THE RISE OF GOTHIC ILLUMINATION

Germany the chief power in Europe in the twelfth century—Rise of Italian influence—The Emmeram MSS.—Coronation of Henry II.—The Apocalypse—The “Hortus Deliciarum”—Romanesque—MS. of Henry the Lion—The Niedermünster Gospels—Description of the MS.—Rise of Gothic—Uncertainty of its origin—The spirit of the age.

In the chapter on Othonian art we saw how the ornamentation of books was drawn away from the great French centres, and began to take a new departure from the various leading cities of Germany, such as Bamberg, which the Othos had made their capital. Whilst the decline, which was the inevitable consequence of a personal government like that of Charlemagne, took place in France, it was but natural that the new artistic movement at Bamberg should become the fashion, and Germany predominant in art, as she was in politics. In the twelfth century the German Empire was the principal power in Europe. France, Italy, England, and Spain were all more or less secondary. Italy, however, was already on the alert. She was initiating certain movements in social life that must soon withdraw the cultivation of all the arts from the control of the monasteries. At the same time the love of learning and personal accomplishments of the second and third Othos and (St.) Henry II. soon prepared the Imperial Court to become as brilliant as classical scholarship and artistic skill of the highest class could make it.

The wave of Byzantine influence which had passed over Germany by the time of Henry II. had immensely benefited the Germans. We notice it especially in the miniatures of the Gospel-books. The technic is much more masterly, the painting really methodical in soundly worked body-colour with a delicate sense of harmony, and showing no longer that coarse handling and slovenliness of execution that marks some of the Carolingian miniatures. In the figure a sense of proportion has been gained, the tendency, perhaps, being rather to excessive tallness, as compared with the thick-set proportions of the Carolingian work. Again, expression is improved—the faces are more intellectual—not beautiful but strong, and quite superior to the utterly expressionless faces of the Carolingian type.

Take, for example, that fine Missal now at Munich (Cimel. 60—Lat. 4456), in which St. Henry, who is bearded, receives his crown from a bearded Christ, his arms being upheld by two bishops, Ulrich of Augsburg and Emmeram of Regensburg, the two great saints of Bavaria. We know these to be the personages represented, because two inscriptions tell us so. To the one supporting the King's right hand: “Huius VODALRICVS cor regis signet et actus.” To the other: “EMMERANVS ei faveat solamine dulci.” The Christ is seated on a rainbow within a cusped aureola or “amande” of several bands of different colours, on the central one being inscribed in a mixture of Greek and Latin characters—one of the new fashions brought in by the Greek revival:

“Clemens XPE tuo longum da vivere XPIC to:
Ut tibi devotus non perdat temporis usus.”

Some writers have thought this to be a picture of the Emperor's apotheosis, and that the crown is that of Life or Immortality; but such is certainly not the import of the above verses.

“O gentle Christ give to thy Christ long to live
That devoted to Thee he may not lose the use of time.”

Besides, two angels on either side Christ precipitately bestow on the Emperor the spear and sword of a temporal sovereignty. Round the Emperor are the words: “Ecce coronatur divinitus atque beatur. Rex pius Heinricus proavorum stirp(e) polosus,” all which can scarcely refer to anything but his German Empire.

The expression, “give to thy Christ,” is an allusion to the Hebrew usage of calling the king the “anointed” or the “Christ.”

Besides the interest possessed by this MS. as a monument of the art of its own time, it has a special value resting in the fact that its illuminations were copied from the famous Emmeram Golden Gospels of Charles the Bald, written by Linthard and Berenger, and sent as a present to Regensburg. Another illumination in it, representing the enthronement of the Emperor, is extremely interesting as showing how the later artist renders the work of the earlier one. The general composition is precisely the same, the lower figures in the same attitudes and bearing the same insignia. But in the details of costume, and in the significant position of the Emperor, there are alterations. In the miniature of the Emmeram Gospels the two angels above are simply winged messengers of the usual biblical type; in the Missal they are cloaked and crowned and bear horns in their hands. In the older MS. the two crowned figures with horns on either side wear simple mural crowns; in the later one they are regal like those of the Emperor. The details also of the canopies are different. But the remarkable difference is that while Charles the Bald is beardless and bears nothing in his hands, merely sitting as if addressing an assembly, Henry II. holds in his right hand a sceptre and in his left an orb and cross. Here is a distinctly new feature with a meaning. Here are the symbols of authority in the Emperor's own hands, and not merely in those of his attendants.[27] These two MSS. are worthy of careful study.