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Reading Texts and Images: Essays on Medieval and Renaissance Art and Patronage.

Bernard J. Muir, ed. Reading Texts and Images: Essays on Medieval and Renaissance Art and Patronage.

Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2002. xxviii + 338 pp. + 17 col. pls. index. illus. $85. ISBN: 0-85989-713-3.

The thread that links these essays in one volume, other than the general one that they are concerned chiefly with manuscripts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance from the sixth to the eighteenth century, is their intent to honor Margaret Manion, a respected scholar and educator who has devoted her research to this area. The fourteen essays that constitute this book, selected primarily from the international conference Reflections on Medieval and Renaissance Art and Patronage, also in Margaret Manion's honor, include a wide range of approaches and expertise. Several of the essays are of more than usual interest.

Among these is Lucy Sandler's piece, "The Illustrations of the Psalms in Fourteenth Century English Manuscripts: Three Psalters of the Bohun Family," which perhaps most clearly reflects the implication of the book's title that the relationship of text and image is the theme. Using the case-study approach Sandler, through a close analysis of three psalters commissioned by the Bohun family in the thirteenth century, demonstrates how text is translated into images. She further explores the generation of images and their part in constructing meaning for the user. She successfully argues for the independent, though related, narrative created by the images.

Two essays in the collection were stimulated by discoveries. John Stinson's "The Rimini Antiphonal: Palimpsest Music and Renaissance Practice," from the discovery of the date of the antiphonal written by Bonfantino da Bologna, presents evidence to support Manion's earlier identification of the manuscript as Franciscan. In addition, he points out that the antiphonal, made at the time when notation of liturgical manuscripts was regularized, was later altered to conform to sixteenth-century practice. Leaving the decoration intact, the scribes revised the music and the text. These palimpsests represent a major break with a musical tradition that dated back many centuries.

In "A Further Illuminated Devotional Book for the Use of Lady Margaret Beaufort," Janet Backhouse focuses on the "long-lost principal page" (222) of a Book of Hours (London, BL, Add. MS 33772), of Italian origin, presented to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, by the Italian cleric Giovanni Gigli sometime between 1494-97. It must have been a fascinating bit of detective work that turned up this important illuminated page, which had been inserted as a frontispiece in a Flemish Book of Hours (MS 492) made about 1500 and now at Alnwick Castle!

Concentrating on evidence for making Books of Hours, Thomas Kren in "Seven Illuminated Books of Hours written by the Parisian Scribe Jean Dutheuil circa 1475-85," presents a test case involving that scribe's work. His emphasis on the script and textual model brings to the fore essential aspects of book production that do not emerge in studies focused mainly on the artistic aspects. From his analysis, the role of the scribe becomes the key to the organization of a more complex system than has hitherto been thought by scholars, who have attempted to place the artist in the primary position.

In a provocative study of Saint Sebastian, Louise Marshall, "Reading the Body of a Plague Saint: Narrative Altarpieces and Devotional Images of Saint Sebastian in Renaissance Art," reinterprets the meaning of the figure of this saint in light of two representational types, the devotional and the narrative. Through astute analysis of a number of paintings, all of Italian origin, that depict Sebastian, she introduces us to the devotional type she labels the Martyred Sebastian, and thereby breaks down "absolute distinctions between devotional and liturgical images, between private piety and public cult" (259).

Readers of this book will find a handsomely produced design, profusely illustrated in color and black and white images whose quality varies. Including dates in the captions to the illustrations, as well as a general or selected bibliography, would have been welcome. For a bibliography, one has to rely on the footnotes to each essay.

MARY WEITZEL GIBBONS

New York, New York
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Title Annotation:Reviews
Author:Gibbons, Mary Weitzel
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Words:676
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