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Bestiary Illumination : “A Man Enthroned within a Mandorla Tree” (c. 1270)

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Bestiaries, collections of moralizing descriptions of animals both real and legendary, were among the most popular books of the 1100s and 1200s. A pseudo-scientific catalogue, bestiary texts were drawn from the Greek Physiologus. Originally composed in the first centuries of the Christian era, translated into Latin in the 300s, and augmented throughout the Middle Ages, a bestiary explained the natural world in terms of Christian symbolism and precepts. This manuscript, though made around 1270 in Flanders, is stylistically close to contemporary elegant Parisian illuminations produced at the court of King Louis IX, which are characterized by gracefully gesturing figures, vigorous outlines, and gold-patterned backgrounds.

(Text courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program, CC BY 4.0).

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