Friday 8 November 2019

Things To See In Madrid

Last weekend I went to Madrid for the first time, so today I will stray away from the usual provenance theme to mention a couple of other manuscript-related things I saw while there.

First, there is currently -- and until 4 January -- an exhibition at the Biblioteca Nacional of the Hours of Charles V, which was recently disbound for conservation:

About 30-40 leaves are on display, plus the binding and some flyleaves, with very good wall panels (in Spanish), covering the Iconography, the Artists, the Binding, the Conservation, etc., next to cases displaying relevant leaves:

It's probably not worth making a major detour, but if you're in Madrid before 4 January, it's worth taking a look.


But the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum was probably the highlight of my visit; I was even more impressed by it than the Prado. Among many wonderful paintings is a series of eight panels by Gabriel Mälesskircher:
They especially caught my attention for their depiction of the Four Evangelists writing their gospels. Here is St John, apparently copying from an exemplar held open with a piece of red string, and with an hourglass, perhaps to remind him to take regular breaks:
Note also that he is entering the red initials as he goes along, using the quill and ink-pot to the right:

Next is Luke, sitting at a similar desk, apparently writing left-handed, and holding his pen-knife in his right hand:
From one of the shelves hangs a leather(?) pen-holder, of the type often depicted in images of St John on Patmos.

Mark keeps his exemplar open in the same way as John:
but with an extra refinement: a metal frame hung from a thread helps him to keep track of his place in the text:
Unlike the others, who write into bound books, he writes on an unbound bifolium, and reveals that his writing-desk is also a book-cupboard:
Above his exemplar he has an astrological chart, headed "las tafel", with the signs of the zodiac represented in roundels, their names clearly legible to the right ("virgo", "pisces", "sagita", "leo", etc.), and the year "1478" at the bottom:

St Matthew is sharpening his quill:
I suspect that the "typos" in his text ("Liebe gener/octobes" instead of "Liber generationes") are the result of damage and a subsequent restoration:
Note that the inside of the lid of his desk is again dated "1478" in white, and has an pilgrim's devotional image of the black volto santo of Lucca:
Here are three examples that were in the Hauck sale at Christie's in 2006:

1 comment:

  1. I have seen these paintings in Madrid and particularly fell in love with St. Matthew and his angel. I imagine the angel falling asleep on the job, but maybe he is simply looking down on the page. I have used the St. Matthew image in class with students, just to talk about copying of manuscripts. Thank you for the other images shared here.



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