Scholarship report from Ana Hernández, winner of the 2014 ARTES Coll y Cortes Scholarships for students wishing to conduct research in the UK

© The British Library Board, Ms. Add. 39924 f. 9v

© The British Library Board, Ms. Add. 39924 f. 9v

The research undertaken in the United Kingdom thanks to the ARTES / Coll&Cortés scholarship has been included in the framework of my doctoral thesis, ‘Tradition and copy in biblical manuscript illumination in the Iberian Peninsula. The Bibles of San Isidoro de León (1162) and San Millán de la Cogolla (ca. 1200)’, supervised by Dr. José Luis Senra at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

The main body of research had already been completed before being awarded the scholarship: I had thoroughly examined the Bibles of San Isidoro de León and San Millán de la Cogolla, which form the core of the project, as well as their model, the 10th-century Bible of San Isidoro. I had also been able to analyse many other Iberian and French 12th-century manuscripts in order to establish possible influences. Still, the work I carried out in London has allowed me to deepen my understanding of manuscript illumination in Romanesque Europe in general, and of the scriptorium of San Isidoro de León in particular.

Firstly, in order to unveil foreign influences at work on these Spanish Bibles and assess their place in the history of medieval book illustration, I needed to study objects from all over Europe. In this process, the examination of codices preserved in British libraries was the most important task to accomplish due to the strong connections between Spain and England in the 12th century. At that time, artists and workshops travelled from one territory to the other following the path of aristocrats, clergymen and royals such as queen Eleanor Plantagenet, who married the Castilian king Alfonso VIII in 1177. Clear artistic links, such as the involvement of some of the painters from the Winchester Bible on the murals of the chapter house of Sigena, were an important starting point when tackling this issue. Therefore, I needed to look at 12th-century English manuscripts, mainly Bibles such as the ones from Lambeth, Rochester or Bury Saint Edmunds, to assess their possible influence on the Isidorian and Emilianense manuscripts. Furthermore, the British Library preserves some very important illuminated biblical codices dated around the same time as the Leonese and Riojan Bibles from outside England, such as the Bibles from Parc Abbey, Arnstein, or Floreffe, which I had to see.

The comparative analysis I undertook was focused on style, but also looked at iconography and compositions. This study verified the existence of general correspondences between late Romanesque Spanish and European manuscript illustration. However, the parallels do not apply to the details in the Isidorian and Emilianense Bibles, suggesting that there was no direct interdependence between our miniaturists and English and Flemish workshops, as has been otherwise established in relation to French illumination.

© The British Library Board, Ms. Add. 39924 f. 10r

© The British Library Board, Ms. Add. 39924 f. 10r

The other task I carried out thanks to the scholarship was the analysis of a Sacramentary, British Library, Add. Ms. 39924, the only production of the Isidorian scriptorium currently outside the canonry’s library. In order to carry out a complete study of the workshop in San Isidoro de León in the second half of the 12th century, I needed to examine this manuscript commonly ascribed to it. The codex, made around 1187, was explored from the codicological and palaeographical points of view to verify its origin, and its two full-page miniatures of the Crucifixion and Maiestas were also closely scrutinised.

These observations showed that this work is similar to the other codices issued by the Leonese scriptorium, thus supporting its ascription to it. Quite simple in its decoration, it has been rebound more than once, in view of the current disorder of the quires, which appear in a very chaotic sequence, and the loss of many folios. The analysis of the two illustrations (ff. 9v-10r) and the simple decorated initial (f. 41v), has confirmed its date in the late 12th century. The fact that the style displayed in the two full-page miniatures has no counterpart in any of the other codices made in San Isidoro, corroborated how this scriptorium had to resort to external miniaturists’ workshops to decorate their manuscripts, an instance previously evidenced in the 1162 Bible. Thus, the information gathered from the study of this Sacramentary has confirmed some of my findings about the scriptorium in the Real Colegiata de San Isidoro de León.

In conclusion, the work carried out thanks to the ARTES / Coll&Cortés scholarship has been crucial for the understanding of the place held by the Romanesque Bibles from San Isidoro de León and San Millán de la Cogolla in the wider field of European illumination in the second half of the 12th century. Moreover, it has helped me understand how the scriptorium in San Isidoro de León worked, thus lending weight to the interpretation of data carried out in my doctoral thesis.

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