Illuminated Leaf of Manuscript Bible: Book of Amos, ca. 1325,
Flanders (possibly France)
Ink, colors and burnished gold on vellum
15 1/8 x 9 5/8 inches
University of Illinois Foundation Fund
This illuminated manuscript leaf introduces the Book of Amos, one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament. Preceded by a prologue, the beginning of the first chapter is distinguished by its historiated “V” initial, which depicts the prophet as a shepherd receiving the divine word. Delicately embellished by fine white lines, the miniature is framed with a gold leaf border and foliage with tiny blossoms. At the bottom of the page a dragon and a blue monkey animate additional vegetal ornamentation.
The particular layout of angular borders, vine foliage and fantastic beasts is indicative of production centers in Flanders and Northern France at the beginning of the 14th century. A more intimate practice of faith that developed during this period resulted in a new class of secular craftsmen who specialized in lettering and illumination to meet the demand for personal devotion books. This non-clerical production was both sophisticated and subject to less strict guidelines than earlier practices of primarily monastic manuscript illumination. Here, the angular gothic scripts are freely executed, and they include sporadic corrections in the text and the margins.
The leaf was once part of a complete volume of the Bible, pages of which are now housed in about fifty collections around the world. The practice of removing pages and illustrations from bound medieval illuminated manuscripts dates to the late eighteenth century. Both dealers and collectors undertook this highly controversial activity, which was sometimes motivated by the intention of enriching an existing book or compiling related works for comparison.
Anne Gaëlle Churin, a student at the École du Louvre in Paris, spent the fall semester 2015 studying at the University of Illinois and held an Art History internship at Krannert Art Museum under the supervision of KAM's Curator of European and American Art Maureen Warren. Churin is the author of this and a separate article on the practice of breaking up medieval manuscripts for distribution to libraries and academic institutions; "Breaking Books" was published on the museum blog November 20, 2015.
6 This educational postulate was defended by the Prof. Otto F. Ege while he disassembled this manuscript in the early twentieth century. In order to spread knowledge about and examples of precious books, Ege dismantled hundreds volumes from his remarkable collection, which he gathered in thematic folios and sold primarily to North American universities.