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Re-Inventing Traditions

On the Transmission of Artistic Patterns in Late Medieval Manuscript Illumination


Edited By Joris Corin Heyder and Christine Seidel

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.
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Fouquet redivivus: Migrant Motifs in Tours, 1480–1520: Nicholas Herman


Nicholas Herman

Fouquet redivivus: Migrant Motifs in Tours, 1480–1520


The dozens of works that survive from Jean Bourdichon’s long career as a painter and illuminator make him an important test case in the study of artistic practice and the transmission of iconographical motifs at the end of the Middle Ages. While it has long been assumed that he must have maintained a large workshop, the specifics of his collaboration with other artists have gone largely uninvestigated. This paper, in presenting a diachronic account of the artist’s precise interactions with his colleagues, aims to provide a more accurate explanation of how an official “peintre du roy” could have maintained influence over commercial circles of production, and how his particular iconographies might have been disseminated outside of a workshop setting.


The study of the transmission of pictorial compositions, especially with regard to manuscript illumination, is today often maligned as an outdated, formalist method of analysis. Part of a long tradition in this particular sub-discipline of art history, as a technique it was frequently invoked in order to better understand a lost, usually much older prototype. In this sense, the framework was largely philological, following the same principles as the study of textual exemplars in order to reconstruct an authoritative archetypal version. While certainly useful, this application of close visual comparison is limited by its focus on the anterior past, its reliance on an incomplete record of objects, and its indifference...

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