In the thirteenth century, manuscript production passed from the monastery to secular shops, and large projects, such as the Moralized Bibles, required the collaboration of several shops and artists. By the middle of the century, Paris became the capital of manuscript illumination in France, and Dante later referred to “that art which in Paris they call illumination.” Even though seven artists participated in the manuscript, the librarian or cleric who devised the pictorial program imparted an overall stylistic unity. A master artist can be distinguished, and he was responsible for nearly forty percent of the miniatures (fols. 12–29). He was a master of naturalistic narrative detail, dynamic battle scenes, and elegant drawing, and he never used gold backgrounds. The project manager, as was customary, assigned gatherings (the units of work) to the artists involved. The master artist did gatherings III–V, the middle part of the book. Three others were given gatherings I and II. The first did folios 1, 2, and 5–8; the second, fols. 3 and 4; the third, fols. 9–11. The last three artists were each assigned a full gathering: VI (fols. 30–35), VII (fols. 36–41), and VIII (fols. 42–46). Just who the artists were remains a mystery for no works by them are known other than the Crusader Bible, their masterpiece. It has been suggested, due to North French stylistic ingredients, that they might have been trained there, but some of them were also familiar with Parisian Moralized Bibles.
Plan your visit. 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016.