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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Speculum humanae salvationis

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Offering a clear exposition of Christian salvation, the <i>Speculum humanae salvationis</i>, composed by an anonymous author, possibly a Dominican, was a valuable aid for preachers. Over 400 manuscript copies have survived, two-fifths with lengthy cycles of pictures. In most chapters, an episode from the life of Christ of the Virgin Mary is juxtaposed with events drawn from the Old Testament or other sources, an interpretive method known as typology.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The illustrations are typically arranged in groups of four, with two per page set above columns of explanatory text. This example, with forty-two chapters and 170 pictures, adheres to the standard format. Certain compositions are based on models created in Utrecht workshops, which suggests that the manuscript was produced in the region. Every scene, apart from a single drawing of a candelabrum that is tinted in brownish orange (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(39);return false;'>15r</a>), is rendered in grisaille, a technique favoured by illustrators working in the Northern Netherlands in the second and third quarter of the fifteenth century.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>At first impression, the pale grey modelling looks as if it had been done with a broad lead point or crayon, but it is more likely to have been painted with a dilute solution of carbon black or iron-gall ink. Unlike grisaille in the French tradition of Jean Pucelle, this Dutch grisaille does not show any stippling or 'pointillist' technique.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Deirdre Jackson, Assistant Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, The Morgan Library & Museum</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Prof. Nigel Morgan, Emeritus Professor, Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge</p>

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