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Portrait of John Stell, in the Cartulary of Furness Abbey, Pt. II

Portrait of John Stell, in the Cartulary of Furness Abbey, Pt. II

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1412

Shelfmark: Additional MS 33244

Item number: f.2r

Length: 38.3

Width: 24.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Made for Abbot William Dalton of Furness Abbey, Lancashire, the cartulary collects all the documents, such as deeds, papal bulls, charters, and grants, pertaining to the monastery. The result is called the 'Coucher' or 'Cowcher'. It probably was produced at Furness Abbey itself, in a period when manuscripts were often produced in urban workshops. Furness was a Cistercian monastery and as such was remote because of the order's ideal of isolation. The provincial surroundings, however, did not deter the ambitious project. The beginning of the second part of the cartulary opens with a portrait of the scribe John Stell engaged in writing a verse on a scroll. The verse makes a pun of his name, with the Latin word for star, 'stella'. The artist who painted the picture also created all the others in the manuscript, although this was not a remarkable achievement in itself since they tend to be repetitious and his painting technique does not achieve the splendid effects seen in contemporary manuscripts from major centres.

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