GERMAN ILLUMINATION FROM THE THIRTEENTH TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY

Frederick II., Stupor Mundi, and his MS. on hunting—The Sicilian school mainly Saracenic, but a mixture of Greek, Arabic, and Latin tastes—The Franconian Emperors at Bamberg—Charles of Anjou—The House of Luxembourg at Prag—MSS. in the University Library—The Collegium Carolinum of the Emperor Charles IV.—MSS. at Vienna—The Wenzel Bible—The Weltchronik of Rudolf v. Ems at Stuttgard—Wilhelm v. Oranse at Vienna—The Golden Bull—Various schools—Hildesheimer Prayer-book at Berlin—The Nuremberg school—The Glockendons—The Brethren of the Pen.

In a former chapter we brought up the story of German illumination to the time of the Hohenstaufen emperors. We may now make a new start with Frederick II., the eccentric, resolute, intractable, accomplished Stupor Mundi (1210-50). Not only was he a patron and encouraged art, but also an author. The work which he composed is still extant, and is preserved in the Vatican Library under the titleDe arte venandi cum avibus. Paintings of birds and hunting scenes embellish its pages. The art is not specially high class, and though in courtesy it may be called German, seeing that he was the German Emperor, and in some respects is like the Imperial MSS. of the Saxon period, in point of fact it is Italian or Sicilian.[46] This Sicilian school is peculiar, and exhibits very slight traits of relationship with the rest of Italy. After the Arab conquest of the island in 827, whilst new ideas were imported, still the old Greek cities kept their ancient traditions and methods in art, especially in those branches we term industrial, and just as both Greek and Arabic tongues existed as vernaculars beside the Latin, so the arts and industries bore the features of three artistic tastes.

[46] (Bibl. Vatican, Palatina, No. 1071). Notice in Kobell, Kunstv. Miniaturen, p. 44.

The silk-weaving of the Greek craftsmen was embellished with the designs of embroidery from Damascus, and these were mingled with patterns in which the foliages of Carolingian and German origin are distinctly traceable. Examples of the kind of manufacture here referred to may be seen in the robes of the Emperor Henry II., still preserved in the Cathedral Treasury at Bamberg. Also the coronation mantle of St. Stephen of Hungary, husband of Henry's sister Gisela—originally a closed casula covering the body, but now an open cloak richly embroidered with figures of prophets, animals, and foliages, and even portraits of the King and Queen. It has sometimes been thought, from the inscription on its border, that, like the Bayeux tapestries of Queen Matilda, the needlework was from the Queen's own hand; but no doubt both these attributions are mistaken.[47] Still more Saracenic in taste are the mantle and alb now in the Imperial Treasury at Vienna, of the twelfth century, and executed at Palermo. Sicilian in some respects is intermediate between Italian and German, hence we deem this a proper place to speak of it, and rather as a transient phase than a style, for it perished with the Hohenstaufen dynasty.

[47] See description in Bock, Die Kleinodien des heiligen Römisches Reichs, pl. 17.

The cruel tyranny of the cold-blooded despot, remembered, but execrated, in Sicily as Charles of Anjou, extinguished the last scintilla of native art, and when the Italian revival of the thirteenth century took place, it was confined entirely to the North, except when such patrons as Robert or Ferdinand or Alfonso encouraged Tuscan artists by inviting them to Naples. Palermo was no longer of importance, though a capital, and Sicily existed merely as a portion of the kingdom of Naples.

Let us pass, then, to the great German capital. Changes here, too, have taken place. It is not Bamberg but Prag, for the Imperial crown has passed from the House of Suabia through the Hapsburgs to that of Luxembourg, and among its territories is the picturesque old city with its historic bridge and gate-towers, a Slavonic not a German city in its origin. The ten German circles of Suabia and Franconia, Westphalia, Bohemia, and the rest did not as yet exist—they were the later creation of Maximilian; the Fatherland consisted of some two or three hundred dukedoms, counts, marquisates, and lordships, all absolute sovereignties, but all pledged to support the Holy Roman Empire. Very thinly, perhaps, but still the Imperial sceptre meant a real supremacy, and in the hands of such emperors as Henry of Luxembourg, a supremacy maintained with real and becoming dignity.