The later Saxon schools—Bernward of Hildesheim—Tuotilo and Hartmut of St. Gallen—Portrait of Henry II. in MS. 40 at Munich—Netherlandish and other work compared—Alleged deterioration of work under the Franconian Emperors not true—Bad character of the eleventh century as to art—Example to the contrary.

The MS. just referred to (Munich, Cimel. 58) brings us most probably to the time of the third. Otho, but it is really with his father's marriage to the Princess Theophano that the great revival in the arts began, and the names of St. Bruno of Cologne and Augsburg, Gerbert, Bernward of Hildesheim, Tuotilo, Salomon, Hartmut, Folchard, and Sintramn of St. Gallen, are, as it were, points of light and centres of expanding circles of artistic skill. Bruno and Gerbert are too well known to need any further remark. Bernward of Hildesheim, made bishop there in 992 by Theophano, and tutor to her son Otho III., “excelled no less in the mechanical than in the liberal arts. He was an excellent penman, a good painter, and as a household manager was unequalled.” Such is Tangmar's tribute to his pupil's character. He was, indeed, an enthusiast in painting, mosaic, and metal-work, and used to collect all the objects of art he could lay hands on, to form a museum or studio for the instruction of a class of art students and workmen. The collection was formed mainly out of the numerous presents brought to the young Emperor from foreign, and especially Greek and Oriental, princes, and contained many examples of beautiful metal-work and Greek illumination. His own Cathedral of Hildesheim was supplied with jewelled service-books, in part at least the work of his own hand. The chalices and incense-burners and the massive golden corona or candelabrum of the cathedral were also the productions of his own workshops. The mural paintings, too, were executed by himself. His handiwork, so lovingly described by his old schoolmaster Tangmar, may still be seen in Hildesheim, where visitors to that quaint old Saxon city are told that the bronze gates of the cathedral and the jewelled crucifix were placed there by the venerable bishop himself in 1015, while in the cathedral-close rises a column adorned with bronze reliefs from the Life of Christ, authoritatively declared to be the work of his own hands—let us say they came out of his own workshops, in the year 1022, nearly a thousand years ago. St. Bernward was canonised by Celestine III. in 1194. His sarcophagus is in the crypt of the Basilica of St. Michael at Hildesheim. Of Tuotilo, the pupil of Moengall (or Marcellus), it is said that he was physically almost a giant; just the man, says his biographer, that you would choose for a wrestler. He was a good speaker, had a fine musical voice, was a capital carver in wood, and an accomplished illuminator. Like most of the earlier monks of St. Gallen, he was a clever musician, equally skilful with the trumpet and the harp. And the charm about it all was that he was always cheerful and in excellent spirits, and in consequence a general favourite. Nor is this all. Besides being teacher of music in the upper school to the sons of the nobility, he was classical tutor, and could preach both in Latin and Greek. His chief accomplishments, however, were music and painting, and on these his reputation mainly rests. He composed songs, which, like an Irish bard, he sang to the harp—the popular instrument of this Irish foundation. Being thus multifariously accomplished (he was, by the way, an excellent boxer), he was much in request, and by the permission of his abbot travelled to distant places. One of his celebrated sculptures was the image of the Blessed Virgin for the cathedral at Metz, said to be quite a masterpiece. Nay, he was even a mathematician and astronomer, and constructed an astrolabe or orrery, which showed the courses of the planets.

This allusion to the astrolabe reminds us that it was Abbat Hartmut of St. Gallen, who was also an accomplished illuminator, who constructed a large map of the world—one of the extremely few that until that time the world had ever seen.

St. Gallen and its artists, however, must not be permitted to monopolise our attention too long. The reader must for the rest refer to Dr. Rahn and the writers whom he quotes. Sometimes it is said that the illuminations of the eleventh century are proofs of the rapid decline of art, and to demonstrate the fact that they are frankly hideous, some writers bring forward instances such as the miniatures of a Missal, especially a Crucifixion, said to be at Paris,[22] and a MS. at Berlin said to have been executed in the earlier days of the Franconian dynasty (1034-1125) containing another Crucifixion, which, though not quite so horrible as the one just referred to, is sufficiently bad. These miniatures are irredeemably barbaric and not in any sense typical of the age. Such examples, in fact, can be found in any age and in any country. Were they really representative of the best art of the time, there might be an excuse for their reproduction, but they are not, and therefore no reliance can be placed on their evidence.

[22] Le Livre, etc., par M.P. Louisy, Paris, 1886, 8°, p. 79.

In the miniatures of MSS. executed for the Othos and Henrys of the early Saxon dynasty the worst they can be charged with, as compared with the periods before and after them, is slavish imitation. The portrait of Henry II. (Saint Henry, husband of Cunegunda) in MS. 40 at Munich is by no means barbaric—it is more Greek than anything else—but it is down to the smallest element of composition a direct imitation of the similar portrait of Charles the Bald in the Emmeram Gospels. It is not a copy, for there is a significant difference in the attitudes of the emperors. Henry holds a sceptre in his right hand and an orb in his left, like Otho III. in the miniature already described, whereas Charles is empty handed. Then both on the Emperor's head and on the smaller figures the crowns are different—the panelling of the Imperial canopy is different, and, of course, there is a different inscription. Lastly, it may be said that some of the differences are improvements. Another change is characteristic—Charles was beardless, Henry has a pointed beard.

It is true this is an example belonging to the very brightest years of the Othonian revival. But to pass over other Saxon MSS., there are extant examples from Evroul (when Roger de Warenne, son of the great Earl of Surrey, practised as a scribe and illuminator on his retirement to that monastery), St. Martin's of Tournay, St. Amand, Benedictbeuern, Lobbes, and Weissobrunn could all boast accomplished calligraphers. The last establishment produced the celebrated Diemudis, who, though a woman, was distinguished by a most extraordinary activity and skill.

Nor are these all that could be named, for by no means least among them we may quote Monte Cassino, many of whose elegant productions have been published by the present occupants of the monastery. Then the Greek miniaturists of the eleventh century are once more to the front. The famous Slav Evangeliary of Ostromir (1056-67) shows us a MS. probably executed for a governor of Novgorod, which contains by no means despicable work, whether in the figures of the evangelists or the ornamental borders. Of course, in Greek MSS. we know pretty well what to expect; fairly good ornament, rich details of embroidery, etc., wilfulness of colour in architecture, mannerism in the attitudes and faces, but good, clever technic and bright gold.

Lastly, there is the celebrated Evangeliary given to San Benedetto of Mantua by the Countess Matilda now in the Vatican, enriched with little miniatures from the Life of the Virgin, which Lanzi declares surpass everything else he ever saw of the same period.

The Poitevin MS. at Poitiers, a biographical compilation of saints in honour of St. Radegonde, though nothing wonderful, is worth recording as a transitional example just before the close of the century. As an example of the latter part of a continual deterioration, it should be worse than anything preceding. Yet it is not so. It is certainly heavy and rather dull, and the drawing far from excellent, but it is also, on the other hand, far from “frankly horrible.” In introducing examples of other schools into this chapter the writer's object has solely been to vindicate the illuminators of the eleventh century from the sweeping charge sometimes made against them of absolute deterioration. Of the school directly under our notice, the charge is certainly not true, and the wretched stuff cited in support of it can only be looked upon as accidental salvages of no artistic value whatever.

In proof that the book-work of the eleventh century was not all worthless, we may refer to just one example. It is a MS. consisting of but a few fragments executed at Luxeuil under Abbat Gerard II. The remains are such as to cause regret for the loss of the rest. On one page Christ is shown seated on a rich sella covered with an embroidered cushion in the manner of the consular diptychs. He is clothed in a pale yellow tunic, over which is worn a purple pallium with a white border. He is beardless, and his brown hair is kept close to the head and neck, and falls over the shoulders. The feet are nude and by no means ill-drawn. Surrounding the head is a cruciform nimbus enclosed in a circle—both cross and circle being pale green, the latter outlined with red. The chief fault of the head is the excessive length of the nose and the wide stare of the eyes. The right arm is raised somewhat as in the St. Sernin Evangeliary, but with the palm outwards, and much superior in drawing.

The whole figure is painted on, or at least surrounded by, a golden background—so far indicating the Byzantine origin of the design. It is enclosed in a cusped aureola formed of several coloured bands of green, violet, and rose. This shows German taste. Eight circlets or medallions surround this figure of Christ, four of which contain the symbols of the evangelists; the other four—Isaiah, Daniel, Ezechiel, and Jeremiah. All hold portions of the band which connects them, and on which appears a series of inscriptions in Latin. These consist of passages from the Vulgate.

The whole picture is placed in a square frame consisting of bands of various colours and gold outlined in red. The inner ground is chiefly blue, and the names of the prophets and evangelists are painted on it in white Roman capitals. Taken altogether it is a very splendid page, but even this is surpassed in gorgeous richness of ornament by the miniature of St. Mark. And the borders of other pages in this Luxeuil fragment are full of ornament, giving the impression that the work was imitated from that of the goldsmith and enameller. The figures and symbols of the evangelists in these early Gospel texts are fully explained after St. Jerome by Alcuin, whose revision of the Vulgate forms the text of the Durham Book already referred to.

The “Manual” shortly to be mentioned differs somewhat in its explanation of these symbols. The curious combination called the “Tetra morph” is a compound of the four attributes or symbols into a single figure, to signify that the four evangelists give only one gospel, and ought not to be separated. It occurs frequently in Greek, but only seldom in Latin or Western iconography.[23]

[23] On this figure see Annales Archéologiques, tom. 8, p. 206, etc.