Exhibition of Iconography by

Trifan Constantin Cristian (Daniil)

15-28 April 2019 | JRC ISPRA Caffeteria

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MINIATING

The word miniature is derived from the Latin verb miniare ("to colour with minium", a red lead or vermilion). The miniature is, hence, a small illustration used to decorate an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript; the simple illustrations of the early codices having been "miniated" or delineated with that pigment. The generally small scale of the medieval pictures has led secondly to an etymological confusion of the term with minuteness and to its application to small paintings, especially portrait miniatures, which did however grow from the same tradition and at least initially used similar techniques.

After the Romans left Britain, ordinary British people did not keep up their reading and writing. Only priests, monks and nuns in the Church could write. When the Saxons became Christian, their monks and priests began to write books in Latin too. Only after several centuries did people begin to write in the same language in which they spoke. There were no printing presses or photocopiers, so all books had to be written by hand. Something which is hand-written is sometimes called a 'manuscript'. These were often decorated with pretty pictures: especially the first letter on a page. The pictures were often painted in colourful inks and covered in real gold! This is called 'illumination'. Books and manuscripts were very valuable. They were only owned by Kings or Bishops or by the monks and nuns in monasteries.

The Book of Hours, a devotional book popular in the later Middle Ages, is the most common type of surviving medieval illuminated manuscript. The major varieties and historic periods of illuminated manuscripts include Late Antique, Insular, Carolingian manuscripts, Ottonian manuscripts, Romanesque manuscripts, Gothic manuscripts, and Renaissance manuscripts.

The earliest surviving illuminated manuscripts were produced in Italy and the Eastern Roman Empire ca. 400 - 600. Illuminated manuscripts increased during the Gothic Period, including many secular works of literature and educational texts. Early illuminated manuscripts were produced by masterful monks working in solitude; as demand increased, secular scribes were increasingly employed for this task. Illuminated Manuscripts became obsolete with the advent of printing.

The earliest surviving illuminated manuscripts were produced in Italy and the Eastern Roman Empire ca. 400 - 600. Illuminated manuscripts increased during the Gothic Period, including many secular works of literature and educational texts. Early illuminated manuscripts were produced by masterful monks working in solitude; as demand increased, secular scribes were increasingly employed for this task. Illuminated Manuscripts became obsolete with the advent of printing.

The Alexandrians, known for their thirst for spiritual and artistic knowledge, took over and continued this art, which in the Ptolemaic period reached a high degree of flowering. St. Constantine the Great had in his famous library two scrolls written in gold letters, containing The Iliad and Odyssey.

Through the Byzantine thread Moldavia and Wallachia entered the decorative forms that adorned the first Romanian manuscripts. Their authors have put their specific footprint in the spirit of the local artistic tradition. Moldova has been very prolific in terms of artistic and miniature creations. The most famous miniaturist and calligrapher was the monk Gavriil Uric. His work, The Tetraevangheliar, calligraphed and miniaturized in 1429 in Neamt, opened the way to the Romanian miniaturization. Under the reign of Stephen the Great, the artistic activity had a great flowering through the production of manuscripts with professionally produced miniatures. In the Moldavian Miniature School, several Tetraevanghelias were commissioned by Prince Stephen. We remind the one made by the monk Nicodemus from 1473, three others made by Deacon Teodor Marisescu to Neamt County in 1491, 1492 and 1493. Putna Monastery, founded by the ruler, contributed in turn the 4 Tetraevanghelia made by the hieromonked Spiridon and Philip between 1502-1507 .The period of great blossoming of the miniature art during Stephen's reign was continued in Moldavia and Wallachia, and here we mention the Tetraevanghelia commanded by Voivode Matei Basarab in 1543 and 1645.

This marvellous handmade art has entered a shadow with the appearance of the print, and remains only in the patrimony of museums and libraries as a "gemstone whose facade reflects the high ideals of the age and the brilliant achievements of its great masters."

Illuminations define a time in history when the ability to read was sacred and reserved to religious leaders or those born of royal blood.

Because it takes great skill to create such items of beauty and because these creations were so important for our history, they represent a great time to look at for artists! For without their skills and talents such beautiful images might have never existed!

  • Date: 15-28 April 2019
  • Location: JRC ISPRA Caffeteria