two Durers, and a follower of Holbein. The French are represented in their classic vein by the revered Claude and Poussin, in their elegance by Watteau and Fragonard.

Unique Collection

The Morgan Collection of Manuscripts is the only one of its kind and scope in this country; none but the great libraries and cathedral treasuries of Europe contain such splendid works, covering nearly every school of illumination, from the eighth century to the end of the Gothic era.

Coptic and Persian

To illustrate the Eastern sources of this art, there are included a Coptic book, the "Eulogies of the Virgin," a Persian on natural history interspersed with medicine, and a Greek, believed to have been written by the emperor's scribes in Constantinople. The story then begins with the first revival of the arts under Charlemagne, shown in the ancient Rheims Gospel and the "Golden Latin Gospels, called "of Henry the Eighth." Both being of the ninth century, are in Byzantine style, the latter all in letters of burnished gold on purple vellum, is among the most beautiful and important documents here. Of two centuries later, with Byzantine traits still persisting, are the German Gospels from Salzburg.

English illumination developed, in the school of Winchester, a native art which became in the twelfth century the most famous in Europe. Its early stage is shown here in the vigorous but unskilled drawings from the "Life and Miracles of St. Edmund," of the early part of the century. Its surprising achievement in elegance and narrative skill, a few decades later, is seen in a splendidly decorated Bible, probably executed in St. Swithin's Priory at Winchester.

French Manuscript

From France of the same century comes a manuscript of black outlines, strong reds and blues and formal figures, evidently based on Gothic stained glass. Of the thirteenth is a fragment of one of the immense "Moralized Bibles," so seldom completed. It is opened at the page showing the youthful St. Louis and his mother, Queen Blanche of Castille, and it was made in their lifetime. These eight leaves were taken from the Bible which is still preserved in the Chapter Library of the Cathedral at Toledo; it is reassuring to read in the Morgan Catalogue that they were already missing in 1539.

In the fourteenth century in Italy "Scenes from the Life of Christ" show a change in expression which foreshadows the new painting of Giotto. In the fifteenth in the Low Countries a "Book of Hours" is already a part of Flemish painting. Thus the story of this essentially mediaeval art is brought to its close.

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