National Gallery of Art, Masterpieces in Miniature: Italian Manuscript Illumincations from the J. Paul Getty Museum
image: decorative banner
Image: The Exhibition Image: The Getty Collection Image: Regions Image: Glossary Image: Image List

Regions: Southern Italy (1 of 2)

Image:  	Italian 12th Century, Initial B, written by Sigenulfus, Montecassino, 1153, breviary, Leaf: 19.2 x 13.2 cm (7 9/16 x 5 3/16), The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, Ms. Ludwig IX 1, fols.140v-141, 83.ML.97
Image: Enlarge

A familiar image associated with manuscript illumination is that of the monastic scribe bent over a desk in a room lit only by a candle, deep in concentration and piously writing holy text onto parchment with a quill pen. Although this was not always the way manuscripts were produced, that image would certainly fit one of the oldest works in the exhibition, a breviary made for the abbey at Montecassino, the cradle of Benedictine monasticism. In the Middle Ages books were mostly written and illuminated in monasteries.

Montecassino flourished as a center of illumination in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, featuring its own idiosyncratic script style, called Beneventan minuscule, and brightly colored initials formed of spiraling foliate tendrils interlaced with yapping white dogs and fantastic creatures. This type of letter decoration, meant to ennoble and enliven the word of God, was typical of twelfth-century illumination at Montecassino. While characterized by abundant gold and silver, and rich blues made from precious lapis lazuli, the Montecassino style was largely decorative, often omitting narrative miniatures and historiated initials, the conventional formats for imagery in illuminated books. The breviary in the exhibition was written by Sigenulfus, undoubtedly a monk of the abbey, for Raynaldus II of Callemezzo, the abbot of Montecassino (1137–1166).

Regions: Southern Italy (2 of 2)image: forward arrow image: back arrowThe Getty Collection (2 of 2)

image: National Gallery of Art image: Manuscripts in Miniature: Italian Manuscripts Illumination from the J. Paul Getty Museum