Abbey Bible

Object Details


Abbey Bible






about 1250 - 1262


Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment covered with oak boards backed in white alum-tawed pigskin


Closed: 27 x 19.7 cm (10 5/8 x 7 3/4 in.)

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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.

Related Works
International Art Treasures Exhibition (1962) (no. 650; fols. 3v-4)
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, (London), 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) (3; fol. 223v - 224)
  • Frist Center for the Visual Arts, (Nashville), October 31, 2014 to January 25, 2015

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