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Viewer-friendly Organology & Iconography Resource

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a Voyage into the Organology & Imagination of the long Renaissance

 

By Catalina Vicens

 

In line with ensemble Servir Antico, my purpose is to bring the work of creative and visionary minds from the past (in form of music, literature and art) to the the spotlight and to transform it into inspiration for the future.

 

The idea here is to share musical images found in manuscripts, prints, paintings and sculpture as part of their artistic and functional context. In this site I don’t want to take the place of an art historian, and although I use iconography and organology as part of my research, it is not the intention of this site to serve as a form of research output.

 

There is religious related content in this site, but it does not serve any particular religious view.

 

Catalina Vicens

June 5, 2018

These musician hybrids come from a very small Book of Hours made for a woman at the diocese of Cambrai at the turn of the 14th century. The humorous images also illustrate the playing of games, including what is known as the earliest image of tennis players.

The Walters  Art Museum, W.88, Book of Hours

September 12, 2017

In a book mostly dedicated to the lives of Saints and Passions and a last section that comprises a calculus treatise, we find a single image with humanly figures.

There, we see David with a triangular stringed instrument (psaltery, lyre or harp?), surrounded by four musicians holding cymbals, a plucked (!) fiddle/ rebec, a horn and an organist.

The organ, (using sliders instead of keys, as in the Theophilus organ type), i...

September 6, 2017

Also known as the 'Psalter of Henry of Blois', this 12th century manuscript is an exquisite example of the English Romanesque illumination art. 

Its clear lines, extravagant composition and expressive portraits gives us an insight into the devotional tone of the period.

With King David playing a fiddle while turning attentively to God's hand or the angels playing horns (tubae) in an apocalyptic scene, we ge...

August 18, 2017

The 'Sforza Hours' doesn't cease to delight with its vibrant colors, cute animals and fascinating instruments.

After the 1st post showing some of the musical scenes and other curious images of this book (February 21, 2017), I post here some images that show the variety and diversity of specimens that the Sforza family must have been acquainted with during the turn of the 16th century. Not only suggestive bunnies and cats...

August 16, 2017

This mid-13th century psalter's first full-page illustration opens with King David's eyes fixed on me, the viewer. As if he was about to tell me something very important, he stares and at the same time I notice that his attention is in the act of listening: he is tuning his harp, David's harp. Around him, the scene is not that intimate. Angels fall, men engage in fight while being threatened by wild beasts.

Bel...

August 13, 2017

Among battlefields and love stories, the cycle of King Arthur’s legends written down in this 800-folio ‘Romans Arthuriens’ (c.a 1270-1290), is decorated with humorous legends of animals, monsters and angels with musical instruments.

With a predilection for bagpipes, trumpets, harps, fiddles, gitterns and few portative organs, the artist of this French manuscript (possible from St-Omer) uses recurrent imagery: the figures...

August 13, 2017

There is something ephemeral and surreal in the imagery created on white substance. The fact that these precious mediums have been predilected to venerate and to contain treasures is fascinating.

Marble, Ivory and bone have also cold brilliance; something magnificent without being shining gold, something earthy without being wood.

In my last trip the the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I took these...

June 16, 2017

After the last post with trumpet-monster images from Egerton MS 3277, 2nd half of the14th century, here some of the wonderful treasures in the fascinating 'Bohun Psalter, "probably made for either the 6th or the 7th earl of Hereford, both named Humphrey Bohun (d. 1361 and d. 1373, respectively) or for Mary de Bohun (married Henry of Bolingbroke in 1380, d. 1394)"

April 11, 2017

The 'Bohun Psalter', (Egerton MS 3277), produced during 2nd half of the 14th century in England, does not only showcase important examples of musical instrument in its full-page religious illuminations (as it will be shown in the following blog-post), but also a great amount of musical monsters decorating the psalter's texts. They tend to comment directly on the illuminated initials with instruments which are the instru...

February 21, 2017

The Sforza Hours (1494-1521). Part 1

The vibrant colors of this book of hours is what struck me immediately. And what a nice surprise that it is filled with musical instruments!

Either projecting from the page like a window that leads us into a biblical scene, or as part of the 'almost bold' marginal paintings, the pages are filled with music. Not only the common late-medieval instruments like the lute, harp and posi...

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