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Ascension Sunday, in the Carmelite Missal

Ascension Sunday, in the Carmelite Missal

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1395

Shelfmark: Additional MS 29704

Item number: f.21v

Length: 71.5

Width: 51

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

An order of monks and nuns who followed a strict ideal of abstinence, the Carmelites or 'White Friars' became prominent in England in the 13th and 14th centuries. They were well-connected with powerful supporters in the royal court. The Carmelite Missal was probably made for use at Whitefriars in London. Its beautiful decoration can be seen as an expression of the White Friars' religious intensity and highly placed patronage. At least three artists, one - Hermann Scheere - from Germany, decorated it and introduced new ways of depicting the human figure and creating illusions of space. Their work brought English manuscript art into a new phase of the 'International Style' of western European painting. The missal's early 19th-century owner allowed his children to cut it up and paste scraps of its decoration into 'collages'. In the 1930s Margaret Rickert reconstructed the missal from its scraps. In her reconstruction, Ascension Sunday's texts begin with a decorated initial showing Christ with the disciples above with a complex scene based on the Ascension story in Acts of the Apostles. In the lower scene, the Trinity appears as two persons above. The Carmelites' mystical interpretations of scripture may be the basis of the unusual way of depicting the Trinity.

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