The exhibition features thirty-five illuminated manuscripts and the fragments of three manuscripts, which have been selected by the author as the most beautiful and significant monuments of books and painting from the manuscript collection of the National and University Library. The manuscripts on exhibitions were produced from the late 9th up till the early 16th century. They represent numerous European painting schools.
Presented are selected manuscripts that have wondered into our part of the world through various connections of orders, aristocratic links or the merits of the collector’s zeal of individual bibliophiles, or were produced on the territory of present-day Slovenia. Apart from the Romanesque manuscripts from Stična and the Gothic manuscripts from Žiče Charterhouse, the works are not connected, displaying the characteristics of regional European schools or masters.
Romanesque manuscripts from Stična
These manuscripts make up for the largest group of manuscripts in the exhibition. Although it cannot be said that a monastic scriptorium existed in Stična – a uniform and recognisable pictorial language did therefore not develop here – the manuscripts are nevertheless connected by some common characteristics. Mainly, already at first glance, they have a uniform effect in terms of colour. The Stična manuscripts make an impression with their typically colourful tendril initials, with the frequently included zoomorphic elements and with the illustrated portraits of the manuscript writers and clerical dignitaries. The splendid manuscripts, whose origin encouraged the agility of Abbot Folknand, were produced in Stična in a relatively short time, mostly from 1175 and up till 1181/1182. Ten personal painting styles can be recognised in them. Bernard went down in history as one of the famous masters, whereas others are provisionally named either by the most impressive works of literary authors (Augustine Master, Gregory Master, Isidore Master), or by the typical decorations of initials (Master of Tubular Leaves, Master of the Long Palmated Leaves …)
Manuscripts from the Žiče Charterhouse
In the late 14th century the Žiče Charterhouse was amongst the most influential European monasteries and intellectual centres. In around 1400 a special style was developed here which is defined by complex fleuronnée initials, written out with pen and various coloured inks. Presented are the Prayer Book (NUK, Ms 43) and Psalter (NUK, Ms 21) from a time around 1423, and an about half a century older manuscript (with a text whose author is the mystic Henricus de Susa, NUK, Ms 27) which actually travelled from the Jurklošter Charterhouse to the Bistra Charterhouse, but was undoubtedly produced in the Žiče Charterhouse. This also bears witness to the close connections and reciprocal help that existed among Carthusian monasteries.
French manuscripts and manuscripts with French influences
Fleuronnée ornaments first appeared in French Manuscripts. The typical forms of fleuronnée ornaments from Parisian and old Dutch workshops are presented in the exhibition by three biblical manuscripts produced in the 13th century, which probably made their way to Slovenia through monastic (Cistercian and Carthusian) connections. However, the French-Mosan circle of the early 14th century is linked to the appearance of the rich and wittily painted decorated manuscript (NUK, Ms 33) which includes Monaldo’s Encyclopaedia of Canon Law.
The manuscripts on show which were produced in the towns of Italy reveal variety in terms of content. The oldest manuscript, the New Testament part of the Bible (NUK, Ms 26) was produced after the mid-12th century in northern Italy and in its tendril and zoomorphic ornamentation displays typical Romanesque elements, well known also from the milieu of Normandy and England. A good century younger is the north-Italian manuscript (NUK, Ms 4) with the postscript of Papias’ Lexicon. Two manuscripts with canonical texts from the end of the 14th century are linked to Florence. However, the youngest Italian manuscript – The Venetian Chronicle with Heraldry Book of aristocratic families (NUK, Ms 159) – can be dated to the second quarter of the 16th century.
Austrian and German Manuscripts
One of the most settled paths along which medieval scribes stepped and along which codices arrived, went from the centre of Carniola (Ljubljana, Kranj, Škofja Loka) through Styria (Celje, Ptuj) to Vienna, and from there onto Prague or south Germany. Thus Gothic manuscripts are most often linked to events in Vienna and Prague in terms of style and content. The excellent manuscripts display the strokes of Austrian illuminators such as Aurhaym, Master of the Missal for Wolfgang of Rein, Morand Master, Ulrich Schreier, etc.
Since several monuments of incredible quality belonging to other professions – which have their roots in the same art environment and therefore relate to the manuscript creations in terms of design and iconography – have been preserved on Slovenian soil along with monuments of book painting from around 1400, one of the best quality Slovenian sculptures, The Beautiful Madonna from the gallery’s permanent exhibition, the work of the Ptujska gora workshop dating from around 1410, was also included in the exhibition.
Glagolitic and Cyrillic manuscripts
These manuscripts originate from the treasuries of two important book collectors: from the library of Baron Sigmund Zois and from the library of linguist Jernej Kopitar. Five Glagolitic manuscripts and a Gospel Book written in the Bosnian form of the Cyrillic alphabet are ranged at the end of the 14th century or the first half of the 15th century. The Ljubljana Missal (NUK, Ms 162) belongs to one of the Glagolitic manuscripts of the highest quality from the early 15th century, which was copied very attentively and to a large extent also decorated with paintings by Master Bartol from Krbava.
The mysterious witnesses of the today – unfortunately – lost medieval codices, are the individual fragments, which have remained preserved as pastedown and as reinforcement in the folds of later modern books. The oldest in the exhibition are the Carolingian fragments of the Ermenrich’s Epistolary, the Czech biblical fragment from the end of the 14th century stands out in terms of its painted decoration, whereas a piece of parchment conceals and at the same time reveals a literary tale of a multitude of meanings, on which a gallant gentleman with a book in his hands is depicted in brown ink.
A feature in the exhibition is the folding calendar, intended for practical use, which lasts forever. It contains a collection of information about saints and festive days and about astrologic-astronomic exchanges. The little calendar was produced in 1415 in Utrecht as a product of an established workshop, from which another three, besides the one in Ljubljana, are known.
At the beginning of the exhibition at the National Gallery of Slovenia, from 7 to 10 September 2010, the Seventeenth Colloquium of the Comité International de Paléographie Latine will also be held, the content of which is organised by the author of the exhibition, Professor Dr. Nataša Golob from the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana.
Implementation of the exhibition project
National Gallery of Slovenia
Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana
National and University Library
Author of the exhibition and catalogue
Project leader and editor of the catalogue
Conservation-restoration preparation of the material for exhibition
Manuscripts for the exhibition were loaned by
National and University Library, Ljubljana
The project was financially supported by
The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia
The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia