This close up photo of a dappled grey greyhound is from a Spanish manuscript stating King James II of (various parts of) Spain’s law codes for Aragon at the end of the 13th century. The greyhound is extremely detailed for its size, with the artist noting the dog’s nostrils, eyelids and rib cage. Although stylised, it appears fairly anatomically accurate (despite being as big as the rabbit – so maybe a whippet?), especially for something drawn between 1290 and 1310. This suggests the artist must have been very observant of his surrounding world, as it would have perhaps wasted paper or vellum to make preliminary sketches.
The initial “e” depicts “a church whose brick wall is supported on elegant columns fills the circular form of the E. A priest celebrates Mass at the altar before the assembled monks, recognizable from their tonsures, the characteristic shaved circles on the tops of the heads. Each absorbed in his own world, open-mouthed monks sing from the music book that lies on a lectern and one monk on the far right reads from his own book. In contrast, the priest faces front, directly engaging the manuscript’s viewers as if to include them in the ceremony.”*
The edges of the manuscript depict ‘drolleries’, “a small decorative image in the margin of an illuminated manuscript, most popular from about 1250 through the 15th century”**. The drolleries contrast humour and oddity with the religious, and often solemn, depictions of sacred scenes from holy books, such as human-animal hybrids, scenes of everyday life reversed etc. (Think Monty Python film introductions!!)
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