Description Two dragons with foliate tails and multicolored wings form the sloping sides of this letter "A." One of the creatures bends its neck to bite its own paw; the other raises its grinning face to gaze beyond the boundary of the page. The letterform is filled with spiraling vine-scrolls sprouting succulent foliage. From one of these leaves emerges a diminutive profile human face. This large-format copy of the New Testament was almost certainly created at Rochester Cathedral Priory, England, in the first half of the twelfth century. It was part of a five-volume Bible, only one other volume of which, London, British Library Ms. Royal I.C.VII, has survived. The decorated initials in these manuscripts compare closely with those in other books securely attributed to Rochester. Textually these books are closely related to the Gundulph Bible (San Marino, Huntington Library Ms. HM 62), known to have been produced at Rochester in the second half of the eleventh century. Although neither the Walters' nor the British Library's volume includes an inscription associating this Bible with Rochester, the two medieval catalogs of the Rochester Cathedral library, produced around 1130 and in 1202, contain references to manuscripts that correspond well with them. The book’s large size indicates it that was designed to be read aloud, either during services or at meals in the refectory. Large, fanciful initials filled with succulent foliage, fruit, dragons, animals, and human faces begin each section of the text. Executed in a vibrant palette of red, blue, green, ochre (in place of gold), and yellow, the intricate, dynamic designs capture the essence of Romanesque manuscript illumination. Royal I.C.VII also includes four historiated initials (for the books of Joshua, I Samuel, 2 Samuel, and 2 Kings). Although the Bible was made at Rochester, the pre-Gothic script of W.18 in particular is extremely close to that practiced at nearby Canterbury at the time.
Provenance Priory scriptorium of Rochester Cathedral, England, 12th century [possible reference in catalog in Textus Roffensis, Rochester Cathedral Library Ms. A.3.5, fol. 230r; more certain reference in 1202 library catalog in British Library Ms. Royal 5 B.XII, fol. 2r]; Leon Gruel, Paris, before 1931 [mode of acquisition unknown, no. 1138]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, before 1931, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters
Download Image Add to Collection Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Creative Commons License