Sample Literature Review On Give And YE Shall Receive: Gift Giving In The Middle Ages
The exhibition titled “Give and Ye Shall Receive: Gift Giving in the Middle Ages” is currently on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California and it is scheduled to run until March 15, 2015. The gifts in the exhibition included depictions of philanthropic giving in medieval societies. It also included luxury manuscripts prepared as gifts. Giving gifts is a specific way of imparting honor on an individual considered as deserving and very important in Middle Ages and this practice continues even in present days. This exhibition featured about 20 artworks from private collections, and highlighted the special role of manuscripts as gifts. Offering of books as gifts was highly valued and played an important role of connecting people in Middle Ages. Many of these books have been rarely seen before. Thus, the process of ‘Gift-Giving in the Middle Ages’ was not limited to ‘dowries or the stones placed on the throats of the cholera-riddled corpses’ (Siber, 1995). Overall, the primary focus of the exhibition is educate people on what and how gift giving prevailed in Meddle Ages and its role in the bygone era.
Having deep interest in Medieval history and traditional arts, I visited “Give and Ye Shall Receive: Gift Giving in the Middle Ages” exhibit. It really helped me learn things that I did not know before such as the role manuscripts played as gifts in Middle Ages. Following is a brief account of my experiences of in the exhibit.
The exhibit is small and the collections are on display in a gallery space most often devoted to quarterly exhibitions. Unlike the bright main gallery, this gallery does not have very bright light illumination, intentionally put in place in order to protect the valuable books from light. Each manuscript is displayed in a single showcase and several spotlights illuminated them. The space balance between each beautiful artwork was perfect and offered best and beautiful view of books.
In general, most contemporary manuscripts are documents written either by hand or a computer. However, Medieval manuscripts are among Western Civilization’s great glories, laboriously written by hand and often sumptuously decorated (Geetham, 2013). The Medieval manuscripts have been highly valued and remain so to this day as there were brilliant in the Middle Ages (Geary, 1986).
The gallery provided several magnifying glasses to explore the details of the manuscripts on display. Visitors could observe beautiful details of images with ease and sense the messages a particular manuscripts’ illuminations convey. The images create and narrate stories from one page to the next, and one could also gain an overview of the artist’s expressive range.
In addition to the beautiful manuscripts, the gallery also presented tools and materials used in composing the manuscripts. Several materials were displayed in a clear glass-frame cabinet, which easily attracted most visitors. Visitors could learn all they want about the materials used for making ink and pigments employed for decorating books. In addition, the exhibit provided unstop videos showing the Medieval knowledge of how to produce a manuscript. It helped visitors to understand the process of producing a manuscript into the Middle Ages. Parchment was used to make the pages of books (Fabvre, 1997). Their production involved transforming animal skins into parchment. People copy texts, paint, and gild miniatures. Finally, they bind folios between boards. Pens made from the feathers of a bird, and scribes made ink from a variety of natural materials (Fabvre, 1997). This exhibition also explored the tradition of manuscript illumination, book painting using brilliant colors and precious metals. The preparation of manuscripts with colorful illustrations is one of the most fascinating and artistic aspects of life in the Middle Ages. Overall, this is my first realization that a manuscript could be a highly valuable and sumptuous book. The exhibit is very impressive and helped me to understand Medieval history and culture.
The exhibit provided a definition board in front of the showcases. It was a good way to help visitors understand the history and background of each manuscript. Primarily created in monasteries and royal courts, illuminated manuscripts were among the most precious objects in the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance (Brown, 1994). The Middle Ages were characterized by gift exchange processes that played a significant part for people to define the relationships to their family, friends, strangers, acquaintances, God, and the entire church (Geary, 1986). Most books recorded religious scriptures and the lives of saints. The exhibition presented how the activities of gift giving functioned in the medieval society based on how they are found in the scriptures as well as the lives of the saints who existed at the time. The exhibit displayed religious manuscripts in a prominent place.
A large manuscript was displayed in the middle of the gallery. As I looked at the cover page, I understood that it was an example of famous gift given for Christians, the “Magi”. Produced by Franco dei Russi, the images from Italian choirbook showed three men who traveled far to visit Jesus as a child in a miniature of resplendent colors and sumptuous gold. They come to pay homage to the Christ and offer a blessing upon the Magi. The figure of the young king stands out in his red tunic and cap. It represents a contemporary figure dressed in courtly costume of the period. Fashionable costumes and elaborate ceremonial objects are reminiscent of court life in Middle Ages. The representation of the adoration of the “Magi” gave illuminators of this period the opportunity to show case their talent.
The other model in the exhibit, “Saint Hedwig of Silesia with Duke Ludwig I of Liegnitz and Brieg and Duchess Agne”, portrays the saint as a focus for devotion. With Duke Ludwig and his wife Agnes shown kneeling on either side, the image is rich in symbols that remind the viewer of various aspects of Hedwig’s life. Her sumptuous garments indicate aristocratic heritage. The exhibition clearly presents the illuminated culture of the giving. It clearly indicates the importance of giving in the Christian life in the Middle Ages. The impact gave even more meaning when a gift was extended whole-heartedly to the people who were less fortunate and could not access the products they were receiving.
Giving of beautiful valuable manuscripts in medieval times was a particularly powerful present, an object filled with words and striking images meant to teach and flatter the recipient as well as to solidify religious and social relationships. People would read the books and the message is the key factor. They would forever remember the person who offered the gift from the message they obtained. Looking at the context drawn from Getty Museum collection, manuscripts set up conceptual and practical hurdles in exhibits. The illuminators in this exhibition overcame the hurdles with remarkable results. They treated the scripts, blocks of text, or the illuminations not as unconnected parts of the painted page, but as an illusionistic ally, as plaques fastened to trompe l'oeil frames through which a particular painted scene is viewed. Form and content here become elegantly entwined.
Overall, “Give and Ye Shall Receive: Gift Giving in the Middle Ages” exhibition offers an excellent opportunity for those interested in learning the details of gift giving in Middle Ages. Visitors can understand the various intricate aspects of manuscript production and decoration. Finally, visitors can also get a glimpse of life in Middle Ages through this exhibition.
Brown, M. P. (1994). Understanding illuminated manuscripts: a guide to technical terms. Getty Publications.
Febvre, L. (1997). The coming of the book: the impact of printing 1450-1800 (Vol. 10). Verso.
Geary, P. (1986). Sacred commodities: the circulation of medieval relics. The social life of things: Commodities in cultural perspective, 169-191.
Greetham, D. (2013). Textual scholarship: An introduction. Routledge.
Silber, I. F. (1995). Gift-giving in the great traditions: the case of donations to monasteries in the medieval West. European Journal of Sociology, 36(02), 209-243.
The Illuminated Culture of Giving." The Tidings :: Main Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. Source: https://alaintruong2014.wordpress.com/tag/model-book-of-calligraphy/
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