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Bologna, Italy (Place Created)
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink
Ms. 107 (2011.23)
Closed: 27 × 19.7 cm (10 5/8 × 7 3/4 in.)
Produced for the use of a Dominican monastery, the Abbey Bible is one of the earliest and finest in a distinguished group of north Italian Bibles from the second half of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Most of these are associated with Bologna, one of the major centers for the production of Gothic illuminated Bibles. Its illumination is a superb example of the influence of the Byzantine style of the eastern Mediterranean that played a dominant role in Italian painting and manuscript illumination in the second half of the thirteenth century.
The illumination and marginal vignettes of the Abbey Bible are remarkable for their liveliness and delicacy. Sensitively depicted facial expressions, rare among Bibles of this era, and dynamic compositions, reveal the artist to be a skilled storyteller.
While filled with amusing figures and spirited pen flourishes, the Bible was nevertheless intended for serious use and study. The text contains many edits, corrections, and amendments, suggesting a university origin for the manuscript. The book appears to be made for a Dominican monastery and devout Dominicans and Franciscans appear prominently in its imagery.
mid 13th century
Commissioned for a Dominican Monastery, Possibly Cathedral (Ascoli Piceno)
Ellis & Co. (Bond Street, London), sold to C.W. Dyson Perrins, 1913.
1913 - 1958
Charles William Dyson Perrins, English, 1864 - 1958
Source: Perrins collection sticker, numbered 152.
1958 - 1959
Estate of Charles William Dyson Perrins, English, 1864 - 1958 [sold, "Catalogue of Forty-Six Western and Oriental Illuminated Manuscripts. The Property of the Late C.W. Dyson Perrins", Sotheby's, London, December 1, 1959, lot 61, to Maggs Bros. Ltd.]
1959 - 1965
Maggs Bros. Ltd. (London), sold to Major J.R. Abbey, September 19, 1965.
1965 - 1969
Major John Roland Abbey, English, 1894 - 1969
1969 - 1989
Estate of Major John Roland Abbey, English, 1894 - 1969 [sold, "Catalogue of the Celebrated Library of the Late Major J.R. Abbey. The Eleventh and Final Portion...", Sotheby's, London, June 19, 1989, lot 3013, to Bernard Quaritch on behalf of the Arcana Foundation.]
1989 - 2011
Arcana Foundation [sold, "The Arcana Collection: Exceptional Illuminated Manuscripts and Incunabula, Part I", Christie's, London, July 7, 2010, lot 28, to the J. Paul Getty Museum.]
Note: The manuscript has been in the United States for more than twenty years. Christie's acted as an agent for the seller.
Third International Art Treasures Exhibition (March 2 to April 29, 1962) (fols. 3v-4)
- Victoria and Albert Museum (London), March 2 to April 29, 1962
Gothic Grandeur: Manuscript Illumination 1200-1350 (December 13, 2011 to May 13, 2012) (fols. 3v-4; fols. 194v-195)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 13, 2011 to May 13, 2012
The Art of Devotion in the Middle Ages (August 28, 2012 to February 5, 2013) (fols. 223v-224)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), August 28, 2012 to February 5, 2013
Heaven and Earth: Byzantine Illumination at the Cultural Crossroads (March 25 to June 22, 2014) (fols. 194v-195)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 25 to June 22, 2014
Sanctity Pictured: The Art of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders in Renaissance Italy (October 31, 2014 to January 25, 2015) (fols. 223v-224)
- Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville), October 31, 2014 to January 25, 2015
Artful Words: Calligraphy in Illuminated Manuscripts (December 18, 2018 to April 7, 2019) (fols. 96v-97; fols. 185v-186)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 18, 2018 to April 7, 2019
Painted Prophecy: The Hebrew Bible through Christian Eyes (March 10 to June 22, 2020) (fols. 3v-4)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 10 to June 22, 2020
Medieval Bologna: Art for a University City (November 5, 2021 to January 30, 2022) (fol. 1)
- Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville), November 5, 2021 to January 30, 2022
Warner, George. Descriptive Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts in the Library of C. W. Dyson Perrins. 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1920), vol. 1, pp. 138-145, no. 51; vol. 2, unpaginated, pls. 53-55.
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Avril, François, and Marie-Thérèse Gousset. Manuscrits Enluminés d'Origine Italienne. Vol. 2, XIIIe siècle (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1984), pp. 77n7, 78n8-9, 86.
de Hamel, Christopher. A History of Illuminated Manuscripts (Oxford: Phaidon, 1986), p. 117, pl. 114.
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Marrow, James H. "An Italianate Episode in Dutch Manuscript Illumination."Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 46-47, part 2 (1993/1994), p. 473n10.
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