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313
ILLUMINATED MSS.


poem. The MS. may have been executed in Italy, and there is good reason to assign the fragments to the 3rd century. The character of the art is quite classical, bearing comparison with that of the wall-paintings of Pompeii and the catacombs. Equally classical in their style are the fifty illustrative pictures of the Vatican Virgil, known as the Schedae Vaticanae, of the 4th century; but in these we find an advance on the Homeric fragments in the direction of decoration, for gilt shading is here employed to heighten the lights, and the frames in which the pictures are set are ornamented with gilt lozenges. A second famous MS. of Virgil in the Vatican library is the Codex Romanus, a curious instance of rough and clumsy art, with its series of illustrations copied by an unskilful hand from earlier classical models. And a still later example of persistence of the classical tradition is seen in the long roll of the book of Joshua, also in the Vatican, perhaps of the 10th century, which is filled with a. series of outline drawings of considerable merit, copied from an earlier MS. But all such MSS. exhibit little tendency to decoration, and if the book ornamentation of the early middle ages had been practised only in the western empire and not also at Constantinople, it is very doubtful if the brilliant illumination which was afterwards developed would have ever existed. When the centre of government passed eastward, Roman art came under Oriental influence with its sense of splendour, and developed the style known as Byzantine which, in its Byzan- . . . .

img earlier stages, and until it became stereotyped in character, was broad in its drawing, on classical lines, and brilliant in its colouring, and which introduced a profuse application of gold in the details of ornament. Reacting on the art of the west, the influence of the Byzantine or Greek school is not only prominent in such early works as the mosaics of Ravenna, but it has also left its mark in the peculiar character of Italian pictorial art of the middle ages.

Very few examples of early Byzantine work in MSS. have survived; but two fragmentary leaves (Brit. Mus., Add. MS. SI rr) of tables of the Eusebian canons, which must have stood at the beginning of a copy of the Gospels, executed no doubt in the Eastern capital in the 6th century, are sufficient to exemplify the splendour of ornament which might be lavished on book decoration at that date. The surface of the vellum is entirely gilt, and the ornamental designs are in classical style and painted in bright colours. Two well-known MSS., the Genesis of the Imperial Library of Vienna, of the latter part of the 6th century, and the Gospels of Rossano in southern Italy, of the same period, both containing series of illustrative paintings of a semi-classical type, are very interesting specimens of Byzantine art; but they depend on their purple vellum and their silver-written texts to claim a place among highly ornamented MSS., for the paintings themselves are devoid of gold. On the other hand, the Greek MS. of Genesis, of the 5th or 6th century, which once formed part of the Cottonian collection in the British Museum, but which was almost totally destroyed by fire, was of a more artistic character: the drawing of its miniatures was of great merit and classical in style, and gold shading was largely employed in the details. The famous MS. of Dioscorides at Vienna, executed in the year 472, is another excellent example of the early Byzantine school, its series of paintings at the beginning of the volume 'well maintaining the classical sentiment.

From such early examples Byzantine art advanced to a maturer style in the oth and 10th centuries, two MSS. in the Bibliothèque Nationale of I'aris being types of the best work of this time. These are: the copy of the sermons of Gregory Nazianzen (MS. Gres. 510), executed about the year 880 and containing a scries of large miniatures, some being of the highest excellence; and a psalter of the 10th century (MS. Grec. 139), among whose miniatures are examples which still maintain the old sentiment of classical art in a remarkable degree, one in particular, representing David as the psalmist, being an adapted copy of a classical scene of Orpheus and the Muses. The same scene is repeated in a later Psalter in the Vatican: an instance of the repetition of favourite subjects from one century to another which is common throughout the history of medieval art. At the period of the full maturity of the Byzantine school great skill is displayed in the best examples of figure-drawing, and a fine type of head and features is found in the miniatures of such MSS. as the Homilies of Chrysosiom at Paris, which belonged to the emperor Nicephorus III., IO78°IO8I, and in the best copies of the Gospels and Saints' Lives of that period, some of them being of exquisite finish. By this time also the scheme of decoration was established. Brilliant gilded backgrounds. give lustre to the miniatures. Initial letters in gold and colours are in ordinary use; but, it is to be observed, they never become very florid, but are rather meagre in outline, nor do they develop the pendants and borders which are afterwards so characteristic of the illuminated MSS. of the west. By way of general decora» tion, the rectangular head-pieces, which are such prominent features in Greek MSS. from the 10th to the 13th centuries, flourish in flowered and tessellated and geometric patterns in bright colours and gold. These are palpably of Oriental design, and may very well have been suggested by the woven fabrics of western Asia. »

But Byzantine art was not destined to have a great history. Too self-contained and, under ecclesiastical influence, too much secluded from the contact with other ideas and other influences which are vitally necessary for healthy growth and expansion, it fell into stereotyped and formal convention and ran in narrow grooves. A general tendency was set up to paint the flesh tints in swarthy hues, to elongate and emaciate the limbs, to stiflen the gait, and generally to employ sombre colours in the miniatures, the depressing effect of which the artist seems to have felt himself compelled to relieve by rather startling contrasts of bright Vermilion and lavish employment of gold. Still the initials and head-pieces continued to retain their brilliancy, of which they could scarcely be deprived without losing their raison d'étre as decorative adjuncts. But, with all faults, fine and delicate drawing, with technical nnish in the applied colours, is still characteristic of the best Greek miniatures of the 10th to 12th centuries, and the nne type of head and features of the older time remains a tradition. For example, in the Gospel lectionary, Harleian MS. 1810, in the British Museum, of the 12th century, there is a series of scenes from the life of Christ which are more than usually free from the contemporary conventionalism and which contain many figures of noble design. After the 12th century there is little in the art of Greek MSS. to detain us. The later examples, asfar as they exist, are decadent and are generally lifeless copies of the earlier MSS. Byzantine art, as seen in Greek MSS., stands apart as a thing of itself. But we shall have to consider how far and in what manner it had an influence on western art. Its reaction and influence on Italian art have been mentioned. That that influence was direct is manifest both in the style of such works as the mosaics of Italy and in the character of the paintings of the early Italian masters, and eventually in the earliest examples of the illuminated MSS. of central and southern Italy. But it is not so obvious how the influence which the eastern art of the Greek school undoubtedly exercised on the illuminated MSS. of the Frankish empire was conveyed. All things considered, however, it seems more probable that it passed westward through the medium of Italian art rather than by actual contact, except perhaps in accidental instances.

We turn to the west of Europe, and we shall see how in the elaborately ornamented F rankish MSS. of the Carolingian school was combined the lingering tradition of the classical F style with a new and independent element which had L';:f°° grown up spontaneously in the north. This new bardlc. factor was the Celtic art which had its origin and was brought to perfection in the illuminated MSS(of Ireland and afterwards of Britain. It will therefore be convenient to trace the history of that school of book ornamentation. But before doing so we must dispose, in few words, of the more primitive style which preceded the Carolingian development in western continental Europe. This primitive style, which we may cas

the native style, as distinguished from the more artificially