Tuesday, February 7, 2017

In the Beginning, The First Days of Creation

Boucicaut Master, Seven Days of Creation 
from De Propertibus rerum of Barthelemy l'Anglais
French (Paris), 1400-1425
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 9141, fol. 9
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

Then God said,
"Let there be light," and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night."
Thus evening came, and morning followed–the first day.

Then God said,
"Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters,
to separate one body of water from the other."
And so it happened:
God made the dome,
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome "the sky."
Evening came, and morning followed–the second day.

Then God said,
"Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin,
so that the dry land may appear."
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin,
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land "the earth,"
and the basin of the water he called "the sea."
God saw how good it was.

Then God said,
"Let the earth bring forth vegetation:
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it."
And so it happened:
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth that
bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed–the third day.

Then God said:
"Let there be lights in the dome of the sky,
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years,
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth."
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights,
the greater one to govern the day,
and the lesser one to govern the night;
and he made the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed–the fourth day.”

Genesis 1:1-19, Reading for February 6, Weekday Cycle 1

During the course of each year, the Catholic Church reads almost the entire body of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, following two cycles of readings for the daily Masses and three cycles for the Sunday Masses.  Each Mass consists of a reading from the Old Testament, followed by the antiphonal recitation of a Psalm, plus a reading from the Gospels.  On Sundays, the Gospel readings for the majority of the year are drawn from each of the Synoptic Gospels in turn, with year A being readings from the Gospel of Matthew.  Year B comes from the Gospel of Mark and Year C from the Gospel of Luke.  Also on Sundays, a third reading is added, between the Psalm and the Gospel, and may be drawn from the various Epistles.  During the Easter season, the Old Testament readings are replaced by readings from the Acts of the Apostles or from Revelation, while the Gospel is drawn from the Gospel of John.  Also, there are set readings for certain days of the year, for instance, the days of the Easter Triduum, that do not change from year to year.  For the Liturgical Year of 2016-2017, which began on the First Sunday of Advent at the end of November we are reading from Sunday Cycle Year A and Weekday Cycle 1.
Opening page of the Book of Genesis
from a Bible
Italian (Genoa), Mid-13th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 23, fol. 4

For three days at the beginning of February in Weekday Cycle 1, we are presented with the story of the Creation from the Book of Genesis, a reading which is also heard each year at the Easter Vigil.  This beautiful and poetic description of the creation of the universe, bears an astonishing resemblance to the story of creation and evolution as told by scientists, from the Big Bang to the appearance of humans, although, because it is a poetic (though logical) description and not a scientific one, the order of things is slightly different.  Most importantly, however, it is not presented, as some seem to think, as the work of a moment, but something created and developed over time, expressed by the word “day” (which need not mean a 24-hour period of time).  God works at it and then, when He judges it to be complete, He rests and the processes He has begun keep the process ongoing.

Artists often told the same story through their work, especially those artists of the medieval period to the Renaissance who were called on to illustrate books.  I decided that I would look at some of these to see how they illustrated some of the most poetic words of the Bible and found that very many of them rose to the occasion.  

Creation of the World
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1300
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
Francais 155, fol. 2

So, I have decided to present some of these works over this three-day period, by departing a bit from my customary practice by presenting images from the same set of books together, instead of spreading them over the "days" of God's activities.  I hope that this will illuminate some of our own understanding of how artists looked at the text and at what inspiration they drew from each other. 








Late Antiquity

There are a number of illustrated copies of the Book of Genesis in existence.  However, they have felt the ravages of time.  One of the most important, and earliest extant, books is known as the Cotton Genesis and is in the British Library in London.  It was painted in Egypt in the late 5th or early 6th century, giving it a “date” of around 500.  It was a large and luxuriously produced book, replete with illustrations.  Unfortunately, in 1731 the building in which it was stored at the time, Ashburnham House, experienced a fire.  Many of the books in its library burned, including the Cotton Genesis.  Only a few shriveled and blackened pages survived.  However, we can have some idea of how they were organized and how they looked because they were copied several times.  The first record, in which they were used them as templates, is the Creation Cupola mosaics of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, which was executed during the 13th Century. 
Mosaic Creation Cupola after the Cotton Genesis
Italian, 1215-1280
Venice, Basilica di San Marco
In the cupola, we see three concentric rings featuring small compartments in which appear images of the stories from the book of Genesis.  In the innermost ring are images that tell the story of Creation up to the creation of the plants.   In the second ring are the stories of Creation from the creation of the stars up to the creation of Eve.  In the third, outermost ring are the stories of what happened in the Garden of Eden that lead to the final image, which is the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. 

Creation of the Earth
Mosaic Creation Cupola after the Cotton Genesis
Italian, 1215-1280
Venice, Basilica di San Marco
Since these mosaics were copied from the Cotton Genesis, we know how, already at the earliest layer of Christian Biblical illumination, in the books that were created for the use of the clergy and people within a relatively short time following the establishment of the Church following Constantine’s recognition, artists were depicting the events of Creation.  And, for them, the world appeared as a sphere, not a flat square.







Early Medieval Period – 500-1000

In the early Medieval period I could find very little extant evidence.  This was also the period of greatest instability for Europe, due to the barbarian invasions of the 6th century, the forcible expansion of Islam in the 7th and the Viking raids of the late 9th and 10th centuries.  Much was probably lost in the wars and general upheaval of this period.  What does survive, such as the luxury manuscripts produced for the Carolingian and Ottonian courts have a bias toward illustrating the New Testament, not the Old, and certainly not Genesis.


High Middle Ages – 1000 to 1400

The High Middle Ages were highly creative and a good deal survives, especially for the later centuries. 

Ivory Plaques, Eleventh Century

Ivory Plaque with Division of Day and Night and God Worshiped by Angels
Italian (Salerno), 1001-1100
Salerno, Museo Diocesano San Matteo















Ivory Plaque with Creation of Plants and Creation of Sun, Moon and Stars
Italian (Salerno), 1001-1100
Salerno, Museo Diocesano San Matteo
Interestingly, the Sun and Moon are differentiated by the inclusion within each sphere of the appropriately chosen pagan god, Diana for the moon and Apollo for the sun.


























Roda Bible, 1050

Creation of the World
from the Roda Bible
Spanish (Catalonia), c. 1050
_BNF_
MS Latin 6 (1), fol. 6
The Sun and Moon are still personified  by the pagan gods Diana and Apollo.

Wall Painting, 1190

Creation of the World
Italian, ca. 1190
Rome, Church of San Giovanni a Porta Latina
The Crusader Bible, 1245


First Four Days of Creation
Crusader Bible
French (Paris), 1245-1255
Morgan
MS M638, fol.1r

Psalter-Hours of Yolande of Soissons, 1280

Separation of the Waters
from Psalter-Hours of Yolande of Soissons
French (A‪miens), 1280-1299
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M729, fol. 264v

Creation of the Plants
Psalter-Hours of Yolande of Soissons
French (A‪miens), 1280-1299
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M729, fol. 272v



























Creation of the Sun, Moon and Stars
Psalter-Hours of Yolande of Soissons
French (A‪miens), 1280-1299
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M729, fol. 279v
No longer are the sun and moon personified by the pagan gods.

Creation of the Animals
Psalter-Hours of Yolande of Soissons
French (A‪miens), 1280-1299
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M729, fol. 286v


























Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins, 1300-1325, Illustrated by the Master of the Roman de Fauvel

Master of the Roman de Fauvel, Separation of
Light and Darkness
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1300-1325
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 156, fol. 3















Master of the Roman de Fauvel, Separation of
Earth and Water
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1300-1325
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 156, fol. 4




















Master of the Roman de Fauvel, Creation
of the Plants
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1300-1325
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 156, fol. 4v























Master of the Roman de Fauvel, Creation of Birds,
Animals and Fish
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1300-1325
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 156, fol. 5v
























Bible historiale, 1320, Illustrated by Richard de Montbaston

Richard de Montbaston, Creation of the Earth
from Bible historiale
French (Paris), 1320-1330
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 322, fol. 8r




















Richard de Montbaston, Separation of the Waters
from Bible historiale
French (Paris), 1320-1330
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 322, fol. 9r



















Richard de Montbaston, Creation of the Plants
from Bible historiale
French (Paris), 1320-1330
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 322, fol. 9v





















Richard de Montbaston, Creation of the Sun, Moon and Stars
from Bible historiale
French (Paris), 1320-1330
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 322, fol. 10r




















Richard de Montbaston, Creation of the Birds and Fish
from Bible historiale
French (Paris), 1320-1330
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 322, fol. 11r




















Wall Paintings from Wienhausen Abbey, 1335

Creation of Light
German, c.1335
Wienhausen, Abbey Church of
Saints Mary, Alexander and Lawrence
 
Division of Water and Land
German, c.1335
Wienhausen, Abbey Church of 
Saints Mary, Alexander and Lawrence


























Creation of the Stars
German, c.1335
Wienhausen, Abbey Church of 
Saints Mary, Alexander and Lawrence

Creation of Birds and Fish
German, c.1335
Wienhausen, Abbey Church of 
Saints Mary, Alexander and Lawrence

Creation of Animals and Man
German, c.1335
Wienhausen, Abbey Church of 
Saints Mary, Alexander and Lawrence


























Weltkronik, 1355

Separation of the Waters
from Weltkronik
German (Regensburg), 1355-1365
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M769, fol. 7r















Creation of the Earth
from Weltkronik
German (Regensburg), 1355-1365
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M769, fol. 7v
















Creation of Plants
from Weltkronik
German (Regensburg), 1355-1365
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M769, fol. 8r

















Creation of Sun, Moon and Stars
from Weltkronik
German (Regensburg), 1355-1365
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M769, fol. 8r




















Creation of the Birds and Fish
from Weltkronik
German (Regensburg), 1355-1365
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M769, fol. 8v
"Fish" in this instance includes mermaids!


Creation of the Animals and Adam and Eve
from Weltkronik
German (Regensburg), 1355-1365
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M769, fol. 9r





















Wall Painting,  Creation of the World by Giusto Menabuoi, 1378

Giusto de'Menabuoi, Creation of the World
Italian, c.1378
Padua, Baptistery
In this painting, the Sun, Moon and Stars are represented by the signs of the Zodiac.


Book of Hours, 1385, Illustrated by Giovanni di Benedetto and Collaborators

Giovanni d Benedetto and Collaborators
Creation of the World
from a Book of Hours
Italian (Milan), c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 757, fol. 24

Giovanni d Benedetto and Collaborators
Separation of Water and Land
from a Book of Hours
Italian (Milan), c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 757, fol. 28
























Giovanni d Benedetto and Collaborators
Creation of the Plants
from a Book of Hours
Italian (Milan), c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 757, fol. 37

Giovanni d Benedetto and Collaborators
Creation of the Sun, Moon and Stars
from a Book of Hours
Italian (Milan), c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 757, fol. 41
























Giovanni d Benedetto and Collaborators
Creation of the Birds and Fish
from a Book of Hours
Italian (Milan), c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 757, fol. 45


Late Middle Ages and Renaissance – 1400 to 1600

In the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the depiction of things was more clinically naturalistic, but no less creative.  Understanding of anatomy and new ways of depicting reality, such as linear perspective, had an impact.

Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins, circa 1400

Creation of Light
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 3, fol. 3v


Creation of the Earth
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 3, fol. 3v




















Creation of the Plants
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 3, fol. 4



Separation of the Waters
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 3, fol. 4v






















Separation of Water and Earth
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 3, fol. 5


Creation of the Sun, Moon and Stars
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 3, fol. 5v



















Creation of the Fish
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 3, fol. 6






Creation of the Birds and Animals
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 3, fol. 7v

















Another Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins, circa 1400

Separation of Light and Darkness
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), ca. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 9, fol. 4



Creation of the Firmament
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), ca. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 9, fol. 4v





















Separation of Earth and Water
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), ca. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 9, fol. 5

Creation of the Sun and Moon
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), ca. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 9, fol.5v



















Creation of the Fish
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), ca. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 9, fol. 6
























Bible historiale, circa 1400, Illustrated by the Workshop of the Boucicaut Master

Workshop of the Boucicaut Master, Creation of the Earth
from Bible historiale
French (Paris), 1400-1424
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 394, fol. 3r









Workshop of the Boucicaut Master, Separation of Earth
and Water

from Bible historiale
French (Paris), 1400-1424
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 394, fol. 3v















Workshop of the Boucicaut Master, Creation
of the Sun, Moon and Stars
from Bible historiale
French (Paris), 1400-1424
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 394, fol. 4r


Workshop of the Boucicaut Master, Creation of the Fish
from Bible historiale
French (Paris), 1400-1424
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 394, fol. 5r





















Panel Painting, 1445, by Giovanni di Paolo

Giovanni di Paolo, Creation of the World and Expulsion from the Garden of Eden
Italian, 1445
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection

Mare historiarum by Johannes of Cologne, 1447-1455, Illustrated by the Master of Jouvenal and Collaborators

Master of Jouvenel and Collaborators, Creation of the Earth,
Separation  of the Waters, Separation of Light and Darkness
Mare historiarum of Johannes of Cologne
French (Anjou), 1447-1455
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 4915, fol.21v

Master of Jouvenel and Collaborators, Creation of the Plants,
Creation of the Sun, Moon and Stars, Creation of the Fish
Mare historiarum of Johannes of Cologne
French (Anjou), 1447-1455
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 4915, fol.22






























Speculum historiale by Vincent of Beauvais, 1463, Illustrated by Master Francois and Collaborators






Master Francois and Collaborators,
Creation of the Earth
Speculum historiale of Vincent of Beauvais
French (Paris), 1463
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 50, fol. 16








Master Francois and Collaborators,
Separation of Light and Darkness
Speculum historiale of
Vincent of Beauvais

French (Paris), 1463
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale
de France

MS Francais 50, fol. 17v






Master Francois and Collaborators, Creation of the Plants
Speculum historiale of Vincent of Beauvais
French (Paris), 1463
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 50, fol. 18


Master Francois and Collaborators, Creation of the
Sun and Moon
Speculum historiale of Vincent of Beauvais
French (Paris), 1463
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 50, fol. 19























Master Francois and Collaborators, Creation of the
Birds and Fish
Speculum historiale of Vincent of Beauvais
French (Paris), 1463
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 50, fol. 20

Master Francois and Collaborators, Creation of
the Animals and Adam and Eve
Speculum historiale of Vincent of Beauvais
French (Paris), 1463
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 50, fol. 20v

























The Sistine Chapel Ceiling and Its Influence, 1511 and subsequent

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Separation of Light and Darkness
Italian, 1508-1511
Vatican City, Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Separation of Earth and Water
Italian, 1508-1511
Vatican City, Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Creation of the Sun and Moon
Italian, 1508-1511
Vatican City, Sistine Chapel

The dynamic quality of the images of Creation from the Sistine Chapel had a resounding impact on later images of Creation.

Vincent Raymond, Creation of the Sun and Moon
from Psalter of Paul III
Italian (Rome), 1542
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 8880, fol. 182v

Giulio Clovio, Separation of Light and Darkness
from the Farnese Hours
Italian, 1546
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 69. fol. 59v



























Tintoretto, Creation of the Animals
Italian, 1551-1552
Venice, Gallerie dell'Accademia

Sometimes it has been said that until the voyages of Columbus (1492) and Magellan (1519-1522) the common belief was that the world is flat.  However, it is interesting to observe that this cannot have been the actual belief, since in virtually every case of works of art that depicted the Creation, whether from the 500s or the 1500s, the universe and the earth are depicted as spheres.  That is, the God’s eye view of Creation sees them as spherical, not flat.

The Earth
from L'Image du monde by Gossouin de Metz
French, c. 1245
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 574
The roundness of the earth is demonstrated here by 
showing two men who stand together at the top and are 
then shown walking all around it, to meet again at the 
bottom, approximately 250 years before Columbus.
In fact, people knew theoretically that the world was round for at least a millennium before the theory was confirmed by the voyages of Columbus and Magellan.1   Those voyages were conditioned on the supposition that the earth was a sphere.  And there was ample natural evidence that the theory was correct.  Such ordinary observations, that I myself have seen, are:
  •  you can see farther out to sea from the side of a mountain than you can from the seashore (and, if high enough, you can see a curve in the distant view)
  • the shadow cast by the earth on the moon during a lunar eclipse is curved
  • ships seen from a distance while at sea appear to disappear from the bottom up as they move away from you and the curve of the earth hides them from view.


Giroloamo Benivieni, Map of the Earth
Showing the Relation of the Entrance
to Hell and Mount Purgatory
from Dialogo di Antonio Manetti
cittadino Fiorentino circa al sito, forma
 et misure dello inferno di
Dante Alighieri poeta excellentissimo

Florence_1506










Dante, who wrote the Divine Comedy nearly two hundred years before the voyage of Columbus clearly believed that the earth was round, since his imaginative descent into hell began in Italy and emerged on the opposite side of the earth, where he began his ascent up the seven storied mountain of Purgatory. 2

As he climbed the mountain, he described in detail the view of the stars of the southern hemisphere and compared the time of day and night there with day and night in known parts of the northern hemisphere (his descriptions of the night sky where, of course, imaginary since he had not seen them, but his was aware that there were other constellations that appeared in other parts of the globe from those he knew in Italy).


© M. Duffy, 2017

____________________________________________________ 


  1. For a discussion of human knowledge on the shape of the earth see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spherical_Earth and https://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Scolumb.htm.  For information on the current connection between the Church and astronomical matters see the website of the Vatican Observatory at http://www.vaticanobservatory.va/content/specolavaticana/en.html
  2. For the geography of Dante’s imaginative voyage through Hell and Purgatory see:  http://users.scc.spokane.edu/JRoth/Courses/World%20Masterpieces%20271/SOM%20Recordings%20W%202014/Dante/dantes%20geography%20document.pdf and http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/exhibitions/Dante/geography.html


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