Hugo of Fouilloy, author; Unknown illuminator
Franco-Flemish, Thérouanne?, about 1270
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment bound between pasteboard covered with brown morocco
Leaf: 7 1/2 x 5 5/8 in.

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Bestiaries, collections of moralizing descriptions of animals both real and legendary, were among the most popular books of the 1100s and 1200s. A pseudo-scientific catalogue, bestiary texts were drawn from the Greek Physiologus. Originally composed in the first centuries of the Christian era, translated into Latin in the 300s, and augmented throughout the Middle Ages, a bestiary explained the natural world in terms of Christian symbolism and precepts. The Getty Museum's manuscript is a compilation that includes two rare treatises by Hugo de Fouilloy in addition to the Bestiary. The first text is the Aviary, which uses the characteristics of different types of birds to make moral points. The second, Treatise on Flocks and Shepherds, constructs a metaphorical discussion of Christ as an abbot, taking care of his flock, and the abbot and monks in a monastery caring for their charges. Both of Hugo's Latin texts were intended for teaching lay brothers, those who performed manual work in a monastery. This manuscript, though made around 1270 in Flanders, is stylistically close to contemporary elegant Parisian illuminations produced at the court of King Louis IX, which are characterized by gracefully gesturing figures, vigorous outlines, and gold-patterned backgrounds.

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