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.

Prag, as we have said, is in a Slavonic country, and one sometimes hostile to the Empire. It was the capital of Bohemia. In 1310 its King was John, the restless son of the new Emperor Henry VII. of Luxembourg. Hence we find it at the moment we begin the study of its art a nominally German city. Shortly before this time were produced several examples of German work; as, for instance, the “Minnelieder,” with more than a hundred miniatures of hunting scenes and similar outdoor amusements, which are useful as studies of costume, but otherwise of little interest. But it is not until 1312—the new King being then, for the sake of acquiring the crown, though only, it is said, thirteen years of age, already the husband of the Princess Elizabeth, the late King's second daughter, yet neither a favourite with his wife nor with her father's people—that the Abbess of St. George's in Prag, the Princess Cunigunda, composed a Passionale, richly illustrated with interesting miniatures. The saints, histories, and allegories are painted in tender water-colours, the architectural details being in Gothic taste. It is still preserved in the University Library at Prag, No. xiv., A. 17.[48] The Emperor Charles IV., son of the valorous but impracticable John (born 1316, died 1378), and who has already been spoken of in connection with English illumination, was the founder of the Bohemian school, or, rather, of the school of Prag. Owing probably his fine tastes and many accomplishments rather to his mother than his father, he devoted himself to art and literature, inviting painters and scholars from other countries to reside in the Bohemian capital. For the Collegium Carolinum, of which he was the founder, he caused many noble volumes to be executed, and among the vast treasures and curiosities of his celebrated Schloss Karlstein was a fine collection of illuminated MSS. In the Museum at Prag and other local libraries are still kept some relics of his library. The “Liber Viaticus” of Bishop John of Newmarkt—the “Orationale” of Bishop Arnestus (under French influence)—the “Pontificale of Bishop Albert von Sternberg” (in the library of the Præmonstrant Monastery of Strahow)—the Missal of Archbishop Ozko von Wlaschim (library of the Metropolitan Chapter in Prag)—the Evangeliary of Canon John von Troppau (Johannes de Oppavia), written and illuminated at Brunn, in Moravia, now in the Imperial Library at Vienna. All these illuminated MSS. are examples of the great variety of styles in which the Bohemian colony produced their work under the auspices of their liberal patron, yet not without peculiarities which mark the individuality of the artist. Thus while the Orationale of Arnestus is almost French, the Passionale of Cunegunda is entirely free from French influence. For costumes the Weltchronik of Rudolf von Ems, 1350-85, and now in the Royal Private Library at Stuttgard, is almost an encyclopædia. Similar is the “Legenda Aurea” of 1362 in the Public Library at Munich (Cod. Germ. 6). A very interesting MS. with miniatures of costumes and curious usages is the “Bellifortis” of Conrad Kyeser (Göttingen, Public Library, Philos., No. 63). The Evangeliary of Troppau is most beautifully written; its text is a model of elegant and perfect penmanship; its ornaments distinctly Bohemian. Three or four Prag MSS. executed for Charles's son Wenzel (1378-1409) are, it may be said, typical. Of these the grandest, though incomplete, is the illuminated Bible, called the Wenzel Bible, executed by order of Martin Rotlöw for presentation to the Emperor. The choice of illustrations in this singular performance are rather more than on a par with the woodcuts of the great English Bible of Cranmer. The “Wilhelm von Oranse” of 1387, now in the Ambras Museum at Vienna (No. 7), affords splendid examples of the fine embroidered and richly coloured backgrounds we so often see towards 1400 in English MSS., and the Golden Bull of Charles IV., also in the Imperial Library at Vienna (j. c. 338), has the softly curling foliages variously coloured, which form the characteristic difference between the French and English illumination of the fifteenth century.

[48] Wocel, Mittheil. der Central.-Commiss., v., 1860, p. 75, with illustrations.

Another rich example of German as distinct from French or Italian work of this period is the grand Salzburg Missal now at Munich (Lat. 15710). When we reach the fifteenth century German illumination begins to grow gaudy, especially in the revived taste for parti-coloured border-frames, in which green and scarlet are often to be seen. The Kuttenberg Gradual at Vienna (Imp. Lib., 15501) is of the Bohemian type. Now and then a MS. will show the influence of Westphalian treatment of foliage—and, again, of the school of Cologne or Nuremberg or Augsburg. These all differ, whilst still keeping an unmistakable German character. The Hildesheimer Prayer-book at Berlin points to Cologne. The Frankendorfer Evangeliary at Nuremberg is characteristic of that city. The Choir-book of St. Ulrich and Afra in their abbey at Augsburg is typical of its locality. The Missal of Sbinco, Archbishop of Prag, inclines to Nuremberg rather than Prag (Imp. Lib., Vienna, No. 1844). It is eighty years earlier than the Augsburg and Hildesheim MSS. Passing actively onwards, we find illumination still in vogue in the sixteenth century, notwithstanding that Germany was the cradle of the printing press.

In fact, it seems to wax more and more sumptuous—the books more profusely ornamented than ever. The Missal and Prayer-book of Albert of Brandenburg, Archbishop of Mainz, once at Aschaffenburg, executed about 1524 are among the finest productions of the illuminator's art. While perhaps we may complain that design has given way to profusion and the border flowers and insects—a contemporary characteristic of Netherlandish art also—are neither more nor less than portraiture applied to flowers, fruits, and the insect world. The larger miniatures are modern paintings, including portraits, differing in nothing but dimensions from the works of the greatest masters of the schools of painting. In ignorance of the strict rules of the gilds, some writers have gone so far as to say that miniatures also such as these were the work of the Van Eycks, the Memlings, and the Lucas van Leydens of our public galleries. This particular MS. was the work of a famous Nuremberg miniaturist, one of a distinguished family of artists—Nicolas Glockendon.

A very similar, but perhaps still richer, MS., is the Prayer-book of William of Bavaria, still kept in the Imperial Library at Vienna (No. 1880), painted by Albert Glockendon. It is one of the most exquisite volumes possibly to be met with. A Prayer-book in the British Museum (Add. 17525), though far inferior, may give some idea of the sumptuous character of the Glockendon work.

The first Archbishop of Prag, Arnestus or Ernest von Pardubitz, was an industrious collector of MSS. and employed many scribes. Another of the famous patrons in Prag was Gerhard Groot, who employed one of the best penmen to copy St. John Chrysostom's Commentary on St. Matthew. In 1383 he founded at Deventer the famous House of the Brothers of the Common Life, who made a business of transcribing books; and, indeed, so profitably, that, for instance, Ian van Enkhuisen of Zwolle received five hundred golden gulden for a Bible. On account of the goose-quill which the brothers wore in their hats, they were familiarly known as the Brethren of the Pen.[49]

[49] Wattenbach, Schriftwesen im Mittelalter, p. 264.