Description of miniaturists

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Gómez  Biblia de Cardeña

Scriptorium: San Pedro de Cardeña

History and characteristics:
The monastery of Cardeña was rebuilt by order of Alfonso III at the end of the 9th century, after its destruction a few years before by the Arabs, who also killed all their monks.

From its reconstruction the monastery developed very quickly, both in properties and in numbers of monks, to the point that in 921, in the time of Abbot Peter, there were 204 monks in Cardeña. In the same way, his scriptorium acquired a great development from the beginning of the tenth century, producing a lot of codices over several centuries.

Among his teachers was Gómez, author of the Morales de San Gregorio and to whom the Visigoth Bible of Cardeña is also attributed, for its similarity with the previous one, although the last pages have not been preserved, where the name of the author was generally included.

It is a copyist of great quality, its letter is small visigothic, medium-sized, clear, well-formed and uniform. It is also of quality the decoration of its initials while its miniatures recall the style of The Sacred Bible of Leon.

Surviving works: Biblia Visigoda de Cardeña, 912? Morales de San Gregorio, 914.


Scriptorium: San Cipriano del Condado

History and characteristics:
Although it doesn’t seem likely that it was his illuminator, we includedAntifonario de León in our list of masters of the Mozarabic miniature to Totmunto, since in addition to being the principal copyist, he was responsible for the work of the rest of the participants in the development of the Lion’s Antiphonary, as recorded in the dedication of the manuscript itself. It seems that this Totmundo could identify with the Teomundo who became Bishop of Salamanca around 960.

The Antiphonary has an interesting and well preserved set of illustrations, many of them on the life of Jesus, of great quality, painted in very defined colors always on a white background, in an earlier style and very different from the one that Magius began in the Blessed of San Miguel de Escalada, in which the figures are always on heavily colored grounds. Another noteworthy fact is the use of initials with Nordic interlacing, possibly as an influence of the Carolingian miniature, since they are similar to those existing in miniature codices in Fulda and Saint-Gall. We also find the typical cross of Oviedo on the first page and some other decoration of Asturian descent, formed by grids of circles and crosses.

But in this codex the most important thing is the complete information that it offers us about the liturgy and the singing in the Spanish church from the conversion of Recaredo to the obligatory implantation of the Gregorian liturgy replacing the traditional Spanish rite; all this using a magnificent calligraphy and a Visigoth system of musical notation in neumes without staff, which has not been able to be deciphered so far.

Surviving works: Antifonario de León, 915?.

Juan Diácono

Scriptorium: Monasterio de Abellar

History and characteristics:
This is the first great creator we know of theBiblia Sacra de León Miniature called “Mozarabic”, endowed with a truly exceptional originality and synthesis capacity. His figures impress by their freedom of graphic and chromatic expression, by his mastery in the use of the counter-urva and by his magnificent panoply of colors, forming alveolar structures similar to those of the enamels, as well as a distribution in colors segmented by the lines, as if they were different cells of a jewel, of great decorative effect and expressive vigor.

His work clearly shows a free use and a great aesthetic sense of a whole knowledge of the different stylistic currents that formed the artistic environment of his time. On a basis of Visigoth art in which the decoration of some pilasters of Toledan “golden” art is recognized both in the figure of the Evangelist Matthias and in other evangelical scenes, as a version of the wheel of the Isidorian winds in which twelve faces surround the sun or some decorative arcades separating the different columns of the text, enclosed within another great arch in the style of San Fructuoso de Montelios, elements of other styles, such as Anglo-Saxon intertwining, the Cross of Oviedo with the Alpha and the Omega, Umayyad palmettes and other decorative details of clear Islamic influence are superimposed.

The final result of the great pictorial work of John, illuminating a text copied by his companion Vimara, is exceptional, both for its quality, as its great originality and its capacity for synthesis that make think of an ad -or even a possible inspiration, see record of the Sacred Bible of Leon- of abstract art 1100 years in advance.

Surviving works: Biblia Sacra de León, 920.


Scriptorium: San Salvador de Tábara

History and characteristics:
For all the novelties, both stylisticBeato de Escalada as of content, which includes in its Blessed of San Miguel de Escalada, the “archipictor” Magius is considered as the initiator of the second pictorial style of the Blessed, which was continued by Munnio in the so-called Blessed of Tábara, by his disciples Emeterio and Ende at the completion of Magius’ last work, by Senior at the Seo de Urgell and by Oveco at the Beato de Valcavado.

Magius introduces important changes in the type of dyes used, replacing the usual water paints with colours linked by new elements such as egg, honey or glue, on a background often varnished with wax, which transfigures natural colours by generating extensive glazes and significantly improving the quality of the whole, at the same time they offer a great chromatic harmony based on subtle colours and a vivid chromatic refinement by juxtaposing bright contrasting tones. It also modifies the situation and the space used until then in the Blessed; the miniatures that occupy double page appear, something very rare in the previous illustrated version.

But he also applies all this technique in a new pictorial space, arranged in bands of irregular thickness with figures without perspective or third dimension, due to his scant interest in reflecting reality, generating a spiritual environment, as in a kind of religious surrealism, fully suited to the message that the Blessed intends to convey in his Commentary on the Apocalypse.

As for the content, a series of new images has been attributed to Magius to “announce the tremendous judgment that awaits the world and to the glory of the Father, the Son and the Spirit”, as he himself explains to us at the end of the work. These images, which became part of the blesseds after that of St.Michael of Climbing, include among others the portraits of the Evangelists, the non-existent genealogical tables in the manuscripts of branch I, the Noah’s Ark divided into several floors, The Seven Churches of Asia, the Appearance of the Lamb to the Righteous, scenes of the Apostles, the Lamb surrounded by the Tetramorphs and the Heavenly Jerusalem with its 12 gates of horseshoe arches. In addition, the Illustrated Commentary is added to the Book of Daniel.

We know that Magius died on October 30, 968, when he was working on another blessed, who finished Emeterio and of whom only the last two pages have been preserved, added to what we now call Beato de Tábara.

Surviving works: Beato de Escalada, 945?.


Scriptorium: San Salvador de Tábara Beato de Tábara

History and characteristics:
It is very interesting to follow the trajectory of Emeterio and Ende, who appear for the first time in the last two pages of the Blessed of Tábara ending, under the direction of the first, a Blessed begun by Magius of which only those two pages added to said Blessed, they’re not supposed to have another relationship with. However we find them again working together in the Blessed of Girona, it seems that also in San Salvador de Tábara, but in this case under the direction of Ende, with the curious circumstance that these two Blesseds are the first to represent the last pictorial version – the IIb- which was not reproduced again until more than a century and a half later.

It seems that Emeterius was trained from a very young age in the painting school of Magius and when he was required to finish his teacher’s last work he had not yet professed, what he did, as can be deduced from the different treatment given in the colophon of each of these codices, in the same Monastery of Tábara between 970 and 975 where it seems that he continued until his death.

It is difficult to separate, within the characteristics of both works, which details of style belong to Emeterio and which correspond to Ende, although if we accept that the first work was directed by Emeterio and the second Ende, we can consider that the first, which possessed an undeniable quality, greatly respected the style of Magius, and then was able to move to a much more dynamic style, demonstrating a great capacity for adaptation and a great decorative sense.

Surviving works: Beato de Tábara (fragmento), 970; Beato de Gerona, 975.


Scriptorium: San Salvador de Tábara

History and characteristics:
Since the time of the proliferation of life Beato de GeronaCenobitic communities in Spain, from at least the 5th century, were very common mixed communities, some perfectly documented, such as San Frutos del Duratón among many others. They were also common during the repopulation of the lands north of the Douro from the middle of the ninth century, so it is not strange that nuns existed in their scriptoria. However, we are facing the only female miniaturist from whom we have received news throughout the Spanish early medieval art.

His name appears helping Emeterio to finish the Blessed that Magius had left unfinished at his death and then as responsible for lighting the Blessed of Girona, with the help of Emeterio, it seems that working in both cases in the Monastery of Tábara. After his reference in the Beato of Girona, we do not hear back from Ende.

It is supposed to be responsible, not only for a significant change from the style of Magius, for a greater polychrome and great vigor in the forms, but also for the first attempt to replace the flat aspect of the previous miniature, through a representation of the volume and an incipient naturalism, which seem to announce the Romanesque art.

He is also credited with extensive knowledge of sacred literature which allowed him to add new images not existing in the previous blesseds, as a wide iconographic cycle dedicated to the life of Christ in which is included a ‘Crucifixion’ that could be considered almost as a Romanesque image.

Surviving works: Beato de Tábara (fragmento), 970; Beato de Gerona, 975.


Scriptorium: San Pedro y Santo Tomás de Valeránica

History and characteristics:
Florencio, who, according to Father Pérez de Urbel,Biblia Leonesa de San Isidorowas born around the year 918, is considered one of the most important miniaturists of his time, which besides illuminating the magnificent Leonese Bible written by the copyist Sancho, the almost disappeared Oña Bible and four foreign codices, was the preferred notary by Fernán González and his son García Fernández, for whom he wrote seven letters of donation.

Florencio is characterized by the richness of colors of his miniatures, on a white background unlike the style of Magius, with figures of elongated bodies and arms and small heads with large eyes, with very white orbits and very prominent black pupils. His images, synthesized based on firm strokes and very marked lines, generating a great sense of mobility, are located in spaces with very few landscape references and that, when they exist, they move away from reality without any interest in depicting the scenes as they are documented, as if they were only interested in reflecting the spirit of the characters, ignoring the details of the environment in which the historical events to which they accompany occurred.

However in the more than one hundred stories of his Bible of San Isidoro offers us a broad vision of the Hispanic society of his time presenting us, with a very refined technique and images of great quality, full information on 10th-century Christian clothing and clothing, including civilian and war attire, as well as cult elements and images of religious and civil buildings.

Surviving works: Biblia de Oña, 943 (of which only 12 folios remain); Moralia in Iob, 945; Comentario a los salmos de Casiodoro, 953 (Desaparecido); Homilías de Smaragdo de Saint-Mihiel, 954 a 960; Biblia Leonesa de San Isidoro, 960.

Beato de Tábara

Scriptorium: Monasterio mozárabe leonés desconocido

History and characteristics:
It is only known that in the 166 folios consisting of the first part of the Blessed of Tábara participated two copyists and one of them includes his name: “Monniu presbiter scripsit”. We do not know if he could also be the author of the miniatures or if they were the work of other artists.

Because of the extensive mutilations suffered by this codex, of which only twelve remain of the more than one hundred miniatures it contained, we can only know from its author that it belonged to a monastery of Mozarabic origin, since its pages include multiple commentaries in Arabic, and that he was a high-quality artist who developed his work in the peak phase of the Mozarabic miniature, since he used the types of dyes based on colors linked by new elements such as egg, honey or cola, on backgrounds often varnished to wax that appear for the first time in the Beato de Escalada, to the point that for a long time it has been believed that all the Beato de Tábara had been the work of Magius, Emeterio and Ende.

Surviving works: Beato de Tábara, 970?.


Scriptorium: Santa María de Valcavado Beato de Valcavado

History and characteristics:

According to the manuscript itself, Oveco was a monk of the Monastery of Valcavado who, at the request of his abbot Sempronio, made a complete and high quality copy of the Commentaries to the Apocalypse of Beato de Liébana in only three months between June 8, 970 and September 8 of that same year, surprisingly short term for a work of this category, since it seems obvious that it has been created by a single hand.

Included in the style of the Leonese school initiated by Magius, he uses on a background often varnished with wax, colors linked by new elements such as egg, honey or glue, which generate natural colors similar to those of the Beato de Escalada, with ample glazes and a great chromatic harmony. Also this miniaturist treats the space based on bands of irregular thickness and his illustrations follow in general the new pictorial tradition begun in the Beato de Escalada and maintain the same Islamic influences in the clothing and attitudes of some characters, although the miniatures show the speed of its elaboration, reducing the drawing to the line that delimits the figures, the images denote agility, skill and a great aesthetic sense in the use of colors.

No other work of Oveco is known, which according to Argáiz died in Valcavado in praise of holiness and was buried in a stone tomb.

Surviving works: Beato de Valcavado, 970.
Beato de San Millán de la Cogolla


Scriptorium: San Millán de la Cogolla

History and characteristics:
Albino is one of the authors of the first part of the Blessed of San Millán de la Cogolla, developed at the end of the tenth century. In some of his images it is evident the influence of the works of Florencio, especially of the Bible of San Isidoro de León, who should have known very well Albino and his collaborators.

In their miniatures, usually on a light background like those of Florencio but of inferior quality, the figures are little stylized, of rather thick bodies and flat forms, very schematic, with little expression and with a very flat folding of the clothing. His style is sober, with a colour range dominated by cold tones based on purple, dark green and blue, yellow and, in some cases, red-orange.

Surviving works: Beato de San Millán, 990.


Scriptorium: San Martín de Albelda Códice Albeldense

History and characteristics:
We know Vigil thanks to the reference that he himself included in the colophon of the Albeldense Codex, in which it is recorded that this manuscript was completed in 976, after two years of work, in the Monastery of San Martín de Albelda (Rioja), by Vigila, his companion Sarracino and his disciple García, who also appear drawn in folio 428, together with three Visigoth kings -Chindasvinto, Recesvinto and Egica- and three of their successors in Navarre and León -Urraca, Sancho and Ramiro-.

Although we do not know other works of this miniaturist, his work in this manuscript both for the quality of his images and for its originality and for the enormous work that meant the development during two years of a work of 429 pages with 82 miniatures, is enough to consider him one of the most interesting artists of his time.

Their images are very significant, usually formed by groups of stylized characters, with large hands in motion, with small heads, all similar, oval profiles designed in a single stroke, eyes of round pupils, always very dark, and noses in one stroke. The costumes are very decorated, with one or two folded with vertical parallel lines. Also very interesting is the rest of the decoration in the chapter and capital letters of the manuscript, as well as the architectural details, such as columns and arches. In his work you can find all kinds of artistic influences, although always dominated by the quality and personality of Vigil.

Surviving works: Códice Albeldense, 990.


Códice Emilianense
Scriptorium: San Millán de la Cogolla

History and characteristics:
According to one of the last folios of the Codex Emilianense, in which are portrayed the scribes and illuminators who made it, including at the foot of each of them their own name and trade or profession, Belasco was the author, along with the notary Sisebuto, of this magnificent copy of the Albeldense Codex, which was made in the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla between the years 776 and 792.

In it Belasco, while respecting the position and structure of the images of the original work and in its first pages tries to maintain the characteristics of his miniature, soon begins to reflect his own style that, although in many ways, like the colouring and the drawing of the faces, corresponds to the type of miniature customary in the scriptorium of San Millán, in others it offers characteristics typical of the artist’s personality, such as the excessive size of the arms and hands or the great decorative wealth, with a wide use of gilding, both in characters and capital letters and buildings.

The result of his work, after sixteen years, is a work of great length and quality, which in no way detracts from the original, although using a very different technique, in which the images, in addition to a great decorative wealth in which can be found among other Islamic and Carolingian influences, we find a greater dynamism and vitality.

Surviving works: Códice Emilianense, 992.

Stefanus Garsia

Beato de Sain Sever
Scriptorium: Abadía de Saint Sever

History and characteristics:
He is recognized as the author of most of the Blessed of Saint Server, since he left his signature on a column of the “Genealogies” of said copy of the Commentaries, which is the only one created in France, and the first whose miniature is already clearly Romanesque.

Its name indicates that it was a monk of Spanish origin, possibly from some monastery in the south of the Pyrenees that, given the magnificent relations between the Dukes of Gascony and the monarchy of Navarre, was sent to the Abbey of Saint Sever to direct the making of this exceptional manuscript at the time of Abbot Gregory of Muntaner (1028-1072).

His work, in which other artists participated, possibly monks of this abbey’s own scriptorium, is one of the best exponents of early medieval miniature in Western Europe, to the extent that it served to open up new avenues for European iconography and significantly influenced later Romanesque painting and sculpture. It distinguishes the part developed by Estefanus Garsia -approximately 65% of the codex- because it uses Visigothic lyrics, while in the rest the carolina is used, and because of the great quality and creative capacity it shows in the images, many of them modified, and even some new ones, added to the previous versions of the Blessed.

Surviving works: Beato de Saint Sever, hacia 1050.

Beato de Burgo de Osma

Scriptorium: Monasterio de Sahagún

History and characteristics:
According to the manuscript itself, Martino was the author of the miniatures of the Beato del Burgo de Osma in 1086, Pedro being his copyist. However, the scriptorium of provenance of this manuscript is not known, being considered as probable that it was a Cluniacense monastery of León or Castilla. According to B. P. Shailor and J. Willians there is no doubt that it is a work of the Sahagún monastic.

It is the first Spanish Blessed that can be considered as fully Romanesque and the last that was written in Visigothic letter. In it the costumes of the characters correspond to the usual in Christian Spain of the XI century and the folds of the clothes lose abstraction offering a greater realism and sensation of movement. The drawing is of high quality, elegant lines

Surviving works: Beato del Burgo de Osma, 1086.



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