Gothic Picture Bible

Gothic Picture Bible Facsimile Edition

Paris (France) — 1250–1274

The stories of the Bible in fantastic images like Gothic stained-glass windows: a highlight of the French Gothic style made of luminous medallion miniatures in bold colors and decorated with gold leaf

  1. This codex is completely without text and counts as part of the highpoint of 13th century French book art

  2. An overview of the events of both the Old and New Testaments reminiscent of Gothic stained glass windows

  3. Narrative medallions and artful architectural backgrounds accented with gold leaf characterize the codex

Gothic Picture Bible

  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Gothic Picture Bible

The so-called Gothic Picture Bible is one of the highlights of 13th century French book art. On the 14 illustrated pages of the manuscript, the stories of the Bible are told entirely without texts: Instead, a captivating picture program of 84 wonderful medallion miniatures introduces the viewer to the most important events from the Old and New Testaments. The radiant images are entirely indebted to the French High Gothic style and show the biblical figures in elegant robes and in front of sophisticated Gothic architecture. With their impressive colour scheme of dominant red and blue, but also bright gold, the miniatures are reminiscent of the gorgeous stained-glass windows of Gothic churches. The colourful masterpiece came to Vienna from Ambras Castle in 1806 and is now kept in the Vienna National Library.

The Gothic Picture Bible

The so-called Gothic Picture Bible counts as part of the highpoint of 13th century French book art and is safely stored today among countless other treasures in the National Library of Vienna. Lacking any text, the 84 Old and New Testament scenes in total are impressively displayed and owe much to their clearly arranged 14 page layout. Inspired by the magnificent style of gothic architecture as well as bright stain glass windows, the miniaturist created splendid colors to bring biblical stories to life before your eyes.

A Picture Bible in the French, Gothic Style

After the large formats typical of the Romanesque style, the smaller formatted prayer books and bibles of the Gothic period came into use. In this tradition, we find the Gothic Picture Bible, which both from its outer appearance as well as its inner layout are in line with the contemporary currents in French art and architecture of the time. The famous Bible Moralisée, with its light, colorful miniatures of impressive biblical scenes, originated around the middle of the 14th century – perhaps in Paris. In doing so, it completely dispenses with the usual text and relies entirely on the fascinating power of the images. From the Old Testament story of Genesis, to the elaborately painted story of Joseph, and many of the stories of New Testament, like the Annunciation, birth, and childhood of Christ, the book ultimately ends with the Last Judgment.

Biblical Stories in Stunning Colors

The 14 page Bible is entirely covered in pictures. At any one time, three pairs of round medallions comprise the Old and New Testament scenes, which are smartly substituted for the text that would usually accompany these stories. Elegant figures, with their long, narrow bodies that are typical of the art of the High Gothic period, are arrayed in flexible, falling folds of garments. The story is masterfully told with very few resources, therefore relying on the graceful gestures and attributes of the characters to tell the story. For example, a six-stage work depicting the Genesis of life is on the first page, which increasingly presents everything in the order in which they were created: light, water, animals, and then eventually humans in the form of Adam and Eve. This terrific invention in manuscript art testifies to the skill of the miniaturists and is reminiscent of the Gothic-style stained glass windows, which often display similar motifs in a similar manner.

Artistic Ornaments, Valuable Gold

The exciting design of the background scenery also plays a significant role here. The six medallions are concentrated in a rectangular frame, connected with additional small pictures and architectural ornamentation, and appear as if they were quatrefoils. By varying the color and patterns, every aspect of the pictures offers a new impression. The colorful design, specially colored with bright blue and intense red, is complimented by the skillful implementation of gold. This combination lends much-needed finishing touches to the miniatures and their Gothic elegance. The Gothic Picture Bible offers a textless impression of the piety of the Late Middle Ages as well as an example of the high art of 13th Century France.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Gotische Bilderbibel
Size / Format
408 pages / 17.5 × 13.2 cm
Origin
France
Date
1250–1274
Style
Language
Illustrations
14 illuminated pages in different frames with 84 Old and New Testament scenes

Available facsimile editions:
Gothic Picture Bible – Cod. Ser. N. 2611 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria) Facsimile Edition
Müller & Schindler – Simbach am Inn, 1988
Limited Edition: 850 copies
Detail Picture

The Gothic Picture Bible

Jacob’s Ladder

The dream of Jacob, patriarch of the Israelites, is generally interpreted as symbolizing the obligations and inheritance of God’s chosen people, although this is debated. In Christian theology, the ladder symbolizes the perpetual intercourse between Heaven and Earth. This miniature medallion shows Jacob reclining in deep sleep and wrapped in a blue blanket as the ladder leads directly to Jesus, representing his fulfillment of Jacob’s dream envisioning the reunion of God and mankind.

Gotische Bilderbibel
Single Page

The Gothic Picture Bible

Scenes from the Passion Cycle

Although the Passion can consist of nearly 20 episodes, this page distills it down to the six most important scenes in medallion miniatures with alternating red-blue patterned backgrounds and plenty of gold leaf. Despite the size of the miniatures, the figures have expressive pale faces with strong glances and expressive hand gestures. An unusual feature of the manuscript is that Jesus is depicted as being beardless.

In the upper left, Jesus is first shown entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as a man lays down his cloak, followed by the Last Supper; the middle pair shows Judas’ Kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane and the Flagellation of Christ; at the bottom we see the Crucifixion and finally the Entombment of Christ as the Three Marys look on.

Gotische Bilderbibel
Facsimile Editions

#1 Gotische Bilderbibel

Müller & Schindler – Simbach am Inn, 1988

Publisher: Müller & Schindler – Simbach am Inn, 1988
Limited Edition: 850 copies
Binding: Wine colored leather binding with embossing
Commentary: 1 volume (80 pages) by Michaela Krieger
Language: German
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Folios 1-22 are reproduced. Partial reproduction of folios 1-22 of the original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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