Decorated Incipit Page

Object Details

Title:

Decorated Incipit Page

Artist/Maker:

Unknown

Culture:

German

Place:

Helmarshausen, Germany (Place created)

Date:

about 1120 - 1140

Medium:

Tempera colors, gold, and silver on parchment

Dimensions:

Leaf: 22.9 × 16.5 cm (9 × 6 1/2 in.)

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Medieval artists often elaborately decorated the incipit, or opening words, of a text. This page opens the Gospel of Saint Matthew with the text Liber generationis ih[es]u xp[ist]i filii David filii Abraha[m] (The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham). The Latin word xpisti,for Christ, is presented as an abbreviation including the Greek letters X (chi) and P(rho), as was common in medieval manuscripts. A large letter L constructed of interlaced and spiraling vines of gold leaf appears within the frame composed of intricate design. The following letter, I, in silver, is embedded within the golden vines; the final three letters of the first word, BER, appear in gold at the top right, where the shapes of the letters sometimes give way to fluttering leaf forms. This mix of organic and geometric forms imbues the page with energy. The artist wrote the remaining words of the text in letters of alternating gold and silver leaf against a patterned background of burgundy. This background imitates the appearance of expensive silks from Byzantium that Western Europeans admired and coveted in the Middle Ages. Byzantine silks were frequently used to cover highly valued manuscripts such as this Gospel book.

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