Astor Lectionary


Looking back to Carolingian models (on view at the entrance to the exhibition), illuminators at Corvey developed a new style of painting that was largely abstract, using ornamental forms inspired by silks, gems, enamels, sumptuous metalwork, and imperial monograms. These manuscripts demonstrated not only the wealth and munificence of the imperial family but also the international status of their power. This Gospel lectionary features ornamental pages that preface the readings for important Masses. For Christmas, thirteen words stretch across nine pages of designs culminating in the word Mattheum (Matthew), at left, depicted in a monogrammatic composition. At right, the same approach is used to form the words In illo tempore (In that time). As the personal signs of rulers, monograms were potent symbols of authority in the Middle Ages and possessed a nearly magical quality.

"Astor Lectionary," in Latin
Germany, Corvey, ca. 950
New York Public Library, MA 1, pp. 14–15
Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations