Re-Inventing Traditions

On the Transmission of Artistic Patterns in Late Medieval Manuscript Illumination

by Joris Corin Heyder (Volume editor) Christine Seidel (Volume editor)
©2015 Conference proceedings 363 Pages


The volume comprises 16 papers given at the conference Re-Inventing Traditions held in Berlin in 2012. It negotiates the question of the transmission of artistic patterns in late medieval manuscript illumination. The model as such is often regarded as a mere working tool but recently the conditions of its creation and transformation have been discovered as a field of research. Among the central themes of these essays are textual tradition, workshop methods and the development and changeability of artistic models throughout different media and in various European regions.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Editors
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Content
  • Introduction
  • Re-Inventing Traditions? Preliminary thoughts on the transmission of artistic patterns in late medieval manuscript illumination: Joris C. Heyder
  • I. The Transmission of Pictorial Cycles and Isolated Patterns
  • La transmission de l’iconographie des vertus dans les manuscrits italiens du 14e siècle: la réinvention de la Somme le roi: Bertrand Cosnet
  • La transmission du cycle enluminé d’un traité didactique profane de 1379 à la fin du XVe siècle : le Livre des deduis de Henri de Ferrières: Sandrine Pagenot
  • II. Aspects of Artistic Exchange between Layout, Decoration and Illumination
  • Manuscript and Charter Decoration: The Transmission of Artistic Patterns: Nataša Kavčič
  • La reproduction des modèles dans des manuscrits hispaniques du XVe siècle: Gemma Avenoza Vera & Marion Coderch
  • Sano di Pietro and the ‘Illustrated Initial’: Maria Ferroni
  • O sainct Gond tu as merité : le cas d’un saint oublié: Katja Monier
  • III. Workshops and Their Models – On the Local and Transregional Tranformation of Artistic Patterns
  • The Master of Jeanne de France, duchesse de Bourbon: a bridge between Jean Fouquet and the artists in the Jouvenel Group: Samuel Gras
  • Fouquet redivivus: Migrant Motifs in Tours, 1480–1520: Nicholas Herman
  • Beyond the 1520s: A Bellemare Workshop Manuscript in Liège (MS Wittert 29): Elizabeth L’Estrange
  • IV. Artistic Itineraries and the Rapport between Illumination and Monumental Painting
  • Itinéraire artistique et polyvalence technique: le cas d’Antoine de Lonhy: Frédéric Elsig
  • Les modèles romains d’un enlumineur curial du Quattrocento: Valérie Guéant
  • Exemplary martyrdoms – lost examples. Some theses on the miniatures in the so-called “martyrology” in the Cini Foundation and three related copy drawings: Marion Heisterberg
  • Floral Borders: Some comparative aspects: Nataša Golob
  • V. Re-use of Artistc Patterns in Books of Hours
  • De la pierre au parchemin: le livre d’heures de Lodewijk van Boghem et le monastère royal de Brou: Laurence Rivière Ciavaldini
  • Du multiple à l’unique : le cas du livre d’heures de Philibert de Viry (Genève, BGE, lat. 367): Brigitte Roux
  • Index
  • Color plates
  • List of contributors
  • Photo credits


The present book assembles a series of new studies on the transmission of artistic patterns in late medieval manuscript illumination north and south the Alps, a means of artistic production that has played an essential role throughout the Middle Ages. Despite a constantly changing and developing process of production the recourse on older works of art, the reproduction, variation and adaptation of artistic patterns shaped the methods of work of medieval scribes and illuminators. Art history always had a particular interest in the study of artistic transmission and concepts of pictorial traditions in order to outline artistic developments, regional particularities and even individual biographies. But even the most elaborate works of art can never be sufficiently understood in their historic context when separated from the history of their motifs.

This book assembles individual case studies delivered at the conference “Re-inventing Traditions – On the Transmission of Artistic Patterns in Late Medieval Manuscript Illumination” held at the Gemäldegalerie Berlin and the Freie Universität in Berlin on June 8–10, 2012. It was generously supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Cologne. The idea for the conference developed from many discussions in the lively environment of Prof. Eberhard König’s chair of Late Medieval and Early Modern Art History at the Freie Universität Berlin. The conference coincided with the exhibition “Die Kunst der Beschreibung. Handschriften aus fünf Jahrhunderten kommentiert von Eberhard König: Eine Faksimile-Ausstellung” at the University Library of the Freie Universität.1 The exhibition may paradigmatically stand for this volume’s goal: every single manuscript opens another chapter and it is precisely this plurality, which can help us to further diversify our perception and our understanding of processes of transmission.

The contributions are divided into five sections, each of them focusing on one particular aspect in the study of artistic patterns. The first section is dedicated to the transmission of pictorial cycles that are transformed both by intellectual cultures and stylistic development throughout time. Bertrand Cosnet studies the iconography of the virtues in Italian manuscripts in the French Somme le roi, showing the particular artistic and intellectual influence of the Italian tradition on the illuminated cycle. Sandrine Pagenot concentrates in her paper on the progressive change and stylistic development in the pictorial cycle of the Livre des deduis, a French hunting treatise. ← 11 | 12 →

The role played by the demands of the manuscript layout and secondary decoration in relation to the transmission of artistic models is investigated in the contributions in the following section. Decorative patterns in charter decoration that share the same motifs as manuscript decorations are the center of Nataša Kavčič’s study. Gemma Avenoza and Marion Coderch investigate the reuse of compositional patterns throughout several editions of Castilian bible translations. Katja Monier examines in her paper the approach of the Master of Spencer 6 to create a locally specified iconography by the transformation of a standardized pattern in accordance with the text. Maria Ferroni studies the development of Sano di Pietro’s historiated initials in relation to both the requirements of the manuscript layout and the inspiration drawn from monumental wall paintings. All four contributions focus on different aspects of interdependencies between the textual traditions and images or decorations as a reaction to either the content itself or its appearance within the book as a specific visual reference.

The use of workshop models as well as local and transregional transmission of artistic patterns are analyzed within examples of French late medieval manuscripts between the time of Jean Fouquet and the 1520s workshop. Samuel Gras shapes the new artistic personality of the Master of Jeanne de France out of a hitherto little defined group of manuscripts in the entourage of Jean Fouquet, focusing on the exchange of artistic models between different masters, among them the Master of Christophe de Champagne, whom he identified with the Touronese illuminator Guillaume Piqueau. The court painter Jean Bourdichon who worked for three French kings and his collaboration with his contemporaries is the center of Nicholas Herman’s study. By retracing the use of compositional models within the so-called 1520s workshop, Elizabeth L’Estrange strengthens the inclusion of a little known manuscript in Liège into the group of Anvers and Parisian artists active in Paris in the first half of the 16th century.

The volume is supplemented by studies on itinerant artists and the transformation of their artistic repertoire through the contact with new artistic environments. Frédéric Elsig presents the case of Antoine de Lonhy, a French painter-illuminator who worked in Burgundy, Toulouse, Northern Spain and Savoy. The case of the Master of the della Rovere Missals studied by Valérie Guéant, a French illuminator working in Tours and in Rome, reveals the influence of Roman fresco painting on the work of the painter. Intermediary model sheets are likely to have played an important role in the integration of monumental designs into manuscript illumination, as Marion Heisterberg examines in her contribution on the passion cycle of the martyrology of the Cini Foundation in Venice. The influence on decorative patterns used to illuminate liturgical manuscripts, thus the transmission of patterns of illumination into large-scale painting and vice versa, belongs to a still largely unexplored field of research and the study by Nataša Golob on Slovenian church ceilings and their artis ← 12 | 13 → tic relation to manuscript decoration at the end of the Middle Ages is a particularly revealing contribution.

The last section is dedicated to books of hours in particular and the adaptation of diverse artistic patterns into this very particular type of late medieval book that offered, much more than one might expect, various possibilities for experimental layout designs and pictorial models borrowed from different media. In the highly personalized manuscript of Lodewijk van Boghem, architect of the duchess Margaret of Austria in Brou, Laurence Rivière-Ciavaldini studies the influence of van Boghem’s own architectural designs on the decoration of his book of hours. That particularly the newly invented and widely dispersed prints were also an important source of inspiration for medieval illuminators is shown by Brigitte Roux who retraces the influence of Dürer’s prints on the miniatures in the book of hours of Philibert de Viry produced in Lyons.


We would like to thank all the contributors including Ines Dickmann, Ana Lemos, Eberhard König and Caroline Zöhl who could not contribute to this publication. We are indebted to Dominique Stutzmann who kindly agreed to chair one of the sessions and who willingly supported us in the preparation of the conference proceedings, as well as Anna Majeski (IFA New York) for helping us with the editing of the English contributions. Stephan Kemperdick and Bernd Rottenburg made it possible for us to hold the conference at the Gemäldegalerie Berlin. Furthermore, we would like to give our heartfelt thanks to Tanja Westermann, Lea Pöschl and Kathrin Giogoli for taking care of the conference’s smooth course. We are grateful to Uwe Puschner for generously offering to publish the book in his and Ina Ulrike Paul’s publication series “Zivilisationen & Geschichte”. Moreover, it is with pleasure and gratitude that we thank Michael Rücker and Hermann Ühlein of the Peter Lang Verlag, for their helpful, kind and patient support.

The conference was made possible by the generous support of the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, Cologne.

Joris C. Heyder & Christine Seidel

1For an overview on the exhibited facsimiles, see ex. cat. Die Kunst der Beschreibung. Handschriften aus fünf Jahrhunderten kommentiert von Eberhard König. Eine Faksimile-Ausstellung, ed. by Joris C. Heyder, Christine Seidel and Caroline Zöhl, Berlin, 2012.

← 13 | 14 → ← 14 | 15 →

Joris C. Heyder

Re-Inventing Traditions? Preliminary thoughts on the transmission of artistic patterns in late medieval manuscript illumination1


This paper seeks to give a spotlighted insight on the state of research of transmissions of artistic patterns in late medieval manuscript illumination. Starting from an example of a motif’s multiple repitition in more than a dozen Flemish books of hours over the period of five decades, it calls into question popular patterns of explanation, such as the economization of production, but propose to rethink our understanding of how and traditions were re-invented in manuscript painting. In this context, the role of model and pattern books should be renegotiated as is also for the illuminators methods of work. By offering a critical reading of our history of notion and concept, the paper aims to sensibilize for an unbiased view on processes of copying, repetition and tradition building. Instead of evaluating processes of transmission by reflecting their innovational impact we propose to concentrate more on the process itself. The history of lost intermediaries, traces uncovered by contemporary conservatory methods and the reexamination of workshop practices is only just beginning.


Introitus: Mary and Joseph at the Inn

A young spouse, dressed in a bright blue coat, is following her elder husband to the open front door of an inn. Arriving in Bethlehem with his pregnant wife Mary, Joseph has respectfully taken off his headgear while asking the inn’s owner for a place to stay over night. Despite their difficult situation the young innkeeper shall refuse the travellers who are distrustfully watched by a resting dog. This little description envisions the beginning of Luke’s well-known Christmas story (Luke 2:4–7); of course, in a somewhat embellished and anecdotal way. When describing the scenery, every reader will have his or her own idea of how ← 15 | 16 → the nightly search for an appropriate accommodation would have taken place. An artist could add numerous details in a vast variety of imagination, such as the attending ox and ass, Joseph’s walking stick with the travelling fare or even a low gate in front of the innkeeper.


ill. 1: Mary and Joseph at the Inn, Voustre Demeure Hours, Close Associate of the Vienna Master of Mary of Burgundy, c.1470–1473, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, Ms. Vitr. 25–5, fol. 68


ill. 2: Mary and Joseph at the Inn, Mayer van den Bergh Brevier, Maximilian Master, c.1500–1510, Antwerp, Museum, Mayer van den Bergh, inv. 946, fol. 158v

The two versions of the story reproduced on our book cover include every single detail described above. They both rely on the same model without being alike in every detail. While looking closer, the differences are more striking than they might appear at first glance: In one version Joseph is wearing a light, violet garment and grey hair, in the other one he is black-haired and dressed in an anthracite-coloured robe. While in the upper illustration the inn has a front with three closed windows, the lower version only shows one open window and a man looking out of it. Even more characteristic is the different handling of paint and the creation of space: the painter of the first version avoids hard contrasts and prefers a soft, pastel like range of colours, while the second painter uses drop shadows and sharply contrasting colours. ← 16 | 17 →


ill. 3: Mary and Joseph at the Inn, Vienna Master of Mary of Burgundy(?), c. 1470–1473, London, British Museum, no. 1883.7.14.

These details show the lower part of two fully historiated borders, one in the Mayer van den Bergh Breviary in Antwerp (ill. 2),2 the other in the Voustre Demeure Hours in Madrid (ill. 1).3 While the Voustre Demeure Hours is a tiny duodecimo, the Mayer van den Bergh Breviary as a small quarto is almost double in size. Thomas Kren has shown that variations of the same border design can be found in numerous manuscripts such as the Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal in New York,4 the former Vienna Rothschild Hours today in private possession,5 ← 17 | 18 → the Stockholm-Kassel Hours,6 the Leber Hours,7 the Croÿ Hours,8 and the Chatsworth-Hours.9 Further examples are found in the Hours of Dona Isabel (ill. 5),10 the Capricorn-Hours, the Motserrat-Hours11 and – inverted – in a Bruges,12 a Berlin (ill. 4)13 and a Munich14 book of hours, which I came across in my research. Let us assume that we have still not tracked every preserved example. What makes them all exceptional is the fact that we are able to link these historiated borders to a late 15th century drawing, today held in the British Museum in London (ill. 3).15 Since it is a drawing that outlines the composition as it reappears in all the illuminated examples, it was always assumed to be the transmitting model sheet, but it was Stephanie Buck who first questioned this role. In a detailed comparison she demonstrated that the London drawing is presumably a workshop copy after the earliest known illuminated version in the Voustre demeure Hours rather than it’s model.16 From a technical point of view, the sheet is neither intended nor suitable ← 18 | 19 → for tracing or pouncing: Grey prepared paper in soft tone on tone of pen, black ink and white heightening might extraordinarily enhance the aesthetic quality and scatter the difference between drawing and painting; however, the resultant low contrast and opaque surface rule out its presumed function as model sheet for daily workshop usage. For what purpose, then, had it been executed?17 And why did different illuminators painstakingly repeat this composition for at least 50 years?


ill. 4: Mary and Joseph at the Inn, Master of the Dresden Prayer Book, c. 1485, Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett Berlin, ms. 78 B 14, fol. 170v


ill. 5: Mary and Joseph at the Inn, Simon Bening, c.1510–1515, Private Collection of Renate König, Book of Hours of Dona Isabel, fol. 127v

These questions touch the centre of this volume’s topic since our examples appear to form a complex process of transmission and reveal therein a certain tradition that can also be called an artistic convention. How many artists were involved in these processes of transmission and tradition building? How did they exchange their artistic patterns and what kind of intermediary source had commonly been used? Is it possible to reconstruct the relationship between the involved illuminators and, in consequence, also the relation between their works? In the given example we have to consider at least four different illuminators: a close follower of the Vienna Master of Mary of Burgundy, the Master of the First Prayerbook of Maximilian I, the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book and Simon Bening. According to this list we would have to start our research in the cultural and political climate of Charles the Bold to arrive at the peak of power of the Holy Roman emperor Charles V.18 Also the book market underwent an revolutionary change in these decades: a new potent clientele grows, trading markets and their centres change and the market for printed books increases. Therefore, we would do well to bear in mind that “no manuscript, whatever our necessarily incomplete understanding of the circumstances of its production [might be,]comes into existence in a cultural vacuum”.19

Just as important, if not more so, is all the information we can derive from the object itself. For the examples discussed above a simple comparison of book sizes ← 19 | 20 → would suffice to demonstrate that one of the most prominent explanations for the repeated transfer of motifs and the usage of patterns – the economization of book production around 150020 – does apparently not apply: efficiency. Significant differences in height and width speak clearly against the use of tracings, which would have actually enhanced the production. Instead, we can assume that the line-by-line copy of a model in different size would surely have been more labour-intensive than a free-hand copy.

State of Research

In the history of illuminated manuscripts, the modes of transmission have always played a key role. The traderere, the handing over and safekeeping of heritage, is ontologically connected with the medium of the book. Another important characteristic of books has generally been their movable character. All approaches on the transmittere (trans: through, across; mittere: send) of manuscripts should yet consider that “a book could be written in one centre for use in another, sent to a third to be decorated (partly or wholly) by an artist trained in a fourth, and sold to a buyer from a fifth”.21

Transmitted traditions have intensively been discussed in the text critical fields of philology, literature and religion.22 What applies to the transmission of textual knowledge, also applies, of course, to visual knowledge, e.g. the miniatures, decoration and layout and in recent years the interest in artistic transmissions during the Middle Ages has grown significantly. While the conference “Manuscripts in transition – Recycling Manuscripts, Texts and Images” held in Brussels (November 5–9, 2002) paid special attention to the Dutch and Flemish production of the Late Middle Ages,23 the symposium “Übertragungen. Formen und Konzepte ← 20 | 21 → von Reproduktion in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit” in Göttingen (June 18–20, 2004) attempted to show different concepts of transmission both in literature and visual arts.24 The idea to realize our symposium “Re-inventing Traditions – On the Transmission of Artistic Patterns in Late Medieval Manuscript Illumination” has developed from the desire to deepen our knowledge on how, why and under which preconditions transmissions took place in illuminated manuscripts and how this could be achieved by approaching the subject from different angles.

Model and Pattern Books

Robert Scheller’s «Exemplum: model-book drawings and the practice of artistic transmission in the middle-ages (ca. 900 – ca. 1450)» published in 1995 is of utmost importance, because it discusses not only a selected group of model books but also reflects the contemporary (medieval) usage of the terminology exemplum for “model” and simile for “copy”.25 For the 15th and 16th centuries only a few examples for model books from north of the Alps survive, such as the panels in Berlin, Vienna and New York and the notebook on parchment in Braunschweig.26 It appears that the use of wooden supports as Cennini27 describes it was gradually substituted by convolutes of single sheets with figurative motifs, entire compositions or decorative elements. These convolutes may have provided a higher flexibility in small workshops. Another case study on so-called model books was presented by Marie and Heinz Roosen-Runge:28 Primarily on the grounds of codicological evidences the authors succeeded to show that the so-called model book of Stephan Schriber (Munich, Bavarian State Library, cod. icon. 420) had originally been a far more extensive convolute of single sheets. Stephan Schriber’s as ← 21 | 22 → sembly was not intended to be used as a pattern book, as it was – in all probability – more a florilegium executed by a skilled amateur over a long period of time than a veritable working material for daily use in a workshop. This might be even partly true for the so-called Vienna “Vademecum” of around 1400: Representing highly skilled close-ups of human and animal heads mounted on tablets of maplewood held together in leporello-fashion, this “model-book” follows a superior (aesthetical) concept, whose genuine function has still not been clarified.29 In consequence, it is to determine whether our modern idea of a model book as a source for a variety of patterns is not too one-sided.

From Methods of Work to Illuminators’ Guilds

In his 1982 study “Französische Buchmalerei um 1450. Der Jouvenel-Maler, der Maler des Genfer Boccaccio und die Anfänge Jean Fouquets” Eberhard König has not only attempted to solve the question of Jean Fouquet’s beginnings, but also reflected the usage of “Bildvorlagen” and the organization of a mid-15th century French workshop in a regional centre based on the critical material study of manuscripts and their codicology.30 Here and in many following studies König has questioned some dominant preconceptions supported by scholars like Millard Meiss,31 such as the erroneous idea of finished and circulating manuscripts as a main source for copyists. Careful examinations of the manuscript’s codicological structure have been the conditio sine qua non for the novel approach to manuscript studies. It was Léon M.J. Delaissé,32 whose archaeology of the book has strongly influenced König and other researchers like Christopher de Hamel and James D. Farquhar.33

The material study of remnants of the illuminators’ working practise in illuminated manuscripts again became a centre of attention when Jonathan J. G. Alexander pub ← 22 | 23 → lished a notable contribution to our knowledge on technical aspects of illumination as well as on the topic of patterns in his 1992 “Medieval Illuminators and their methods of work”. Alexander concentrates here and in several of his other contributions on aspects of preparatory drawings as well as on painter’s contracts from both a northern and cisalpine perspective.34

Farquhar had turned his interest particularly towards the conditions of production by discussing the role of painter’s and illuminator’s guilds for the transmission of patterns, an interest that had already been examined by Lorne Campbell focusing different media in his 1976 paper “The Art Market in the Southern Netherlands in the Fifteenth Century”.35 In recent years the interest in socio-economic issues has remarkably increased.36 Whether these approaches sometimes run the risk of losing their relation with individual object in assessing an artwork through the supposed truth of quantitative data will, however, still turn out.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (April)
Buchmalerei Handschriften Spätmittelalter
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 363 pp., 15 coloured fig., 183 b/w fig.

Biographical notes

Joris Corin Heyder (Volume editor) Christine Seidel (Volume editor)

Joris Corin Heyder holds a scholarship of the Gerda Henkel Foundation and works on his PhD at the Freie Universität Berlin. Christine Seidel got her PhD at the Freie Universität Berlin and was Silvia Foundation Interdisciplinary Fellow at the Alan B. Slifka Foundation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


Title: Re-Inventing Traditions
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366 pages