Der Wiener Moamin (Normal Edition)
- Publisher / Year
- Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 2017
- Limited edition:
K 4984 - Kunsthistorisches Museum (Wien, Austria)
De Scientia Venandi per Aves
108 pages / 22.0 x 15.4 cm
Treatise on falconry
101 historiated initials
Emperor Frederick II was an outstanding figure among the monarchs of the Middle Ages, his reputation as a wise, multilingual, and liberal Holy Roman Emperor earned him the epithet "Stupor Mundi", the wonder of the world. His court in Palermo was the most splendid in Europe during his reign, and one of the most diverse with scholars not only coming from the Latin world but also those of Greek, Jewish, and Arabic origin. For Frederick II, falconry was not only a hobby, as it was for many noblmen at that time, but was also a science. As such, he had two Arabic falconry texts translated and compiled into the so-called Latin Moamin. This work is simultaneously a splendid piece of Gothic illumination and a practical handbook on falconry, ranging from training to treating illnesses and even includes a chapter on hunting dogs. It is filled with brightly-colored historiated initials featuring falcons, falconers, and hunting dogs that are further adorned with embossed gold leaf, and served as a template for the falconry book that Frederick II penned himself.
A famous falconry text is known by the name Moamin, which was compiled from two works from the 8th and 9th centuries. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who greatly loved falconry not only as a pastime but as a science, allowed this treatise on hunting to be translated into Latin by Theodore of Antioch beginning in 1240. It served as inspiration for his own famous book on falconry.
Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250) of the house of Hohenstaufen was King of Sicily and became Holy Roman Emperor in 1220. As a patron of art and culture, he was famous above all for the falcon book that he himself wrote. De arte venandi cum avibus became the most important textbook on falconry and ornithology of the Middle Ages. Originating in the 1240’s, it is heavily influenced by another treatise on falconry, which is closely associated with the name of Frederick II: the so-called Moamin.
The Book on the Science of Hunting with Birds and Quadrupeds was an ancient Arabic treatise on hunting. Text segments from the falcon book of al-Gitrif and from four books
of the treatise for Caliph al-Mutawakkil were compiled in the 9th century for an Abbasid caliph in Baghdad. The author of this manuscript, which has not survived completely intact, was Mohamed, son of Abdullah the Falconer. Theodore of Antioch was already active as a learned doctor and astrologer for the sultan in Baghdad when he translated the treatise for Frederick II. According to an anecdote, the emperor personally oversaw and corrected this translation.
The so-called Moamin is divided into five books: the first three contain fundamental knowledge of falcons and falconry, the illnesses of birds, and their treatment. The 4th and 5th books are concerned with hunting dogs. Of the 27 specimens existing today, only two are splendidly illustrated. The so-called Latin Moamin of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum originated in Italy ca. 1275. The splendid codex, made for a wealthy patron, is adorned with 101 historiated initials, each in a rectangular frame with a precious gold background. Ornamental, fantastically bright frames adorn the pages as well. The high-quality illustrations show birds molting or hunting and always in cooperation with the person, as well as the training of the animals and caring for sick falcons. The rear portion of the manuscript – concerning hunting dogs – was appended at a later date with gorgeous depictions of dogs. A wonderful special feature contained in the Latin Moamin is the notes in Italian by the miniaturist, who is believed to have illustrated the text so splendidly. An intimate glimpse into the provenance of the manuscript!