BARI ATELIER (worked c.1250-c.1270)
Country of Origin
c. 1260 to c. 1280
In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
(8.46 inches wide 12.17 inches high)
Description / Expertise
1. Copied in Paris, c. 1260-70, all aspects of this book bear signs of the skill of the commercial book trade in Paris at this time, from the fine quality of the very thin parchment, the careful script, the contemporary corrections by a “corrector,” and of course, the engaging and
elegant illumination, that can be attributed to the stylistic group known as the Bari atelier (named by Robert Branner after the Gradual now at Bari, San Nicola; see Branner, 1977, appendix VN, pp. 229-30, and 102-107, and Branner, 1969). Datable manuscripts from this atelier are all from the 1250s-c. 1262; the elaborate decorative details of the initials used here suggest a date for this Bible in the 1260s, or even c. 1270.
There is no doubt that this is first volume of a two-volume Bible (location of the second volume unknown). Large-format Parisian Bibles from this period are the exception rather than the rule, but a number of other examples survive, some of which include a single volume, and others two.
One of the most interesting textual aspects of this Bible are the fourteenth-century marginal notes; extensive notes are found added to the prologues and Genesis 1-21 (through f. 12v), and to 1 Kings, ch. 7- prologues to Job, ff. 128-261 (there are also notes, although sparser, in the remainder of Genesis-1Kings). The notes are evidence of a careful reading of the text, focusing on its literal meaning, pointing out important events, noting speakers, and so forth. For example, the notes on Genesis, chapter 2, in the margin on f. 5, pick out important words from the text: “homo factus; in animam viventem (man was made; [and became] a living soul)”; “paradisus vuluptatis (a paradise of pleasure)”; “lignum scientie bonum et malum” (the tree of knowledge of good and evil)”; fluvius; aurum ibi nascitur (river; the gold found there)”; “quatuor fluvius; paradisi voluptatis” (the four rivers; paradise of pleasure).” The notes to 1 Kings chapter 7 on f. 128 are of a similar type: “Reducta archa domini in domum aminadab (brought back the arc of the Lord to the house of Aminadab)”; “Eliazar sanctificat (Eleazar was sanctified)”; “Saumuel”; “Contra ydolatras (agains idolatry).”
A study of these notes, which are at times very slightly trimmed, and predate the present binding, would be an interesting project, providing direct evidence of how this Bible was used.
2. Note, inside front cover, from a French bookseller (nineteenth-century?); and two stock numbers and price codes, inside back cover.
3. Private collection Switzerland, The Elisabeth Foundation Nesselnbach.
This large-format Bible is a hitherto unknown example from the workshop known as the Bari atleier of Parisian thirteenth-century illumination at a pivotal time in the history of the development of a new Parisian style. A classic example of gothic illumination from the French capital, it includes a fine series of historiated initials before each book of the Bible, painted with charm and elegance, and set within ornament that includes drolleries, grotesques, or animals. Its handsome early blind-tooled binding adds to its interest.