Imperial Splendor: The Art of the Book in the Holy Roman Empire, ca. 800–1500

October 15, 2021 through January 23, 2022

Imperial Splendor offers a sweeping overview of manuscript production in the Holy Roman Empire, one of the most impressive chapters in the history of medieval art. While little known and rarely seen by the general public, these illuminated manuscripts count among the most luxurious works of art from the Middle Ages. Designed to edify, to entertain, and above all to embody the sacred, these manuscripts and their spectacular illuminations retain the ability to dazzle and inspire modern audiences just as they did those of the Middle Ages. Bringing together some seventy manuscripts from collections across the country, the exhibition begins with the reforms initiated by Charlemagne, the first emperor following the fall of Rome. It ends with the flurry of artistic innovation coinciding with the invention of the printing press and the onset of humanism in the fifteenth century. As the first major presentation of this subject in the English-speaking world, Imperial Splendor introduces visitors to fundamental aspects of this history, including how artists developed a visual rhetoric of power, the role of the aristocratic elite in the production and patronage of manuscripts, and the impact of Albrecht Dürer and humanism on the arts of the book.

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Imperial Splendor: The Art of the Book in the Holy Roman Empire, ca. 800–1500 is made possible by the Janine Luke and Melvin R. Seiden Fund for Exhibitions and Publications, the Ricciardi Family Exhibition Fund, the Christian Humann Foundation, and Katharine J. Rayner. Additional support is provided by the David L. Klein Jr. Foundation; the Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Research and Publications; Caroline Sharfman Bacon; Elizabeth A. R. and Ralph S. Brown, Jr.; Mr. and Mrs. Alain Goldrach; Marguerite Steed Hoffman and Tom Lentz; Professor James H. Marrow and Dr. Emily Rose; Mrs. Andrew C. Schirrmeister; the Samuel H. Kress Foundation; Gifford Combs; Salle Vaughn; William M. Voelkle; Gregory T. Clark; Bob McCarthy; and an anonymous donor.

“Heiningen Gospels” (fragment), in Latin, Germany, Hamersleben, ca. 1180–1200. Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.565, fols. 13v–14r. Purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan, 1905.