God as the architect of the world with compass in hand: a unique masterpiece with 1,000 golden medallions, not only famous for its opening miniature

Bible moralisée

Paris (France) — 1220-1230

Bible moralisée

Bible moralisée

Paris (France) — 1220-1230

  1. This famous illuminated manuscript features 1,000+ Gothic medallion miniatures

  2. An exquisite frontispiece depicts god as the architect of creation, compass in hand

  3. Designed as a book of edification picturing selected scenes with concise explanations in French

Bible Moralisée

Bible moralisée

Noah

Each page of this manuscript features eight medallion miniatures arranged two by two, one beneath the other and flanked by explanatory texts. The illustration cycle is to be read, beginning with the picture pair on the upper left, to follow with the pair on the upper right, then the pair on the lower left and finally the one on the lower right. These four splendid Gothic medallion miniatures, which are richly gilded and of the highest artistic quality, introduce the story of Noah.

Bible moralisée

Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

This Bible moralisée is one of the most famous illuminated manuscripts today because of its exquisite Gothic illumination featuring 1,000+ medallion miniatures, presented in four pairs on each page. The illumination is characterized by the use of dark blue and reddish brown, which contrast wonderfully with the richly applied gold backgrounds. This 13th century French manuscript is perhaps most famous for its exquisite frontispiece in the form of a gilded full-page miniature depicting god as the architect of creation with compass in hand. This manuscript, as the name implies, takes on a moralizing interpretation of the Bible and can be thought of as a book of edification. Although its patron remains unknown, the richness and sophistication of the illumination suggests that it was a high-ranking member of the nobility.

Bible moralisée

As the title of the manuscript betrays, the Bible moralisée somewhat favors the moralizing interpretation of the Scriptures without neglecting other approaches to spiritual exegesis. In the attempt to describe its purpose, one could call it a book of edification. The illumination of our manuscript makes it outstandingly precious and it might have been commissioned by or destined for a high-ranking personality. The unique effect of this painted manuscript lies in its picture medallions set on colored, gilded grounds containing scenes from the books of the Old Testament. Their contents become obvious with the help of the accompanying text, which paraphrases the passage treated. The miniatures are truly charming, not only because of their narrative power, but also because of their plain and pristine character.

1,000+ Golden French Gothic Miniatures

The famous Bible moralisée is one of the most luxurious Gothic manuscripts of the 13th century. On 136 illustrated pages, no less than 1,032 picture medallions are to be found, as well as one full-page miniature which earned great interest for its depiction of God as the architect of the Universe. This magnificent manuscript strikes the beholder as a lavishly illustrated picture book complete with brief texts in French to explain the illustrations.

Uniquely Dramatic Narration

We do not know of many manuscripts in which the picture faces the word of the Biblical narrative in this manner. Our codex differs from other contemporary manuscript in its colors too, which in the basic patterns and figures lend it a somewhat subdued impression. The prevalent colors are dark blue and reddish-brown, used in various shades. The pictures play up their luminous effect with aid of the dark gilded ground. Vividness is achieved through enhanced motion and impetus of the figures. The compositions are generous and fill the medallions completely. Several figures transcend the set frames, giving the narrative a dramatic turn.

A Heavenly Picture Book

Our illuminated manuscript, which is "readable" even without the text, follows a contiguous formal concept: each page shows eight medallions displayed on patterned ground, thus forming a block which is flanked by four text portions on either side. These entities are surrounded with a narrow frame. The picture medallions are arranged two by two, one beneath the other, and combined with the adjacent texts to form a contextual entity. The upper section of text paraphrases a passage from the Bible and the scene is illustrated in the adjacent miniature. The text below contains an interpretation of the Bible text which is also illustrated. The illustration cycle is to be read, beginning with the picture pair on the upper left, to follow with the pair on the upper right, then the pair on the lower left and finally the one on the lower right.

God as the Architect of the Universe

The famous frontispiece of the Bible moralisée, not unlike a title miniature, depicts God as the creator of the world. The creation of Heaven, Earth, Sun, and Moon and the other elements is compressed in this one picture. The depiction of God the Creator stepping out, bending over the cosmos in front of him, and forming it by measuring it with a compass, has drawn the attention of many, not only for its impressive execution but also because it represents the importance of measuring and proportions in the Middle Ages in an unequalled manner.

Codicology

Size / Format
262 pages / 34.4 x 26.0 cm
Date
1220-1230
Style
Gothic
Language
Illustrations
1 full-page picture, 1 heraldic page, on each of the remaining 129 pages 8 picture medaillons, a total of 1032. All the pages with rich gold background and the pictures with leavely opaque colours
Content
Old Testament from Genesis - Kings 4, 8 accompanied by moralizing interpretations
Previous Owners
Bible Moralisée

Bible moralisée

God as the Architect of the Universe

1000+ medallion miniatures, presented in four pairs per page, make this one of the most luxurious Gothic manuscripts of all time, but the exquisite frontispiece in the form of a gilded full-page miniature depicting God as the architect of the universe is what makes it truly famous. This is one of the most iconic images in all of medieval illumination.

In this incredible full-page miniature, God steps out from the void – depicted with burnished gold to give a timeless and spaceless feel – and bends over the cosmos rolling in front of him, compass in hand. His right foot exceeds the frame as though he just stepped up into it. All of creation is condensed into a single, incredible image, which also reflects the medieval emphasis on proportionality.

2 available facsimile edition(s) of „Bible moralisée“

Bible Moralisée
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Bible moralisée – Cod. Vindob. 2554 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
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Bible Moralisée

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2020
Limited Edition
200 copies
Binding
Red velvet with golden fittings and central rosettes.
Commentary
Commentary in Italian
Price Category: from €
Edition available
Price: Login here!
Bible Moralisée
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Bible Moralisée

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1973
Binding
leather, modelled on a contemporary binding in possession of the Austrian National Library. Facsimile and commentary volume in solid slip case.
Commentary
1 volume (82 pages) by R. Haussherr
Languages: German, French

R. Haussherr, Bonn. 82 pp. text in German and French. Binding: half leather.

A bilingual expert commentary (German and French) written by Reiner Haussherr provides a comprehensive introduction to the manuscript. The series „Glanzlichter der Buchkunst“, vol. 2: , comprises a German translation of the French Bible text by Hans-Walter Stork.
More Information
All folios are cut according to the original.
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