The ARTES Coll&Cortes travel scholarship granted me the opportunity to travel to Spain to examine three illustrated copies of Beatus of Liébana’s Commentarium in Apocalypsin (generally known as Beatus) on which my doctoral thesis is grounded.
My research concerns the production, illumination and impact of the Beatus manuscripts, with particular focus on the analysis of the text and image relationship. In this investigation I consider five specimens – the Beatus of Morgan, Valcavado, Urgell, Facundus and Silos – that form a particular group known as ‘family IIa’, which present remarkable textual and iconographic affinities. Moreover, these specimens also stand amongst the most lavishly illuminated copies within this tradition, thereby offering us rich material for an enquiry into questions of artistic production.
The careful and objective analysis of their differences and similarities, set against the general panorama of illustrated Apocalypses in the early medieval west, will therefore provide new evidence not only about the conceptualisation of their imagery but also concerning scribal and artistic practices in medieval Iberia.
One of the main subjects under investigation is the use of colour in the Beatus IIa miniatures. Through this analysis I aim to shed new light on how illuminators responded to the literary sources they were illustrating – Revelation and, to a more limited extent, Beatus of Liébana’s own commentary – themselves rich in colour references. Given that most of my prior research had been conducted through the observation of facsimile editions and other surrogates, it was crucial to examine the manuscripts at first hand, as even the best editions do not reproduce the material and chromatic qualities of the original works accurately enough for a study of this nature. For this reason, and having already examined the Morgan and the Silos Beatus (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.644; London, British Library, Add MS 11695, respectively), travelling to Spain to consult in situ the Beatus of Facundus (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS Vitrina 14-2), Valcavado (Valladolid, Biblioteca de la Universidad, MS 433) and Urgell (Museu Diocesá de La Seu d’Urgell, Num. Inv. 501) was essential.
I began my research trip at the Biblioteca Nacional de España, in Madrid, where I examined the Facundus copy: an exquisite specimen commissioned by Fernando I and his wife Sancha in 1047.My main aim was to check the exact nature of its palette and pigment application, the employment of metallic inks and other general aspects of production and use, such as make up, collation and marginalia. Following my examination of this manuscript, I dedicated some days to a further exploration of the bibliographical resources of the BNE, focusing on secondary material that cannot be found in libraries in the United Kingdom.
My next destination was the university city of Valladolid, where the Beatus of Valcavado is held at the Biblioteca Histórica de Santa Cruz, as part of the university’s collection of historic manuscripts. As stated in its colophon, this manuscript was produced by the scribe Obeco in 970; however, no information concerning its centre of production or the nature of its commission is offered. With the diligent assistance of the library staff, I conducted a similar examination of this manuscript. I was particularly struck by the differences in its colour scheme in relation to its counterparts as well as by some particular choices of pigments in relation to the iconography.
In order to examine the last manuscript in this group I had to travel to the Catalonian town of La Seu d’Urgell, located in the foothills of the Pyrenees. En route, I had the opportunity to visit the Cathedral treasury Museum of Girona where another Beatus copy is kept. While not being one of my primary sources (as it is part of another family within the tradition), seeing the Girona Beatus in exhibition was nevertheless very instructive as it enabled me to think more critically about colour use in early Iberian illumination more broadly.
Subsequently, I concluded my research trip in the Archivo Diocesano de Urgell where I inspected the Urgell Beatus: a copy of uncertain origin but which has been dated to the end of the tenth century on palaeographical and artistic grounds. The examination of this manuscript was surprising: despite being generally considered as a more humble specimen, its palette is composed of rich and vibrant bright colours. As in the case of Valcavado, this manuscript too shows some telling individual responses to the use of colour in relation to the iconography.
Thus, the first-hand examination of these three Beatus was essential in order to confirm and refine the research conducted to date, and it has given me a greater insight into the material and chromatic properties of these specimens. It has also enabled me to conclude that, despite their relatively distinctive colour schemes, they also share evident patterns of colour use – an aspect which raises more questions concerning not only the artistic tradition but also about the nature of these images.
From a more technical perspective, this research trip has also allowed me to learn about the conservation policies of different libraries and archives, which is invaluable knowledge for someone working in the field of manuscript studies.
I am most grateful to ARTES and Coll&Cortes for their continuing support to my research and for giving me the opportunity and the privilege to conduct this investigation.
ISLAMIC ART CIRCLE at SOAS
The Palace of Pedro I in Seville, ‘very much like the residence of the Muslim kings’?
Dr Tom Nickson
Wednesday, 11 October 2017
7.00 p.m., Khalili Lecture Theatre, Main Building, SOAS
Chaired by Professor Hugh Kennedy
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On Thursday 29 June ARTES celebrated the winners of its annual scholarships and of the Juan Facundo Riaño Essay Prize with a ceremony held at the Wallace Collection in London. The Collection’s director Xavier Bray and Carmen Brieva Rodriguez from the Cultural Office of the Spanish Embassy joined the celebration.
ARTES started offering travel and PhD scholarships three years ago, with the aim to support and nurture young scholars in the field of Iberian and Latin American studies. The prizes are sponsored by Coll y Cortés and were awarded to the following researchers:
- Ana Dias, a PhD candidate at the University of Durham, working on ‘The Apocalypse in early medieval Iberia: the function and impact of the illuminated ‘Beatus’ manuscripts.’ Ana will use her prize to conduct crucial fieldwork in three libraries in Spain, where she will examine three manuscripts of Beatus’ work to analyse at first hand their codicology, illumination and palette.
- Maria Teresa Chicote Pompanin, a PhD candidate at the Warburg Institute, who will make three trips to Spain to examine archives, buildings and objects in connection with her research project, titled ‘Patronage, Fame and Memory in Late-Medieval Castile: Juan and Diego Pacheco, Marquises of Villena (1445 – 1529).’
PhD Scholarship for PhD students at working on Hispanic visual culture before 1800 at a UK University:
- Maeve O’Donnell, for her PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art: ‘The Castilian Altar in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries: A social and material history.’ Maeve’s thesis approaches the medieval altar as an assemblage of artworks with individual and cumulative religious, social and material significance. By donating or producing the different furnishings of the altar, craftsmen, merchants, bishops, and monarchs established personal links to this sacred space. In addition, objects displayed on the altar in medieval Castile functioned as barometers of political and economic shifts in this dynamic kingdom. Her analysis of Castilian altarpieces, frontals, figurative sculptures, liturgical objects, reliquaries and textiles unearths works of art that have not been studied before while offering an innovative approach to the medieval altar.
Scholarship for PhD students or post-doctoral researchers based in Spain, Portugal or Latin America who wish to conduct research in the UK:
- Ignacio J. López Hernández, who is working on a dissertation about Architecture and Military Buildings in the Spanish Caribbean under the supervision of Dr Alfredo Morales at the University of Seville.
This year the Scholarship Committee was able to make two additional awards:
- Francisco de Asís García García, for his travel to the UK to study reports and files held at the V&A’s Archive related to Medieval and Early Modern textile acquisitions from Spain (or of possible Spanish origin) and the iconographical analysis of selected pieces. This work is a joint collaborative study with the Marie S.-Curie project “Interwoven” (no. 703711) led by Dr Ana Cabrera Lafuente at the V&A.
- Sylvia Alvares-Correa, a PhD candidate at Oxford, whose research considers the Flemish artworks associated with Rainha Dona Leonor of Portugal (1458-1525), including Quentin Metsys’s The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin; Goswyn van der Weyden’s Presentation at the Temple; a number of manuscripts, and the anonymous Passion of Christ in Jerusalem panorama, amongst others. By investigating the historiography, materiality, and iconography of these works and their place within the ambit of Dona Leonor’s piety and patronage, this project will contribute to the broader understanding of patterns of patronage in early modern Europe, artistic exchange between Flanders and Iberia, and the devotional climate of Renaissance Portugal.
The winner of the 2017 Juan Facundo Riaño Essay Prize was also announced. This prize was set up 5 years ago with the generous support of the Office for Scientific and Cultural Affairs of the Embassy of Spain in London, and includes a cash prize and a specially designed bronze medal. Like the scholarships, the essay prize is intended to encourage promising scholars in the study of Spanish visual culture (from any period) and is open to students at UK universities at any level of study.
This year’s winner was David Cambronero, a MA student at the Courtauld Institute of Art, who gave a short presentation based on his essay on lighting in the Great Mosque of Córdoba in the caliphal period.