Saturday, 29 April 2017

Cuttings at the Walters

I spent part of the Easter weekend sorting through my filing-cabinet of photocopies. Among them was a brief article by Judith Oliver in an old issue of the Walters Art Gallery Bulletin, called "Manuscripts, Scissors, and Paste" (vol.31, no.3, December 1978, pp.[1-2]), in which she discusses two examples of manuscripts being cut up.

The first (above) caught my eye because I recognised the style: the illumination is attributable to the so-called Almagest atelier, and it reminds me of some leaves in a private collection I am currently cataloguing, which have a number of their illuminated initials cut out.
At first glance one might not notice what has been done to leaves from this volume:
but if you look more closely, the excision of an initial, and its repair with another piece cut from the same manuscript, becomes apparent:
[click to enlarge]
The way in which this initial has been cut out -- following the shape of its outline, but not closely -- seems comparable, to me, to the Walters example. Here is a colour reproduction in Lilian Randall's catalogue of the French manuscripts at the Walters:
[click to enlarge]
Unfortunately, I do not think the script is close enough to allow a confident identification of the Walters cuttings with the leaves in the private collection: it is probably just a coincidence that two Bibles, both illuminated in the Almagest style, were cut up in the same way. In fact, I already know that a second Almagest-style Bible had been cut up, because its II Maccabees initial was reproduced when it was in the collection of Mortimer Brandt:
and yet the II Maccabees initial remains intact on one of the private collection leaves:

[EDIT 15 Nov. 2017: The Mortimer Brandt cutting is now in Colorado: see Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards, Medieval Manuscripts in the Norlin Library & the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Colorado at Boulder: A Summary Catalogue (Fairview, NC, 2002), p. 29 (MS 325) and pl. 1.]


The second Walters example consists of two cuttings from one or more Bible Historiale manuscript, one of which, showing the Expulsion from Paradise, is in the now-familiar style of Richard de Montbaston:

Lilian Randall, in her catalogue of the French manuscripts at the Walters, does not provide a reproduction of this cutting (the image above is scanned from the Judith Oliver article), but does record the dimensions as 72×75mm, very similar to the dimensions reported for the Cain and Abel miniature discussed in a previous post: 72×80mm. This does not prove that they come from the same manuscript, but it seems likely.

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