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An icon (the Greek word for 'image') is a likeness of a sacred personage or subject that is venerated. Icons originated in the BYZANTINE Church, typically in the form of small paintings on wood supports, but their influence can be perceived in Western art.


In general terms, the subject of a picture is called its iconography. More specifically, iconography is the study of the meaning of images, including their symbolic content. The eagle, for example, may be interpreted as a symbol of Christ (from its interpretation in the BESTIARY and related texts) or of the evangelist Saint John (see EVANGELIST SYMBOLS) and is linked in exegesis with the Resurrection.


Yates Thompson MS 9, f. 162 Kings MS 5, f. 21 Burney MS 169, f. 111

Illumination, from the Latin illuminare, 'to enlighten or illuminate', is the embellishment of a manuscript with luminous colours (especially gold and silver). In the past, the colouring of maps and prints was also called illumination. A MINIATURE is sometimes referred to as an illumination.


An artist producing ILLUMINATION. The illuminator could, on occasion, also be the SCRIBE. During late ANTIQUITY, illuminators constituted a professional class. In the early Middle Ages, they worked within an ecclesiastical SCRIPTORIUM as part of a team or were attached to a court. It has been suggested that there were even some itinerant illuminators. Following the rise of the universities around 1200, illuminators were generally based in urban centres (although many monastic scriptoria, with resident or outside illuminators, continued to function). In the cities, illuminators often lived in the same neighbourhood and frequently collaborated (see WORKSHOP and SCHOOL OF ILLUMINATION).

Illuminators could be male or female and members of monastic or minor clerical orders; from about 1200 members of the laity increasingly took up the profession. By the late Middle Ages, most illuminators were LAY people. Illuminators continued to practice their art, although to a limited extent, after the introduction of printing, sometimes embellishing early printed books, and often working in the field of professional CALLIGRAPHY.


Harley MS 4393, f. 6v

Illusionistic painting is that which successfully creates the impression of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface.


Impressionistic painting conveys the appearance of natural things by suggesting light, movement, and space without rendering them in a precise, veristic fashion.


Yates Thompson MS 34, f. 169 Harley MS 2843, f. 185

The opening words of a text, from the Latin verb incipere ('to begin'). The incipit and EXPLICIT of a book or text are often used in place of a title to identify a text.


Harley MS 2904, f. 4 Yates Thompson MS 40, f. 9v Egerton MS 2907, f. 1

The opening of a major section of text that is embellished with a large INITIAL or monogram and DISPLAY SCRIPT.


From the Latin in cunabula ('in the cradle' or 'origins'), an incunable is a printed book produced before 1501, that is, when the process of printing from movable type was in its infancy. See also XYLOGRAPH.


Arundel MS 490, f. 7

An enlarged letter at the beginning of a chapter, paragraph, or important section of a text that contains human or animal figures but not an identifiable narrative scene (which is a HISTORIATED INITIAL). Inhabited initials are particularly characteristic of ROMANESQUE illumination. BORDERS can also be inhabited.


Harley MS 105, f. 205 Burney MS 227, f. 3 Arundel MS 93, f. 129

An enlarged and decorated letter introducing an important section of a text. Initials can have different levels of significance, according to the divisions of the text or their place within a program of decoration (see HIERARCHY). Among these levels are major initials, minor initials (sometimes in several grades), LITTERAE FLORISSAE, and more frequent minor textual breaks: these latter are marked by LITTERAE NOTABILIORES, which serve as an adjunct to punctuation. Major and minor initials can be painted or rendered in PEN (see PENWORK INITIAL). Among the most common forms of initials are DECORATED, ANTHROPOMORPHIC, ZOOMORPHIC, ZOO-ANTHROPOMORPHIC, GYMNASTIC, INHABITED, or HISTORIATED.


The word derives from the Latin encaustum ('burnt in'), since the gallic and tannic acids in ink and the oxidation of its ingredients cause it to eat into the writing surface. The basis of medieval ink was a solution of gall (from GALLNUTS) and gum, coloured by the addition of carbon (lampblack) and/or iron salts. The ferrous ink produced by iron salts sometimes faded to a red-brown or yellow. Copper salts were occasionally used too, sometimes fading to grey-green. Ink was used for drawing and RULING as well as for writing and, when diluted, could be applied with a BRUSH as a wash.


STATIONERS, SCRIBES, or ILLUMINATORS often gave written instructions as to the form, content, or colour of what was to be painted. Instructions relating to BINDING and assembly also occur. Such instructions were often executed in HARD POINT, LEAD POINT, or METAL POINT in order to render them less intrusive.


Cotton Nero MS D. IV, f. 139

Insular refers to a period of close cultural interaction between Britain and Ireland, from around 550 to 900. Elements of CELTIC, GERMANIC, antique, EARLY CHRISTIAN, and Mediterranean culture fused together to form something new, entirely the product of the islands of Britain and Ireland. Insular art and learning in turn stimulated cultural development on the Continent (including the CAROLINGIAN renaissance) and played a significant role in the evolution of ROMANESQUE art.

A characteristic feature of Insular book production is the integration of decoration, SCRIPT, and text. The earliest developments in Insular manuscript art seem to have occurred in sixth-seventh century Ireland and its outposts. Examples include the Cathach of Saint Columba and the products of the Irish monastic foundation of Bobbio in northern Italy. Irish influence was transmitted to England and Scotland, where it fused with Germanic and Pictish artistic styles, producing a spectacular hybrid form known as Hiberno-Saxon art, which includes such monuments as the Book of Durrow, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and the Book of Kells. The influence of Rome and the Mediterranean is also found in these works, but it made a more overt visual mark on the products of SCRIPTORIA of Romanising monastic foundations, such as those at Canterbury and Monkwearmouth/Jarrow (seen in the Vespasian PSALTER and the CODEX Amiatinus). Echoes of Hiberno-Saxon art, combined with the Romanising tradition and with influences from PRE-CAROLINGIAN and Carolingian Gaul, gave rise to an important group of southern English manuscripts, the so-called Tiberius Group or Canterbury Group. Insular influence was also felt in later ANGLO-SAXON manuscript production.


Burney MS 293, f. 3 Harley MS 2533, f. 14v Harley MS 3691, f. 223

Decoration consisting of apparently interwoven straps or ribbons. Interlace was known in ANTIQUITY and much favoured in GERMANIC art, whence it was transmitted to INSULAR art, which further developed the form. Interlace also survived in parts of Italy and in COPTIC Egypt.


Egerton MS 3266, f. 15 Harley MS 4381, f. 9 Lansdowne MS 1175, f. 116

A term coined at the end of the nineteenth century to denote a style of late GOTHIC art, practiced in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The International Style fused diverse artistic traditions (primarily those of Paris, Holland, and Bohemia) which, owing to the complex interrelationships of its courtly PATRONS, assumed an international diffusion throughout Europe. Courtly patronage, an elegant and refined rendering of forms, and generally sumptuous quality distinguish these works. Important artists include the Limbourg brothers, the MASTER of the Brussels Initials, Jacquemart de Hesdin, the Bedford Master, the Boucicaut Master, John Siferwas, Herman Scheere, Giovannino de' Grassi, and Belbello da Pavia. Among the most significant patrons were King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia; King Martin of Aragon; King Charles VI of France; Jean, Duke of Berry; King Richard II of England; John, Duke of Bedford, and his wife, Anne of Burgundy; Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (see BURGUNDIAN); and Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan.


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