The New York Times ArtsBeat reports that at a Sotheby’s auction on Wednesday, the J. Paul Getty Museum of Los Angeles won a bid on a rare illuminated manuscript, The Deeds of Sir Gillion de Trazegnies in the Middle East, for $6.2 million dollars. In 2003, the manuscript was at the Getty on loan for their exhibition “Illuminating the Renaissance” and now it appears to have found its permanent home there. The manuscript was completed by the Flemish master Lieven van Lathem, supposedly the greatest illuminator of the Flemish High Renaissance.
The Getty’s overview of illumination is as follows:
“The finest and most ambitiously illuminated books were produced in Flanders (parts of present day Belgium and France) between 1470 and 1560. During this period, illuminators radically transformed the appearance of the illustrated page, introducing the mastery of light, texture, and space achieved by the finest panel painters of the day.
The new style evolved under the patronage of the most powerful ruling families of Flanders. Manuscripts were a vehicle of politics, piety, and luxury, and their appeal quickly spread across Europe.
The illuminations on view reveal the glamour of the European courts. History books tell tales of mythology, brave heroes, and inspirational rulers, while devotional books set the tone for a pious Christian life. Above all, their exquisite naturalism places these Flemish manuscripts among the greatest artistic achievements of their time.
Despite their popularity, the invention of the printing press and changing patterns of patronage ultimately led to the demise of the hand-made book. By 1560, the great era of Flemish manuscript illumination would finally draw to a close.”
This particular manuscript follows the adventures of Roman de Gillion de Trazegnies, a nobleman from present-day Belgium. The New York Times describes it as:
Part travelogue, part romance, part epic, it traces the exploits of Gillion on his journeys to Egypt, where he becomes a bigamist, and then dies in battle, a hero.