The J. Paul Getty Museum

Initial I: Scenes of Secular and Ecclesiastical Justice

Object Details


Initial I: Scenes of Secular and Ecclesiastical Justice






Paris, France; Sens (or), France (Place Created)


about 1170–1180


Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment

Object Number:

Ms. Ludwig XIV 2 (83.MQ.163), fol. 1


Leaf: 44.3 × 29.1 cm (17 7/16 × 11 7/16 in.)

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Object Description

The anonymous illuminator or illuminators of this copy of Gratian's Decretals marked the introduction to the text with a large initial I that begins the sentence: In prima parte agitur de iusticia...(In the first part, the topic of justice is discussed). Occupying the left margin of the page, the initial I houses roundels that show kings and bishops dispensing justice. In the two upper roundels, the kings wielding swords are representatives of secular law, while the bishops in the two lower roundels represent Church authority. By placing the kings and bishops in their own roundels, the illuminator illustrated the concept of the separation of temporal and Church power, as outlined in Gratian's compilation. With its combination of imaginative hybrid creatures and coiling tendrils, the initial is typical of northern French Romanesque painting with strong English influences. The intertwining animals to the right of the initial I form the letter N, completing the word IN.

Ten Centuries of French Illumination (April 23 to July 7, 1996)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 23 to July 7, 1996
Five Hundred Years of Manuscript Illumination (February 11 to June 1, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 11 to June 1, 2003