France, Burgundy, Abbey of Cluny, early 12th Century
ink, tempera, and gold on vellum
Sheet - h:17.30 w:16.10 cm (h:6 3/4 w:6 5/16 inches)
Framed - h:44.45 w:34.29 cm (h:17 1/2 w:13 1/2 inches)
Matted - h:40.64 w:30.48 cm (h:16 w:12 inches)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund
Inspired by Byzantine painting, this rare miniature represents the last surviving fragment of a once magnificent bible. The fundamental text of every medieval monastery was the Latin Bible. Monastic bibles at this time were usually large, cumbersome books (commonly in two or three volumes) designed to be recited from a lectern-rather than for private study. This exquisite miniature was excised from such a bible and introduces the beginning of the Gospel of St. Luke.
Undoubtedly copied and painted in the scriptorium at Cluny, the bible may have been influenced by a manuscript carried to Cluny from Byzantium, or else may represent the work of an Italian artist working at Cluny but acquainted with Byzantine modes of painting. A large monastery such as Cluny probably had up to a dozen copyists continuously producing such manuscripts. A surviving 12th-century booklist records that Cluny possessed some 570 volumes, a large number for the time.