Taken from The Art Newspaper online:
While many shows are billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”, this show, which explores the diversity, artistic skill and use of medieval French illuminated manuscripts, faithfully delivers on this promise.
It focuses on manuscript histories—the single most popular secular books created in France between 1250 and 1500—and features 60 manuscripts and a dozen objects from 28 international institutions. “This is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said the Getty’s Elizabeth Morrison, who co-curated the show with Professor Anne Hedeman from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, because many of the manuscripts are from libraries that do not have exhibition programmes and rarely loan their works. A key loan is the frontispiece of a mid 15th-century French copy of Concerning the Fates of Illustrious Men and Women by the Italian humanist Giovanni Boccaccio.
The text, illuminated by Jean Fouquet, chronicles the rise and fall of famous biblical, mythological and historical figures such as Adam and Eve, and Cleopatra. “This text was popular in the Middle Ages.
It’s full of drownings, burnings, poisonings and stabbings—every way a person can come to a spectacularly horrible end is shown,” said Morrison.
The French copy contains a contemporary twist to the original: the frontispiece depicts the trial of the Duke of Alençon. A supporter of Joan of Arc, he was convicted for conspiring with the English.
Sentenced to death, his execution was never carried out and he died a prisoner in the Louvre, then used to house aristocratic inmates, in 1476. E.S.
The exhibit runs until Februrary 6. Read more information about the exhibit on the Getty's website. Click here to listen to audio of Professor Hedeman discuss images in the collection.