'The Garden of Eden'
Illumination from The Salzburg Missal,
by Berthold Furtmeyr.
Frame: 12 in x 16 in.
An exceptional manuscript (1478 - 1490s)
The day after his birth in 1756, Mozart was baptised in the Baroque cathedral in Salzburg, Austria. Dedicated to Saint Rupert and Saint Vergilius, Salzburg Cathedral has been rebuilt several times from when it was first constructed in the Romanesque style in 774. During the 15th century, three consecutive archbishops commissioned the Missal that exists to this day, a religious manuscript on parchment in five volumes comprising twenty-two liturgical texts in Latin, for religious ceremonies. Regarded among experts as a monumental and significant work, the object boasts large dimensions (37.7 x 27.5 cm) and 680 richly inscribed, decorated and illuminated pages.
Prince-Archbishop Bernhard von Rohr (1421-1487), who was a bibliophile and fervent defender of the arts, commissioned work on the manuscript to begin around 1478. Production continued under the leadership of Archbishop Johann Beckenschlager (1428-1489) between 1482 and 1489, and then under Count Friederich Graf von Schaunberg until 1494.
Ulrich Schreier began work on the third volume - he was a magnificent illuminator who worked on manuscripts realised for the Benedictine monastery of Admont, which became part of the Salzburg University Library. However, soon afterwards Berthold Furtmeyr took over the decoration of the volumes with his splendid jeweled miniatures. A famous painter of the German Renaissance, he is attributed to have produced no fewer than fourteen religious and astronomical manuscripts. Furtmeyr worked in Regensburg (located in Bavaria on the banks of the Danube, a hundred kilometers from Munich), a medieval city that specialised in illumination.
The Missal was the property of the library of Salzburg Cathedral until 1801, when the book was seized by the French and taken to Paris, one object among many confiscated during various military conflicts between France and Germany. Since 1815, the manuscript once again crossed the Rhine and is now preserved in Munich*.
The Garden of Eden - The Tree of Death and Life
This illumination is one of the most famous within the manuscript. The central image is surrounded by four medallions, interwoven with arabesques of gilded branches, red flowers and soft green foliage, an ode to the eternal cycle of life. The painted landscapes are idyllic, filled with nature and abundance, in contrast to the colour of the sky and hills in the distance.
At the centre of the image is the Tree of Knowledge. A crucifix and a skull hang from its branches, symbols of faith, spirituality, and the interconnection of life and death, Good and Evil. Eve, naked, proffers forbidden fruit to the kneeling men; while the Virgin, robed in blue, is attempting to deliver humanity from evil. The serpent wrapped around the tree trunk offers Eve an apple, no doubt a warning to men to be vigilant. Adam appears defeated, slumped passively and verging on desolation.
The banner in Adam’s hand reads Serpens vicit Adam, vetidam* sibi suggeret escam - ‘Seduced by the serpent, Adam eats the forbidden fruit’.
The banner which appears to the left of the Virgin, held by the figure in a pink toga, reads: Ecce panis angelorum, factus cibus viatorum, or ‘Behold the bread of angels, made the food of pilgrims’.
The banner which appears to the right of Eve, rising from the skeleton’s collar bone, reads: Mors est malis, vita bonis, vide, or ‘Death to the wicked, life to the good’.
In the upper medallions, two figures, one of which is wearing a crown, each display a coat of arms and bear a banner. The banner on the left reads: Panem angelorum manducavit homo, or ‘Man ate the bread of the angels’. The banner on the right reads: Melius est modicum iusto super divitias, or ‘Better is a little to the just than great riches’.
The medallions at the bottom show three scenes of shepherd life, probably representing an allegory of labour. Three further banners unfold above the heads of the figures. The left reads: Quid honorabilius quam mea bene regere, or ‘What is more honourable than good guidance’. The right reads: Die hac nocte [meas] preservabo et custodiam, ‘Preserve and keep me on this night’.
* Ms Clm 15708-15712, Bavarian State Library, Munich.
** According to the Bavarian Library, there are some small errors made by the painter: here, he has written vetidam instead of vetitam.
- Codices Illustres. Les plus beaux manuscrits enluminés du monde 400 à 1600, de Ingo F. Walther et Norbert Wolf, éditions Taschen (Paris, 2014).
- Une histoire des manuscrits enluminés de Christopher de Hamel, éditions Phaidon (Paris, 2001).
Wood frame, madeand assembled in France.
The document is displayed in a 12 in x 16 in frame.
Each frame is hand-assembled in our workshops in Cambremer.
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