Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Royal manuscripts (New medieval art websites V.)

The year 2011 has been particularly rich in medieval exhibitions of a very high standard: while the National Gallery in London showed Devotion by Design: Italian Altarpieces before 1500, the Treasures of Heaven exhibition also traveled to London and was shown at the British Museum. The latter is now also amply covered by a new website, a 'digital monograph' made at Columbia University's Media Center for Art History. In Germany after an exhibition on the Hohenstaufen dynasty and Italy, which closed in February, now the Naumburger Meister exhibition is on view at Naumburg. In Paris, the Museé de Cluny dedicated and exhibition to the medieval sword, titled L'Épée - Usage, mythes et symboles. There were also several exhibitions on medieval manuscripts, including two on medieval fashion. The Getty Museum had several other temporary displays of medieval manuscripts, such as Stories to Watch, while the Louvre in Paris also displayed its medieval manuscript pages.

However, the end of the year still has two major exhibitions for everyone enthusiastic about medieval manuscripts. The first one is already open at the Royal Library of Belgium, in Brussels, and is dedicated to Flemish miniatures. As the press release states, in making this project, the Royal Library of Belgium and the Bibliotheque nationale de France joined for the first time to display and celebrate the heyday of Flemish manuscript illumination by organizing an exhibition of international significance. The exhibition began in Brussels (September-December 2011), and will continue in Paris (March-July 2012). In total, more than 140 illuminated manuscripts of the highest rank will be presented to the public in an original staging, that will showcase these exceptional pieces while maintaining the context in which they were born. The project is of course accompanied by a scholarly catalogue. You can read about the exhibition here or here, as well as in the French-language press release (pdf)

From Nov. 11, the British Library (London) will show Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, displaying "a unique treasure trove of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts assembled by English kings and queens over 700 years." The 150 manuscripts in the exhibition represent the most stunning pieces from the library's collection, the largest group of medieval manuscripts in Britain and one of the most important in the world. The Medieval and Earlier Manuscript Blog of the British Library regularly posts on outstanding items to be featured in the exhibition.

Those not fortunate enough to travel to one of these exhibitions, can now browse fully digitized versions of royal manuscripts on the website of the Europeana Regia project. The project aims to "digitise 874 rare and precious manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, with the collaboration of five major libraries located in four countries and the support of the European Commission. The project will draw together three collections of royal manuscripts that are currently dispersed and which represent European cultural activity at three distinct periods in history: the Biblioteca Carolina (8th and 9th centuries), the Library of Charles V and family (14th century) and the Library of the Aragonese Kings of Naples (15th and 16th centuries)." Several dozen manuscripts are already online.

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