Showing posts with label digitization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label digitization. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Unfinished Florentine Bible of King Matthias digitized

Firenze, BML, Plut. 15.15
Once more I would like to report about the digitization of some very important volumes originally destined for the famed library of King Matthias Corvinus, the Bibliotheca Corviniana. This time I discovered that the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana added the digital version of Matthias' Florentine Bible to their database. Other Corvinian manuscripts in Florence have been available online for some time. Many of these volumes remained unfinished when Matthias died suddenly in the spring of 1490. Most of them entered the library of Lorenzo il Magnifico, among circumstances analysed in detail by the studies of Angela Dillon Bussi,

The most lavish commission of King Matthias was a three-volume Bible - perhaps the largest book-project ever started for him. The books and their miniatures were most recently analysed by Dániel Pócs, who states that the model for these commissions are to be found at Central Italian courts: he cites the two-volume Bible of Borso d'Este (Modena, Biblioteca Estense) and the two volume Bible made in Florence for Federigo da Montefeltro (Vatican Libraries). 

The Florentine books remained unfinished. The first volume, containing the books of Moses, was started by the workshop of Attavante degli Attavanti - only parts of the ornamental title page were executed (see left). The second Old Testament volume remains fully without decoration - but spaces were left our for miniatures. The third volume contains the Psalters as well as the New Testament (it is generally referred to as the Florentine Psalter of King Matthias), and it was to be illuminated by Gherardo and Monte di Giovanni. This process got further ahead than in the case of the other volumes - the magnificient double title page of the volume was finished. However, the coat of arms of Matthias are missing from the bottom of the page, indicating that work stopped as soon as news about the death of the ruler reached Florence. In any case, this double page is one of the absolute highlights of Italian Renaissance illumination.

Firenze, BML, Plut. 15.17
Firenze, BML, Plut. 15.17

I have also noticed that several Corvinian manuscripts have been incorporated into the World Digital Library, maintained by the Library of Congress. In particular, several volumes from the Laurenziana in Florence and the Bavarian State Library in Munich have been added to this database. The interface of the WDL is very simple and user-friendly, and photos of individual pages can be downloaded. The dataset of Corvinian manuscripts also includes another gem, which I failed to notice before: the Encyclopedia medica or Historia plantarum of the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome. This is one of three manuscripts known from the Bibliotheca Corviniana which were previously owned by King Wenceslas IV of Bohemia. The manuscript got to Buda via the brother of Wenceslas, King Sigismund. 

All of the above manuscripts have been added to my checklist of digitised manuscripts from the Bibliotheca Corviniana. The total number of digitised Corvinas now reached almost 120. Previous blog posts about the Bibliotheca Corviniana can be reached on this link.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Brussels tapestry in Budapest digitized in gigapixel resolution

Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
The Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest joined the Google Art Project earlier this year. So far, about 100 objects have been made available in high resolution on the project website - selected from the over 5000 objects already digitized and made available online by the museum. More recently, the museum view function has also been enabled, allowing visitors to look around inside this wonderful Art Nouveau palace of Budapest. Several medieval objects can also be found in the database.

Google digitizes one artwork from each museum with the very high resolution gigapixel technology. When it came to selecting a work from the Museum of Applied Arts, after some discussion with my colleagues, we settled on one of the most spectacular works in the collection: the early 16th century Nativity tapestry woven in the workshop of Pieter van Aelst, and likely designed by Jan van Roome. The dimension and the intricate details of this work made it suitable for the high resolution digitisation - and the results, made available online this week, are quite spectacular.

The Nativity tapestry, originating from the cathedral of Győr, is the most important early Renaissance work in the Museum of Applied Arts. Its size is 275 x 260 centimetres, so it is not particularly large. The field of the tapestry is surrounded by a richly decorated border, and is divided into three parts. The large central field contains the principal decoration of the tapestry: the Nativity, or more specifically, the Adoration of the newborn Jesus. The baby Jesus is depicted laying on the ground, her mother kneeling and praying in front of him. Joseph, holding a candle, is depicted behind the Virgin Mary. Several angels also adore the newborn and two shepherds also appear in the composition. The upper part of the image is occupied by three majestic angels hovering above the vision. This type of depiction reflects the impact of late medieval mysticism, particularly the visions of St. Bridget, who died in 1373. The picture type was popular in Early Netherlandish painting since the early 15th century.

The Nativity tapestry. Budapest, Museum of Applied Arts 

Two further scenes are depicted in the two upper corners of the tapestry: the Annunciation can be seen on the upper right, while the Adoration of the Magi is on the upper left – both complete compositions on their own. Two decorated Renaissance pillars separate the central scene from further depictions on either side: two Sibyls, holding inscribed scrolls are shown on the sides. Their texts refer to significance and mystery of the incarnation: UTERUS VIRGINIS ERIT STATERA CUNCROTU/M (The holy uterus of the Virgin is the ransom for all of us), DEUS NASCETUR EX VIRGINE HEBREA (God will be born of a Hebrew virgin). The border is decorated with finely composed bunches of flowers and fruits.

An exact analogy of the tapestry can be found in the Museo Diocesano in Trento as the first piece of a seven-part cycle mainly depicting Christ’s Passion. The cycle was purchased by Bernardo Cles, the prince-archbishop of Trento (1514 – 1539) from Joris van Lickau, a merchant of Antwerp in 1531. The tapestries were made earlier: the piece showing the Carrying of the Cross features the date 1507, and in another one the name of the leader of the weaving workshop, Pieter van Aelst (ca. 1450 – 1531/1533) can also be read. Pieter van Aelst, however, was clearly not the designer of the tapestry, only the entrepreneur carrying out the costly process of weaving.

The stylistic features of the design of the tapestry point to the direction of Jan van Roome, the most prolific artist of the first two decades of the 16th century (active between 1498 and 1521). He is known as a designer of sculpture, stained glass, seals and tapestry, his most important work being the creation of the funerary chapel of Margaret of Austria in Brou. Documents reveal that he was the most important painter-designer of his time, receiving many other courtly commissions. His activities as a tapestry designer are documented from 1513, when in Louvain the tapestry depicting the miraculous communion of Herkenbald was commissioned from him.

Details of this magnificent work can now be studied up close in front of any computer. The resolution is truly impressive: you can even see how the gold threads were made, which give this work its particular glistening appearance. Go ahead, and browse this and other medieval treasures from Hungarian museums in the Google Art Project!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Medieval manuscripts of Batthyáneum available online

The Batthyáneum Library of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia, Romania) is one of the most important historic libraries in Transylvania. It was founded in 1798 by Ignác Batthyány, the bishop of Transylvania. The library was housed in the former church of the Trinitarian order - first an observatory was created here, and later the library was established in the building (all this was modeled on the Archdiocesan Library of Eger). The library of Batthyány grew from many sources, but the most important among these was the library of Christoph Anton von Migazzi, the bishop of Vác and also the bishop of Vienna. Batthyány bought the 8000 volume library of Migazzi, which included a lot of medieval manuscripts. When established at Gyulafehérvár, the Batthyáneum held about 20.000 volumes - a number which continued to increase throughout the 19th century. In addition to simply being a library, the institution worked as a museum, holding Batthyány's collection of minerals and naturalia, as well as a collection of ecclesiastical art. Finds from the excavations of Gyulafehérvár cathedral carried out by Béla Pósta in the early 20th century are also kept here.

The 20th century history of the library was not free from controversy: some books were sold in the 1930s, but the institution continued too function as a public library even after the Trianon peace treaty awarded Transylvania to Romania. However, in 1949 the collection was nationalized, and later became part of the Romanian National Library. Access to the collections became very limited - a situation which continues to this day. Even though a government decree returned the building and collection of the library to the Roman Catholic Archbishopric of Gyulafehérvár, the Library still functions as part of the state library system, and the court cases going on have so far not clarified the situation.

The library holds today altoghether 927 manuscripts and 565 incunabula, making it the richest collection of this kind of material in all of Romania. The medieval manuscripts are of various origins: Migazzi's library included all kinds of western manuscripts, but Batthyány also bought complete medieval libraries from Hungary, including the holdings of the ecclesiastical libraries of Lőcse (Levoča / Leutschau, Slovakia, see this Hungarian language study with German summary: Eva Selecká Mârza: A középkori Lőcsei Könyvtár, Szeged, 1997.). Several Transylvanian collections were also incorporated into the library, and there are rich holdings of orthodox Romanian manuscripts in the collection. In the framework of a European digitization project, a large number of manuscript are now available in the Manuscriptorium platform. In fact, there is a special section dedicated to manuscripts from the Batthyáneum.

The library holds a large number of first class illuminated manuscripts - many of which can now be consulted online. The following is a selection of a few of the most important of these (providing direct links to pages of this dynamic website is quite complicated. I managed to make direct links to the digital facsimile pages below - but you may start to browse or search from the start page, to get to object descriptions, etc.)

Ms II 1, first part of the Lorsch Gospels (Codex Aureus of Lorsch), from the Palace workshop of Charlemagne, dating  around 810 (on the history of the whole manuscript, see also this overview)

Ms III 87, a nicely illustrated early 15th century Franco-Flemish Book of Hours

Ms II 134, A Missal from Pozsony (Bratislava / Pressburg), dating from 1377, with explicit by Henrik of Csukárd

There is a lot more there - you can start browsing from the start page, Manoscriti qui in theca batthyanyana. Furthermore, you can find some more illuminated manuscripts from the Europeana database - not all of which have been made available in the current digitization effort.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Corvinian manuscripts at the Laurenziana

Couple of weeks ago I wrote about new research on the Bibliotheca Corviniana, and mentioned a few digitized manuscripts not listed on the Bibliotheca Corviniana Digitalis website.

Now I would like to call attention to another wonderful resource, the digitized manuscripts at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence. You can read an overall description of the manuscript collection of the library here, while the following description of the digitization comes from the website of the project:

"The project foresees the complete digitization of 3,900 manuscripts belonging to the Plutei collection and of the 18th century catalogues which describe them. On conservation grounds it will be possible that a limited number of manuscripts will not not be digitized. The project is scheduled to finish by December 2010."

The library holds over 30 codices which were originally ordered by King Matthias. Many of these manuscripts were still unfinished at the time when news of the king's death reached Florence (1490). The volumes have been incorporated into the Medici collections. It seems that most of them were only fully decorated and finished for Pope Leo X, at around 1513. Most of these volumes were illustrated by Attavante degli Attavanti. These manuscripts thus never made it to the library at Buda - but colophons, dedicatory inscriptions and other data indicate that they were originally copied for Matthias. There are also a few other Corvinian manuscripts in the library, which got there at various points. Unfortunately the most important Corvinian manuscript in Florence, the three-volume Bible of King Matthias (Plut.15. 15-17), has not been digitized. Illuminated by the brothers Gherardo and Monte di Giovanni and by Attavante, the unfinished volumes entered the collection of Lorenzo de' Medici around 1490, just like the Marsilio Ficino volume illustrated below.

Plut.73.39, M. Ficino: De triplici vita, fol. 80r.
Dedicated to Matthias, with his emblems in the margins
The coat of arms of Matthias painted over with the Medici coat of arms.
Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hungarian museum journals online

During the last year or so, most publications of Hungarian museums have been digitized by the company Arcanum. The database can be reached from the central information portal of Hungarian museums, MUSEUM.HU. The publications range from historical reviews to archaeological and art historical journals. All journals as well as many catalogues (900.000 pages total) have been made accessible in a central database. The website and the database are in Hungarian, but many of the journals and books themselves are more accessible, as they are often in English or German. 

Unfortunately the interface is extremely cumbersome (I've been using JSTOR and similar databases for many years, so I know that it is possible to do this kind of job well). While the site has a powerful full-text search engine, it is difficult to browse through publications. New windows keep popping up and every page is in a separate pdf file. There does not seem to be a way to provide direct links to publications (well, you can link to them, but the results won't load), and you cannot download PDF versions of full articles. Another problem is that several digitized volumes are not accessible, as some museums did not allow the online publication. However, these have also been built into the database, so references to them will appear in search results - but you will not see them (this is the case with many publications of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery).
The resource can still come in handy if you need to look something up in the Journal of Veszprém County Museums or if you need to find a quick reference about a specific place of monument. The database contains nearly all the publications of Hungarian county museums, and the journals and some catalogues of large state museums. 

If you are brave enough to navigate a Hungarian-language database, you can find several important publications. These include for example catalogues of medieval goldsmith and bronze objects at the Hungarian National Museum. For these, scroll down on the opening page to "Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum" to find "Catalogi Musei Nationalis Hungarici. Seria Archeologica", and these volumes there: 

Lovag Zsuzsa: Mittelalterliche Bronzgegenstände des Ungarischen Nationalmuseum, (Catalogi Musei Nationalis Hungarici. Seria Archeologica 3; Budapest, 1999)
Kolba H. Judit: Liturgische Goldschmiedearbeiten im Ungarischen Nationalmuseum, 14.-17. Jahrhundert. (Catalogi Musei Nationalis Hungarici. Series Mediaevalis et Moderna 1; Budapest, 2004)

You can also find a small guide to the medieval exhibition of the Hungarian National Gallery, and an overview of Renaissance exhibitions in 2008: Go to "Magyar Nemzeti Galéria" and then to "A Magyar Nemzeti Galéria kiadványai" to find:

Török Gyöngyi: Gothic Panel Paintings and Wood Carvings in Hungary, Permanent exhibition of the Hungarian National Gallery (2005)
Mikó Árpád, ed.: Renaissance year 2008.
Of museum journals, Ars Decorativa, published by the Museum of Applied Arts (you can find it as "Iparművészeti Múzeum") contains studies on the decorative arts in English, German, and French.
For medievalists, the publications of the
Monument Protection Office ("Kulturális Örökségvédelmi Hivatal") are also very useful. They are generally in Hungarian, but with summaries in foreign languages.

A similar database has been prepared from the publications of the Hungarian National Archives, which include numerous medieval source editions.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New research on the Bibliotheca Corviniana (updated)

The Bibliotheca Corviniana, the library put together by King Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490) was one of the largest libraries of medieval Europe. A humanist library, comprised largely of the works of classical authors, as well as modern historical and scientific works, the collection included a vast number of beautifully illuminated manuscripts. The library was dispersed soon after the death of the king, and today just over 200 volumes of it have been identified.

Frontispiece of the Didymus Corvina
 (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library)

In 2005, the Bibliotheca Corviniana was added to the list of the UNESCO Memory of the World heritage. Perhaps not coincidentally, there has been a renewed interest in the library during the last decade, resulting in a number of exhibitions as well as popular and scholarly publications. These include among other the following:


Monday, August 09, 2010

Hungarian Medieval Charters Digitized

Patrohi armorial, 1437
Hungarian National Archives, Dl 50.529
As of Spring 2010, over 100.000 Hungarian medieval charters have been fully digitized and made available by the Hungarian National Archives. This means that they are fully digitized, with high resolution photos of the charters, with additional photos of seals, and all this material is incorporated into a fully searchable database.

In addition to their varied content and sometimes beautifully preserved seals, a number of these documents are true masterpieces of manuscript illumination. This is especially true of armorial letters, which usually include a depiction of the family's newly given coat of arms. The series of illuminated armorials started in the period of King Sigismund, and stretches right to the end of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary (later as well - but the coverage of this database goes up to 1526).

You can check out a few beautiful examples, if you carry out a search by serial numbers. You will be asked to install a small image-viewing software, and you'll have to click around until you get to the images. For example, check out these armorials: (Dl) 13.000; 50.521; 104.871; 105.029.

If you would like to see more, enter the search term "címereslevél" in the search box as "document type". This gave me 149 hits - many more armorials are preserved in various other archives not covered by this database.
I wouldn't call this a very user-friendly system, but with a bit of patience, the database can give you all the information these charters hold.