The Electorium Parvum seu Breviculum, produced in France around 1321, is a magnificent codex admired for its workmanship, but above all, because it is a summary of the life and teachings of Ramon Llull. Its twelve miniatures are considered among the most valuable testimonies of French painting during the first quarter of the 14th century. The codex entered the collection of the Baden State Library in Karlsruhe in 1807.
The Life and Teachings of a Mystic Philosopher
Born in Palma – Kingdom of Mallorca – around 1232, Ramon Llull was a mathematician, philosopher, and one of the first major Catalan authors. His whole life was spent trying to convert Muslims to Christianity with the help of philosophy and theology. One of his most faithful disciples, Thomas Le Myésier, had the Breviculum compiled with the intention of disseminating Llull's thought in the royal French court.
Brevity Above All
The title of the manuscript stems from Le Myésier's efforts to pay homage to the principle of brevity by creating a concise text embedded within pictures, a choice he justified by stating that "modern men like brevity above all things" (moderni gaudent brevitate considerabilium). What results is a series of paintings that a modern-day viewer might exchange for cartoons. Although the work tells the life of a Christian theologist, the author's intent was to create a biographical document of a secular nature, something that was completely unknown before 1300.
Seven of the twelve miniatures deal with Ramon's life, from his conversion in 1263 until his 1307 trip to North Africa. The remaining five consist of allegorical thumbnails that present Llull's philosophic system.