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Abbey Bible
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Unknown
Italian, probably Bologna, about 1250 - 1262
Tempera and gold leaf on parchment covered with oak boards backed in white alum-tawed pigskin
10 5/8 x 7 3/4 in.
MS. 107

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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.

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