Initial I: Scenes of the Creation of the World and the Crucifixion

Object Details

Title:

Initial I: Scenes of the Creation of the World and the Crucifixion

Artist/Maker(s):

Unknown

Culture:

Franco-Flemish

Date:

about 1270

Medium:

Tempera colors, black ink, and gold leaf on parchment

Dimensions:

Leaf: 47 x 30.8 cm (18 1/2 x 12 1/8 in.)

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This grand initial I for In principio creavit Deus (In the beginning God created) not only opens the text of Genesis but also the Bible as a whole. Embedded within the letter is a sequence of medallions representing the events of Creation and, at the bottom, the Crucifixion. This uniquely Christian view of time links God's work in creating the world to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. So pivotal is this theme to Christian theology that the illuminator has chosen it as the subject for the most elaborate initial in this multivolume book.

The Lord is present in all seven of the Creation medallions; he forms land out of the void, gives life to the sea, creates plant life, places the sun and moon in the sky, brings into being the animals of the sky and those of the land, and fashions Eve out of Adam's rib. In the lowest medallion, Jesus' limp body hangs on the cross between the Virgin Mary and Saint John. While the left side of the initial contains a winding vine-scroll with biting animal heads, the right side frames the first line of the text [I]n principio creavit deus celum et terram (In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth), which is read vertically.

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