600-year old snapshots
These two pages at the back of a 15th-century book show a small collection of sketches. We encounter such plain drawings more often in medieval books, but to find them gathered on a book opening like this is rare. They show some women and children, a merchant walking to the market with a basket on his back, a lady with two buckets, a patrician with a cape. It looks like their names are written underneath. This is a highly personal set of sketches, put there to fill the pages but likely reflecting real-life individuals. They are 600-year old snapshots.
But there is more. What was also added to the page are drawings of the two tools needed to produce the sketches: a pen, accompanied by the words “una penna” (left page, top); and an arm, accompanied by the words “un braco”, an arm (right page, middle). How great is that? First you draw what you see around you, passing you by while you sit in the medieval street. Then you look down and draw what you see right in front of you: an arm holding a pen - a partial self-portrait in a busy street scene.
Columbia, Rare Book Library, X511 P88 (15th century).
2. Mai 2015
von Bibliotheca Altonensis
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