Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination (exhibition at the British Library)

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Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination is the British Library’s first major exhibition to bring together the Library’s Royal collection, between the 9th and 16th centuries. This dazzling exhibition will debunk the myth that these were ‘the Dark Ages’ by showcasing beautiful artistic artifacts. Curated by Dr Scot McKendrick, Head of History and Classical Studies, […]

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination is the British Library’s first major exhibition to bring together the Library’s Royal collection, a treasure trove of illuminated manuscripts collected by the kings and queens of England between the 9th and 16th centuries.

This dazzling exhibition will debunk the myth that these were ‘the Dark Ages’ by showcasing beautiful artistic artifacts.

Curated by Dr Scot McKendrick, Head of History and Classical Studies, British Library; Professor John Lowden, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, and Dr Kathleen Doyle, Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts, British Library, the exhibition features stunning manuscripts that are among the most outstanding examples of royal decorative and figurative painting from this era surviving in Britain today, their colors often as vibrant as when they were first painted.

Royal 2 A. XXII, f.14v

However, the manuscripts do much more than declare the artistry of their makers; the luxurious objects unlock the secrets of the private lives and public personae of the royals throughout the Middle Ages and provide the most vivid surviving source for understanding royal identity. As well as providing clear instruction on appropriate regal behavior they also give a direct insight into royal moral codes and religious belief and shed light on the politics of the day.

Dr Scot McKendrick, curator, commented:

“The surviving manuscripts associated with successive kings and queens of England form a remarkable inheritance. Together they offer by far the largest body of evidence for the relationship between two critical parts of British cultural heritage: its monarchy and its medieval art. Parts of the built legacy of the British monarchy, such as Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey, occupy a very special place in the public consciousness but the royal manuscripts have largely remained hidden from view. The very fact that they have been less accessible has in turn meant that they are fantastically well preserved; their gold still making their pages glow and flicker in the light for us, as they did for those who first viewed them centuries ago. The exhibition is the culmination of a major research project started three years ago. It is with great pleasure that we are able to share the collection’s beauty with a wider audience.”

Source: www.bl.uk/royal