Medieval Kings Sins and Secrets Exposed

Over @ The Telegraph  there’s this review of the new TV series on the medieval kings which I’m following these weeks to come. Have already seen the first episode with some beautiful books of art.

Sins and secrets of the medieval kings

A new TV series about illuminated medieval manuscripts reveals much more than their exquisite beauty.

We’re going crazy for illuminated manuscripts. A new series on BBC Four, ”Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings”, presents us with all manner of revealing treasures – from King Athelstan’s marginalia dating from the 10th century to chat-up lines by Henry VIII, written, rather shockingly, in the margin of Anne Boleyn’s prayer book. The British Library currently has an illuminations exhibition that also has all the glitter of Aladdin’s cave.

As Eamon Duffy pointed out in 2006 in his study of books of hours, their labour-intensiveness, beauty and precious materials made such illuminated manuscripts the most valuable possessions someone might possess, and for rulers costliness reflected kingliness. But if illuminated history books or instructions for a coronation bolstered a public role, prayer books represented a personal intimacy, their illustrations depicting the owners’ patrons in heaven who might help him in love or sorrow.

Not long ago the V&A devoted an exhibition to the separated pages of just one stunning 15th-century book of hours, and the Royal Academy had queues to see the astonishingly fresh flowers and figures painted on pages more than 500 years ago.

Scot McKendrick, the British Library expert who appears in the television series, is cock-a-hoop about the “unique opportunities to explore in-depth the lives of our kings” through the manuscripts they once owned. So what has caused such interest? In part, it must be because the manuscripts make such good television. That was not the case a generation ago, when the television picture quality was too splodgy to do them justice.

Read full article @ The Telegraph


~ by eneryvibes on 1,January 14, 2012.

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