Twenty-Four Elders


Deluxe manuscripts of the later fifteenth century often feature conspicuously large miniatures, as if rivaling panel paintings in their dimensions. As part of ambitious programs of illustration, such miniatures could distinguish a particular commission from a more standard production. This miniature derives from the most sumptuous of the surviving 169 copies of Otto von Passau’s Twenty-Four Elders—a compilation of excerpts from many authors, organized around devotional themes linked to each of the titular elders. The fifth elder is shown as a gray-bearded king, with book in hand as if an author portrait. The miniature is manifestly the work of a panel painter, underscoring the extent to which illuminators looked to other media as a source of inspiration.

Leaf from Otto von Passau's Twenty-Four Elders
Illuminated by the Master of the Munich Marian Panels
Germany, Bavaria, ca. 1450
Free Library of Philadelphia
Rare Book Department, Lewis E M 44:12