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ARTES Coll&Cortes travel scholarship report: Ana Dias, PhD Candidate at Durham University

Fig 1 Biblioteca Nacional de EspañaThe 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.

Fig 3 Biblioteca Histórica de Santa Cruz Valladolid

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.

Fig2 Biblioteca Histórica de Santa Cruz Valladolid

Fig 5 View from the Archivo Diocesano de Urgell to the natural parc del CadíIn 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.Fig4 Archivo Diocesano de La Seu d'Urgell

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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ARTES Coll y Cortés 2017 post-doctoral scholarship report: Dr Francisco de Asís García García, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

 

Fig. 2. Woven silk fragments. Victoria and Albert Museum, 275 and 275A-1894

Woven silk fragments. Victoria and Albert Museum inv. 275 and 275A-1894

I have carried out a three-month fellowship in London from March 1st to May 31st, 2017, conducting research in several museums, libraries and academic institutions of the city. My main goal was to study a selection of textiles from the Furniture, Textiles and Fashion (FTF) Department of the Victoria & Albert Museum. I have undertaken this work as an Erasmus + Visiting Fellow at the V&A’s Research Department in collaboration with the Marie S.-Curie project Interwoven (no. 703711) led by Dr Ana Cabrera Lafuente. Dr Cabrera acted as my fellowship’s supervisor and this granted me the opportunity of working closely to a specialist. Thanks to this, I have acquired new knowledge and methodological skills in the field of textiles.

Fig. 1. Working session at V&A Clothworkers' Centre

Working session at the V&A’s Clothworker’s Centre

I based my study on the examination of raw materials, weaving techniques, decorative patterns and iconography of textile fragments and ecclesiastical vestments related to Medieval and Early-modern Iberia. These pieces were selected in accordance with the interests of the Interwoven project and my own. The research also paid attention to the dispersion of connected fragments and pieces among different institutions and collections, identifying them through a comparison of their catalogues and online databases. The reading of records and files held at the V&A’s Archive related to acquisitions from Spain in the early decades of the Museum helped me to complete the biographical information of certain pieces. The physical examination of the textiles was carried out with Dr Cabrera at the Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion, while the bibliographical and writing work took place at the V&A’s FTF Department. This research will allow the Museum to update their textile collections’ data and widen the scope of information accessible on the Museum’s own database and its online version ‘Search the Collections’.

Fig. 3. The Warburg Institute Library. 1st floor

The Warburg Library, first floor

Beyond my work at V&A, I was able to devote a few daily hours to library research at the Warburg Institute, SOAS, and the British Library. During these sessions, I dedicated my time to the gathering of bibliographical material for an ongoing study on the role of textiles in the fashioning of clerical dignity and the valuation of the ecclesiastical space during the central Middle Ages in Iberia. I presented the preliminary results of this research during the ‘Work in Progress Seminars’ held in the V&A’s Research Department with a talk entitled ‘Ecclesiastical textiles and vestments from Medieval Iberia: promoting the clergy and shaping sacred space in a reforming church’ (May 2nd, 2017). Moreover, the access to the bibliographical resources held at these institutions enabled me to update and enrich the contents and critical apparatus of the forthcoming publication of my PhD dissertation, focused on the Romanesque sculpture of the Cathedral of Jaca.

During my stay in London I was pleased to attend conferences on Medieval Iberian art and Islamic studies, particularly the symposium ‘Gothic Architecture in Spain: Invention and Imitation’ (The Courtauld Institute of Art, March 16th, 2017) and the workshop ‘Researching the Islamic State: New Challenges and Opportunities’ (UCL, March 28-29th, 2017), as well as lectures and seminars on Medieval sculpture, Late Gothic fashion and Arabic palaeography –among other topics– at The Courtauld and SOAS. I was also able to exchange ideas with scholars specialising in textiles and in Spanish Medieval Art as Drs Lesley Miller, Tom Nickson, Rose Walker, Kirstin Kennedy and Nicola Jennings, and benefit from their advice and research experience.

By Dr Francisco de Asís García García, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

ARTES Coll & Cortes 2015 PhD scholarship report. ‘The Apocalypse in early medieval Iberia: the function and impact of the illuminated “Beatus” ‘

A report by Ana de Oliveira Dias, PhD candidate at Durham University, on the research she is conducting with the help of her scholarship

My Ph.D focuses on the illustrated copies of Beatus of Liébana’s In Apocalypsin, generally known as the Hispanic ‘Beatus’. Alongside Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae, Beatus’s Commentary is regarded as a fundamental work of medieval Iberia, testified by its wide and continuous dissemination in this context, from the eighth to the thirteenth century.

The New Jerusalem, Beato de Liébana, Commentarium in Apocalipsin, (codex of Fernando I and Doña Sancha), Biblioteca Nacional de España VITR./14/2/, f. 253v.

The New Jerusalem, Beato de Liébana, Commentarium in Apocalipsin, (codex of Fernando I and Doña Sancha), Biblioteca Nacional de España VITR./14/2/, f. 253v.

As well as being amongst the greatest Hispanic bibliographic treasures, the ‘Beatus’ are similarly considered to be one of the most lavishly illuminated bodies of manuscripts in the western world. My project is an ambitious and rigorous re-examination of this corpus in its historical, religious and cultural context, investigating both the production and reception of these manuscripts. Building on this solid contextualisation, my research addresses the challenging questions of the purposes and impact of the ‘Beatus’ as an illustrated text, and aims to understand how scribes, miniaturists, and readers, may have interpreted them. Hence, this analysis will provide insight into how these remarkable books may have been used more generally, and by extension, will also shed light on the impact of the Apocalypse in medieval Iberia.

I am currently starting the second year of my Ph.D in Durham University, with the sponsorship of ARTES Coll & Cortés Ph.D Scholarship. During my first year of research, I focused on the contextual aspects of the ‘Beatus’. I considered these manuscripts against the general panorama of illustrated Apocalypses, and have examined their origins, particularities, and relevance as one of the most complete Apocalypse pictorial cycles. I have also explored the context of book production in early medieval Iberia. A closer look at monastic literary culture, and library holdings, was a fundamental part of my research, which has enabled me to grasp better the significance of the ‘Beatus’ in this specific milieu, and to understand which other authors and texts were prominent for Iberian monasticism. I have also conducted primary source analysis. The study of the ‘Beatus’s colophons was the starting point, as these remarkable textual inscriptions, of unusual length and content, offer a glimpse into scribal and scriptoria practices in medieval Iberia. Most importantly, they provide precious information concerning the role of these manuscripts, and how scribes envisaged their production processes as important acts of devotion. The results of this analysis will be integrated into a chapter of my dissertation on the significance of the ‘Beatus’ in the landscape of medieval Iberian monastic culture.

The Seven angels empty the vials, Beato de Liébana, Commentarium in Apocalipsin, (codex of Fernando I and Doña Sancha), Biblioteca Nacional de España VITR./14/2/, f. 213r

The Seven angels empty the vials, Beato de Liébana, Commentarium in Apocalipsin, (codex of Fernando I and Doña Sancha), Biblioteca Nacional de España VITR./14/2/, f. 213r

I have also focused on the textual analysis of Beatus of Liébana’s In Apocalypsin. One of my main goals in engaging with a work of such rich symbolism, has been to understand how its readers may have conceptualised and interpreted the Book of Revelation, and how this may have shaped their mentality and ‘imagination’. This analysis has been conducted in parallel with an examination of the Beatus’s iconographic programme, so as to observe how these images relate, on a primary level, to both the Scriptures and the Commentary. To assess the most suitable copies for this research, I concluded my first year with the study of the Beatus families, in order to comprehend the intricate textual and iconographic kinship between these manuscripts, which has been under discussion for many decades, chiefly in works by Neuss and Sanders (1931), Klein (1976), and Williams (1994).

By and large, my first year of research was dedicated to fundamental contextual work, which has given me a solid foundation concerning the cultural and spiritual setting in which the Hispanic ‘Beatus’ were produced. Building on this knowledge, my second year will begin with a thorough and systematic analysis of the Beatus’s visual imagery, focusing on the role of symbols and allegory in these representations, so as to elucidate the possible function and meaning of these remarkable illustrated manuscripts.