The image is a beautiful one. I'd make the added observation that in the
illustrated portion of the initial, there is an upper lined border, as
there is along the right side, but none underneath. If the image is to
scale, it looks as if, for symmetry's sake, the illumination should have
extended another half centimeter or so downward.
If indeed the text was copied first, it looks as if the scribe overshot his
limits. But isn't that a pretty elementary mistake for an illuminator of
this skill? (Of course, Linus Pauling's mistake was pretty dumb, too . .
.) It makes me wonder if the scribe stopped for the illuminator, then the
illustration was abandoned, then the scribe took up his work again, filling
in around the incomplete image. But this is probably more speculation than
the evidence will bear.
I read the initial as an "F" and the next character as a capital U/V, for a
reading of "fuit," which works equally well in the text, which would then
read "fuit/ vir / vite / vener / abilis" (spelling everything out).
>Looking at the image again after your comments, Stephen, I wonder if one
>should make much of the color scheme of the image echoing the foliage
>surrounding. My impression is that color is a tricky issue, and that some
>entity might be colored for effect rather than "realism" is not uncommon. .
>But I'm more interested in your observation that the image looks unfinished.
>I agree. It looks as if the artist wanted to put more beneath the existing
>image but perhaps the exigencies of the page precluded that.
>Moreover, I'm wondering what the blue majuscule "initial" is supposed to be.
>If I read the text correctly it would have to be a "V" which is surely is
>not. Also it looks to me as if the first word "Vivit" is complete in the
>text (abbreviated). So, curiouser and curiouser...
>From: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
>[mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Stephen J. Harris
>Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2001 10:19 AM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: Image of St. Benedict
>It really doesn't look to me like a stream, since I don't see stylized
>and the dark line that might be construed as a shoreline seems to curve
>anomalously around the outline of the majuscule. Also, the color of the
>"water" (even if the pigment has degraded) is reproduced on an acanthus leaf
>in the right margin and on petals as well. Your proposal represents "water"
>with the same color as the foliage, which to me seems unlikely. Finally, the
>illumination looks unfinished to me. Given the relatively realistic
>proportions of the body and the lack of anything visible below the knee, I'd
>be cautious with a claim that he is standing in water.
>John Wickstrom wrote:
>> I was browsing the other day through the splendid Ecole Initiative
>> collection of saints' images when I came across the following image of
>> Does he seem to you to be standing in water or a stream holding up his
>> garment? If so, I have never seen such an image of Benedict, nor can I
>> imagine what in his legend would suggest such an image (the text being
>> illustrated is the famous Vita of Benedict by Pope Gregory I. Anyone have
>> any ideas on this?
>> John Wickstrom
>> Kalamazoo College
>Stephen J. Harris
>Department of English
>University of Massachusetts
>Amherst, MA 01003
>413-545-6598 (fax 413-545-3880)
>[log in to unmask]
Patrick J. Nugent
Richmond, Indiana 47374 USA
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