- Publisher / Year
- Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1995
- Limited edition:
Ms M.710 - Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
330 pages / 29.3 x 20.4 cm
Berthold von Hainburg, abbot of Weingarten Abbey (1200-1235)
128 pages with luxurious illustrations and ornamentation rich in gold (partially with real gold and silver). 28 historic images, 88 ornamental, partly full-page, some figurative initials, 12 calendar plates
The Berthold Master is just one of countless medieval artists who, in spite of their great skill, have remained more or less anonymous to us today. Nonetheless, this unknown artist produced some wonderful illuminated manuscripts, the famous Berthold Sacramentary is the origin of his name of convenience. Produced upon the request of Abbot Berthold, the 13th century manuscript features a wealth of miniatures, historiated initials large and small, calendar plates, and more. Aside from its wonderful often metallic color palette, the decoration of the manuscript is further embellished with the generous use of gold and silver. The book was written out by three different scribes in calligraphic perfection befitting the quality of the pictorial decoration, thus making it a holistic work of art which is unrivalled in the history of book illumination.
There are very few books that stand out from the relatively large medieval production of prime quality manuscripts, one of them being the Berthold Sacramentary. It was produced upon the request of Abbot Berthold, probably immediately after the big fire of 1215 in which the library of the monastery was severely damaged, and surpasses all comparable books of the late Romanesque period in both formal and material aspects. 21 full-page miniatures, 7 historical paintings, 6 full-length, 12 half-length and 52 smaller decorated initials, 18 figural initials and 12 calendar plates form the decorative furnishings of the book, which cover a total of 165 parchment folios. This huge quantity of pictures is paralleled with truly extraordinary quality. They are the work of an anonymous miniaturist, referred to as the Berthold Master, who was obviously far ahead of his time: a vigorous and dramatic representation of the narrative, a new plasticity achieved by modeling color application, and an inexhaustible decorative proficiency are all important features of the magnificent miniatures.
All miniatures and the great majority of initials are set against gold and silver grounds thus enhancing the luminescence of their colors. However, this generous application of metallic colors is not the only highlight of the elaborate decoration in the Berthold Sacramentary, as it is even further enriched by a total of 32 miniatures and initials on burnished golden grounds. Six pictures are set against golden backgrounds which were additionally ornamented with clearly elevated relief in an expensive technical process. The Berthold master reserved this ultimate level of decorative luxury for the illustration of the principal feast days in the Church year. The book was written out by three different scribes in calligraphic perfection befitting the quality of the pictorial decoration, thus making it a holistic work of art which is unrivalled in the history of book illumination.
All 330 pages of the manuscript are reproduced in the original format of 29 x 20 cm with luminous golden decoration. The binding is made of genuine leather and embellished with silver ornamental bands. The facsimile edition is limited to 280 copies and available in a protective case. The 288-page commentary volumes explains all miniatures in great detail while also dealing with their historic and art historic context.