A Sloth

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Object Details


A Sloth


Joris Hoefnagel (Flemish / Hungarian, 1542 - 1600)

and Georg Bocskay (Hungarian, died 1575)


Flemish and Hungarian


Vienna, Austria (Place created)


1561 - 1562; illumination added 1591 - 1596


Watercolors, gold and silver paint, and ink on parchment


Leaf: 16.6 x 12.4 cm (6 9/16 x 4 7/8 in.)

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Beneath a canopied structure, a wiry-haired animal, perhaps a sloth, munches on a twig. A Latin text based on Jesus's Sermon on the Mount appears above. Although the text and image seem to fit perfectly together, the different elements on the page were made thirty years apart.The elegant Roman-style lettering was written by Georg Bocskay to display his mastery of calligraphy. The text originally appeared on a plain black background. The illustration was added later by Joris Hoefnagel, who saw in the diminishing script the suggestion of recession into space, an illusion defied by the two-dimensionality of the text. He thus enclosed the letters within an architectural canopy drawn in perspective. Hoefnagel also responded wittily to the black coloration of the page, interpreting it naturalistically as nighttime: the silvery tones of the animal's fur and the gold shimmer in the darkness.

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Masterpieces of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript illumination (December 16, 1997 to March 22, 1998)
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Related Media
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    Audio: Sloth / Mira calligraphae monumenta