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Manuscripts for devotion

Many manuscripts were created for public or private devotion. Manuscripts for the Mass included the sacramentary, the gradual, and the missal, described below, and others. For personal prayer, people from all walks of life commissioned the popular books of hours.

The sacramentary

A sacramentary, the most important type of liturgical book used in the early medieval Church, contains the prayers recited by the priest at Mass. The book lay open on the church altar—the most sacred site within the building—where the priest celebrated the Mass while worshipers looked on. This Ottonian sacramentary manuscript (see the pages below) includes a full-page Crucifixion, at the right, beautiful illuminated initials, and an abundance of knot work. As seen in the page on the left, the text was largely executed in gold and silver. These luxurious materials, with its reddish-purple painted background that imitates the purple-dyed parchment of antiquity, recall the most splendid books of Imperial Rome.
Left: Ornamented Monogram VD; Right: _The Crucifixion,_about 1000–1025, Ottonian, Fleury, France,  tempera, gold, and silver on parchment, 9 1/8 inches high x 7 1/16 inches wide (The J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. LUDWIG V 1, FOL. 1V, 2V)

Initial R: The Resurrection, late 1400s or early 1500s, Antonio da Monza, Italian, Rome, tempera and gold leaf on parchment, 25 1/4 inches high x 17 1/8 inches wide (The J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. LUDWIG VI 3, FOL. 16)
The gradual
Graduals included the sung parts of the Mass. The gradual at the left is over two-feet tall and is one of the largest volumes in the Getty’s manuscript collection. The large size was deliberate: It enabled a group of singers standing before it to read the notes and words.
This gradual was especially evocative of the High Renaissance. Like other works of art from the late 15th or early 16th century, it is decorated with representations of antique gems and cameos, putti, garlands, and Grotesques (fantastic mixed-up creatures).

The missal

The missal is a service book that contains chants, prayers, and readings, together with ceremonial directions. The missal seen here was commissioned by Cosimo de' Migliorati,
Christ in Majesty; Initial A: A Man Lifting His Soul to God, 1389–1404, Master of the Brussels Initials, Italian, Bologna, tempera, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment, 13 inches high x 9 7/16 inches wide (The J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. 34, FOL. 7)
bishop of Bologna and a cardinal, around the time in which he was elevated to the papacy as Innocent VII. The sumptuous miniatures in this book depict religious scenes, but the decorative borders are more secular in nature. They contain drolleries (amusing or grotesque figures), along with heraldic details. The pages originally included the arms of Cosimo de' Migliorati, but these were overpainted with the arms of a later owner of the manuscript, the Antipope John XXIII (who was an elected pope in opposition to a pope canonically chosen).

The book of hours

One of the most popular books from the 14th—16th centuries was the book of hours. Books of hours contain devotional texts designed to aid private prayer, and they were often lavishly illuminated. Because no other book was created in greater quantity in the late Middle Ages, the book of hours has come to be called the medieval bestseller. One might say that the book of hours is a church calendar and day planner of prayer, for it helps to organize time throughout the year and to structure daily devotion. The central text is the Hours of the Virgin, which includes Psalm verses, hymns, prayers, and readings to be recited during the eight canonical hours of the day. In addition, these manuscripts include a calendar of the major feast days and the tools used to calculate the date of Easter, the most important feast day of the Christian calendar.
Initial D: The Visitation; Initial D: The Lord Enthroned (left), detail (right), about 1300, French, northeastern France, tempera and gold leaf on parchment, 10 3/8 inches high x 7 3/16 inches wide (The J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. LUDWIG IX 3, FOL. 63V)
The Ruskin Hours is a relatively early example of a book of hours (see above). The profusely decorated manuscript includes almost 100 historiated initials (letters containing identifiable narrative scenes or figures),miniatures that illustrate the calendar, and an illustrated litany. Further illuminations called marginalia appear on many of the pages. Secular vignettes of humorous animals and figures are meant to provide a playful counterpart to the religious narratives. In the detail (above right), two men perched on the marginal extenders of the border decoration seem to be engaged in a game of "chicken" with monkeys on their backs. Although their game has nothing to do with the sacred subject matter of the Visitation, their positions are a playful adaptation of the women's greeting above.
Compare an additional page from the Ruskin Hours, c. 1300, with the Spinola Book of Hours, dated approximately 210 years later. Both scenes shown below share the story of the Annunciation. The earlier page at the left is largely filled with script, the opening phrases from Psalm 50. Accompanying these words are winding, spiraling, and elongated vines. The figures are relatively flattened, and in the case of the Virgin Mary and Gabriel, placed against a diapered ground (a traditional, flat patterned background).
Left: Initial D: The Annunciation; Initial D: A Young Man Praying to Christ in the Clouds, about 1300, unknown, French, northeastern France, tempera and gold leaf on parchment, 10 3/8 inches high x 7 3/16 inches wide (The J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. LUDWIG IX 3, FOL. 37V).  Right: The Annunciation, 1510–1520, Master of James IV of Scotland, illuminator, Flemish, Bruges and Ghent, tempera colors, gold, and ink on parchment, 9 1/8 inches high x 6 9/16 inches wide (The J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. LUDWIG IX 18, FOL. 92V)
In contrast, the story in the later Spinola book (see the page above right) is depicted more visually, accompanied only by a short sentence. The background is as detailed as the figures themselves. The artist has paid special attention to perspective and the sense of space within the picture frame, showing both the exterior of the building along with a cutaway into the structure so the viewer can be witness to the sacred scene. These differences mirror changes in Renaissance panel and canvas painting, with new interest in three-dimensional modeling, architectural rendering, and detailed landscapes.

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