From around 1250 to the close of the fifteenth century, the most important and original work being done in secular illumination was unquestionably in French vernacular history manuscripts. This volume celebrates the vivid historical imagery produced during these years by bringing together some of the finest masterpieces of illumination created in the Middle Ages. It is the first major publication to focus on exploring the ways in which text and illumination worked together to help show medieval readers the role and purpose of history.
The images enabled the past to come alive before the eyes of medieval readers by relating the adventures of epic figures such as Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great, the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, and even the Virgin Mary.
Presented here are approximately fifty-five manuscripts from over twenty-five libraries and museums across the United States and Europe, supplemented by medieval objects ranging from tapestries to ivory boxes. Together they show how historical narratives came to play a decisive role at the French court and in the process inspired some of the most original and splendid artworks of the time. Additional contributors to this volume include Élisabeth Antoine, R. Howard Bloch, Keith Busby, Joyce Coleman, Erin K. Donovan, and Gabrielle M. Spiegel. An exhibition of the same name will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from November 16, 2010, through February 6, 2011.
Elizabeth Morrison is curator in the Department of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Anne D. Hedeman is professor of art history at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Available November 2010