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Leaf from the Reichenau Gospels: An Abbot Presents the Book to Saint Peter
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Leaf from the Reichenau Gospels: An Abbot Presents the Book to Saint Peter


Description Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description The dedicatory picture of this gospel book from Germany contains a marvelous illustration of the medieval artistic process. Placed at the start of the book, this picture relates part of the story of this manuscript, collapsing into a single image several moments in time, and several levels of reality according to a medieval Christian viewpoint. On the left, a figure dressed in rich clerical garb hands a book (indeed, this very book we are looking at) to Saint Peter, the patron saint of the church in which the two figures are standing. With his left hand Peter gestures toward an altar on which the book is placed. Reaching down from above the altar, the hand of God blesses the gift from on high. Much of the art of the medieval period is encompassed within this framework: someone in a position of authority (in this case the abbot of the church of Saint Peter) commissioned an object (here a gospel book) for the glory of God, and perhaps for the glory of the patron's institution as well. Absent from this picture is the maker. This Gospel Book is believed to come from the Abbey of Reichenau, on Lake Constance, on the basis of its script and illumination. The decoration of the manuscript places it in the so-called Luithar school of Reichenau. Its ornamental motifs compare very closely with those in Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 4453, and its palette is nearly identical to that in the Reichenau manuscripts of the Bamberg Cathedral Treasury. Gold uncials begin each paragraph as well as the introductory words of each chapter; they are a distinct mark of Reichenau manufacture. The manuscript's text is written in Caroline minuscule. It is paleographically related to Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek Mss. Bibl. 76 and Bibl. 22, and also Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 4454. As a whole, it is an excellent example of Ottonian book illumination.
Exhibitions
  • Illuminated Manuscripts: Masterpieces in Miniature. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1984-1985.
  • Real People in the Middle Ages: Donor Portraits in Illuminated Manuscripts. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1987.
  • Schatzkammer: Henry Walters' German Manuscripts. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 2006.
  • The Saint John's Bible: A Modern Vision through Medieval Methods. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 2009.
Provenance Abbey of St. Peter, Reichenau (?), mid-11th century; German Library, 19th century [date and mode of acquisition unknown, no. 203]; Sir Thomas Brooke, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, after 1854 [acquired from the dealer G.I. Ellis, mode of acquisition unknown]; Ingraham Brooke, Sotheby's March 7, 1913, lot 8; Leon Gruel, after 1913 [mode of acquisition unknown]; Henry Walters, Baltimore [date of acquisition unknown], by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters

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Creator
Period
mid 11th century (Medieval)
Medium
ink and paint on thick, white, unpolished parchment
(Manuscripts & Rare Books)
Accession Number
W.7.9V
Measurements
H: 9 1/8 x W: 6 9/16 in. (23.1 x 16.6 cm)
Geographies
Location Within Museum
Not On View

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