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Good A&S Documentation - Fifteenth century Scroll Illumination

Baroness Katheryn Hebenstreit
(Annika Madejska)

Canton of Hukka, Barony of Aarnimetsä
Membership number: 110273

Item entered:
Mistress Honor of Restormelâ's Albion Scroll
15:th Century illumination
Entered in the Fine arts Category, subcategory: illumination.

Judges, please note that it is only the illuminations of this scroll that are entered in the Arts and Science competition. The beautiful calligraphy was not done by me, but by Master Juhana Maununpoika Kivisuo.

Behind the term illumination lies the latin illuminare, which means to light up. Not only does this refer to the glittering and shining gold and silver on the manuscripts but also all the beautiful colours of the initials and pictures that appears in a book from the middle ages. (Codices illustres, page 11).
A picture during Middle Ages, needed validation from the written word but the written word had itself been validated by the images accompanying it since the book illustrations started to appear in early Christian times. Hence, pictures and text on the same page in a medieval book would cover the same theme. (Page 15 Codices illustres.) An image on a scroll takes on another dimension. Itâ's meant for a small audience, generally a single owner. This adds the dimension of describing, explaining and sometimes substituting the written word.

The pictures could serve different purposes, like the illuminated initials in huge choir books identified the particular feast days and were big enough to be shared by a group, A picture in a book of hours was geared to private meditation. (Illuminated Manuscripts, page 21).

The scrolls were made on parchment or vellum, both terms are used to describe the animal skins that first were soaked in lime water to remove the flesh and hair from them, and then stretched and polished with pumice. (Codices illustres, page 18.)
Since we have one person doing the calligraphy on this scroll, and another doing the illumination, I would like to add this reference:

From the thirteenth century and onward, the commercial production of books and manuscripts started in earnest. There could be several people working on the same manuscript, one producing the text, another the rubrics a third the marginal decoration and a forth the miniature work. The master of the atelier would most likely produce the figures. Not only in monasteries, but also in other workshops, women were employed as scribes and miniaturists. One mentioned is a lady by the name of Anastasie who was very good at painting rinceaux and checkered backgrounds. With this specialization came something dangerous to the art of illumination: routine. In late fifteenth-century book of hours, many miniatures were practically mass produced. (Medieval & Renaissance Miniatures from the National Gallery of Art, page xxv.)

Choice of illumination
I choose a border and leafing for my illumination based on what the person the scroll would be given to would like, what I myself found beautiful and interesting and that I felt would give me an interesting challenge.

This I found in a book by the title: The Golden Age of English Manuscript Painting 1200-1500 by Richard Marks and Nigel Morgan, page 116-117. The illumination is from The Psalter and Hours of Henry Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. In the original codex (book) the psalm has the number 26 and is 273x186 mm. It is from the first half of the 15:th Century.

The picture on the scroll would however be altered to suit the special award that the scroll would be used for.

For the text and picture to reflect one another as it was done in a medieval book of hours for instance (see section above) I choose a picture from the same time period as the leafing, but instead of looking for a picture from a specific geographical region I looked for a picture that had the necessary components of a dragon and a person kneeling in front of the dragon.

I found this in the book: Illuminated Manuscripts, Treasures of the Pierpont Morgan Library, on page 73. The illumination is from Loyset Lidet, Epistolary and Apocalypse, from Burges, Belgium. However, I had to fit the picture to the space I got from the leaf work I had chosen and it needed to be adjusted to fit the person receiving the award, so this picture was the main inspiration for my illumination.
The illuminated letters in the text were made completely in gold instead of written in blue with fine lined red decorations. This was done because of the very small sized text on the scroll.

Period colours for illuminations would have been mixed with glair. That is the term used for egg white that has been deprived of its natural stringiness. There were different methods used to achieve this. (The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting, page 50.) The glair would be mixed with pigments to create the paint. Pigments usually came from minerals, salts and vegetable extracts. Medieval writers on pigments divided them into two categories: natural and artificial. The natural were the ones taken from compound minerals, certain elements and vegetable extracts and the artificial ones were those created from manufactured salts.(The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting pages 74 80.) However, a lot of the period colours were poisonous. For example white lead was used to create a white colour, and the lead is highly poisonous. (Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting, Pages 90-91). Another element that was used was mercury, and that is also something that should be handled extremely carefully. These are just two examples of unhealthy ingredients that were found in period paint, there are lots more.

It can be not healthy working with period pigments in an area where you would eat. And since I only have a kitchen table to work on, I decided not to use my ground pigments. Instead I chose to work with gouache paints. They have very similar qualities to period paints.

Gold leaf
I used a modern glue when I made this scroll. (Schnellmixtion deutsch Vergoldermilch, 15 min 48 Std. Trockenzeit.)

In period they would have used a mixed gesso, and to mix a good one was in those times considered an art, especially in Italy. The finest one was in Italian called gesso sottile (Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting, Page 32.)

From the beginning this was used when gilding wood. In the twelfth century this method was adapted for use in the making of manuscripts (The Gilded Page, page 66).
Illuminators began to combine this gesso with other fillers, such as Armenian bole and white lead, and glue and honey to create a thickened binder, or mordant for applying gold leaf in manuscripts.(The Gilded Page, page 66).

There are several recipes available to make period gesso, and the equipment needed to create it is easily obtained. It might be hard to find some of the pigments, but hide glues should be quite easy to obtain, however, the process is rather time consuming and not recommended for beginner gilders (The Gilded Page, pages 125-140).

Since I didn't have several weeks of time just to make gesso for this scroll, and since this is my first attempt with real gold, I decided to stick to my synthetic and modern gesso.

Preferably you would use a 23 carat gold for Manuscript gilding. (The Gilded Page, page 98). I however used 22 carat gold leaf, since it was not as expensive as the 24 carat one, which was my only other option at that time.

Burnishing tools, used to rub the gold carefully to make it shine, have been made out of a variety of things through the ages. Polished hematite, bloodstone or a tooth from a carnivorous animal are some examples. (The Gilded Page, page 103.) Modern burnishers are mostly made out of polished agate stone or psilomelanite,

Burnishing should be done in dry weather, so if the day is humid, postpone this part of the process. (The Gilded Page, page 159).

I used modern paintbrushes, but with natural hairs. In my opinion, the synthetic brushes aren't as flexible and smooth to use, and the natural hairs would also be more period to use and it would be easier to figure out which brush technique the artists used.

I used a sharp knife to cut the gold, and a variety of paintbrushes to paint the glue on the vellum and to move the gold from the pad to fasten it on the glue.

The burnisher I have is agate. Unfortunately the dogtooth shaped burnisher (it's bent in a 90 degree tapering to a point) was very hard to come by in Helsinki, so I bought a straight, rather blunt one. It turned out to be the type you would use for small thin lines and not for big flat areas as the one on my scroll. (The Gilded Page, page 103.)

There are however lots of different tools that you can use if you wish for gilding. (The Gilded Page, pages 95-113). I have chosen the ones that I am comfortable working with.

How the work progressed
I started with making a pencil sketch of the scroll on the parchment. Normally they would have used what they called a crayon, which is very much like a pencil, since it's made out of hardened pigment paste (Randy Asplund's article and A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, page 91). A History of Illuminated Manuscripts suggest that the graphite mines at Borrowdale in Cumberland could provide the illuminators with this new tool from the mid 12:th Century. Lead styluses (sharpened pieces of lead) and silver styluses could also be used (A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, page 91). But since I don't have access to either a lead stylus or the hardened pigment, I choose to use a pencil to do my sketch.

After that I filled in the lines of my sketch with a modern ink pen. In period, they would have used a very thin cut quill (The Gilded Page, page 106).

Then I removed all the sketched lines (with a very modern eraser¦).
After that I did the Gilding, as that is done before painting (The Gilded Page, page 160 and Randy Asplund's article).

When the gilding is done, the edges of the gilded areas look very uneven. That was in period corrected by either using a stylus, or with outlining with black or red ink. (The Gilded Page, page 160).
I chose however to do all the basic painting of the scroll. I put on the red, then proceeded to blue and finally the green parts.

After that I started doing the shading (or the white work).

Finally I proceeded to make the outlining, since that was not only necessary for the gilded parts, but also for the outlining of leaves and flowers.

The last thing painted was the picture. And there I started with the dark bases, and did the highlighting afterwards, and finally, some outlining.

What difficulties I encountered
When I was doing the pencil sketching on the parchment (or vellum if you prefer that, the terms were both used) it rubbed off a lot. On paper the pencil sketches tend to stick onto the paper, even a bit too much so it's hard to get rid of, but on parchment the sketch really just lies on the surface of the skin and so it smeared a lot.

The space left in the calligraphy for the initial illuminated letter, was a bit smaller than the space for the letter on the original scroll. This was due to the fact that the text for the award is longer than the original scroll text. That made it hard to make the leaves in the initial letter as big as they were supposed to be.
When I had laid the gold and went on to burnish it, the gold rubbed off. If this had to do with the glue I used or if the agate burnisher I have is not the appropriate tool for this kind of burnishing, I do not know. However, this was the only type of burnisher I could find in Helsinki, so I had to accept the fact that I was not able to burnish the gold on this scroll.

Another possibility is that I should have used more than one layer of gold. The Gilded Page suggests that three layers of gold gives a nice shine when burnished, and that if too little gold is used, that the glue can come up from the pores of the gold and smear the surface. (Page 158).
When I painted the scroll I had an accident with a drop of water that fell down on the ink of the calligraphy made by Master Juhana Maununpoika Kivisuo. And I also managed to get smears of paint on my hand that I managed to transfer onto the outer edges of the scroll. Parchment (or Vellum) is however very forgiving when it comes to this, because with the aid of a sharp knife the smears can be scraped off.

How I would do it differently next time
First, I need to learn to do calligraphy. That would make it easier with the creations and planning of illuminations too. I would like to try a different glue and a different burnisher so that I can figure out how to do that part of the process correctly.

I would also like to find a very thin nib for a calligraphy pen since that would be useful in making the ink outlining, so that I can get rid of the very modern ink pens.

Of course I strive to be able to make a scroll in a completely period way, using shells for my paints and grinding all the pigments myself, but considering the poisons, that would require a room where I could only do this, and at the moment, that is not possible.

1. The Gilded Page The History and Technique of Manuscript Gilding
Kathleen p. Whitely
Oak Knoll Press & The British Library 2000,
ISBN 1-884718-58-2 (USA ISBN 0-7123-4670-8 (UK

2. The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting
Daniel V. Thompson with a foreword by Bernard Berenson
Dover Publications, Inc.
ISBN 0-486-20327-1

3. Medieval & Renaissance Miniatures from the National Gallery of Art
Catalogue from The National Gallery of Art, Washington
Compiled by: Carra Ferguson
David S. Stevens Schaff
Gary Vikan
Under the direction of: Carl Nordenfalk
Edited by: Gary Vikan
Exhibition dates were January 26 until 1 of June 1975.

4. The Hours of Catherine of Cleves
John Plummer
George Braziller, Inc.
Third printing 2002
ISBN 0-8076-1492-0

5. Illuminated Manuscripts, Treasures of the Pierpont Morgan Library New York
Forward by Charles E Pierce, JR
Text by William M. Voelkle and Susan L.Engle
Abbeville Press Publishers
ISBN 0-7892-0216-6

6. Codices illustres The world's most famous illuminated manuscripts 400 to 1600
Ingo F. Walter, Norbert Wolf
Taschen 2001
ISBN 3-8228-5852-8

7. A History of Illuminated Manuscripts
Christopher de Hamel
Phaidon Press Limited
ISBN 0-7148-3452-1

8. The Golden Age of English Manuscripts painting 1200-1500
By Richard Marks and Nigel Morgan
ISBN 0-8076-0972-2
Pierpont Morgan Library

8. Making an Illuminated Cover Illustration
By Randy Asplund
(Article from the internet
In the SCA he is known as Ranthulfr Asparlundr, he's a Knight and member of the Order of the Laurel (Calligraphy and Illumination) and he resides in the Middle Kingdom, Barony of Cynnabar.
Among other things he makes illuminated covers for Tournaments Illuminated and teaches the art of making medieval colours from natural raw materials.