Mediaevalia 2013

Interview with Roger Wieck and Hildegard Keller

Transcript:>>Hildegard Keller: Dr. Wieck, you are starting much of your career studying books of hours and I'm wondering could you say a few words about this particular example of Lily Libraries collection.>>Roger Wieck: This particular book is one of the Lily Libraries more complete books of ours. It has a full suite of pictures and it's barely been trimmed or not trimmed at all so this particular example looks very much the way it did when it was held in the first hands, the first time back in the 15th century so it makes it especially wonderful example and also it's in pristine condition. There is very little paint loss. There's very little soiling of the margins which are extremely wide. The colors are fresh. The gold is still glistening. It's a beautiful example.>>Hildegard Keller: Does this mean it's hardly used?>>Roger Wieck: An example like this, let's say in the 15th century when this was commissioned, this would have been a very prized possession and so the owner of this particular book might have actually owned a second one that he or she used more on the day-to-day basis and kept this one aside as sort of the Sunday book.>>Hildegard Keller: Great. What makes books of ours so interesting?>>Roger Wieck: What makes them so interesting is that they are a reflection of both the cultural life and the religious life of the everyday person in the Middle Ages. By everyday I do mean at least merchant class. The plow boy did not own a Book of the Hours. All manuscript books of ours are unique and every one is different so they contain variations on the prayers or the pictures or private prayers will be inserted that will reflect the personal devotion on the person who bought it or commissioned it. So they are endlessly interesting and wonderful surviving artifacts from the 15th century.>>Hildegard Keller: Dr. Wieck, what is your favorite image in this book?>>Roger Wieck: In this particular manuscript it's the image of the crucifiction which introduces the hours of the cross because the picture is absolutely loaded with very interesting detail and that's one of the things I always tell students when I teach is that medieval art is very different from impressionism. In other words you have to look to each square centimeter by centimeter over the whole surface to get the details that's going on. You just don't get it by looking in the center and letting your eye wiggle around. For instance yu will notice that there is the figure of Longinus with the spear in his hand. He's the figure to the left of christ in the orange hat and he has just pierced Christ's side but according to legend he was blind and the blood that trickled down the sphere actually cured him of his blindness and you'll see he's depicted as looking down and that was the manner in which in the Middle Ages they depicted people who were blind with their eyes cast downward so that's a very significant detail.>>Hildegard Keller: So that's again a visual system people in villages would be able to decipher.>>Roger Wieck: So although this might by quick glance look like any old crucifiction, it's actually packed with very interesting detail and theological implications.>>Hildegard Keller: Now you looked at many items here in this great collection of the Lily Library. If you had a opportunity to take home one of them, which one would it be?>>Roger Wieck: I think I would take home the manuscript that is from Tour, that is from the late 15th century because it has three different miniaturists working in it. Three different illuminators all working under the influence of the very important painter Jean Foo k is working in tour and Italy in the middle of the 15th century and he left behind great influence and that particular manuscript, there are three different artists who are showing his direct influence in the late 15th century and that is fascinating. It's a beautiful beautiful boat too.