Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts have long attracted both scholarly and popular fascination. Since their 18th-century beginnings, libraries in Greater Philadelphia have built nationally important collections of Books of Hours, Bibles, Psalters, historical texts, and romances. Today, more than 11 Philadelphia institutions include holdings that, taken together, comprise one of the largest groups of medieval and Renaissance art on vellum in the United States. Until now, the region's collections of illuminated manuscripts have remained a largely untapped scholarly resource and rarely seen by the public. Through the collaborative efforts of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Leaves of Gold: Treasures of Illuminated Manuscripts from Philadelphia Collections will open a selection of these beautiful volumes and the medieval European world they represent to contemporary audiences. The exhibition will be on view in the Berman and Stieglitz Galleries on the Museum's ground floor from March 10 to May 13, 2001.
Chosen from a wealth of material-more than 500 bound volumes and 2,000 individual leaves--the exhibition will include more than 80 works of art, ranging in date from the 12th through the 16th centuries. All of the manuscripts on view feature lavish decorative treatments such as gold leaf, calligraphic pen work, illuminated initial letters, or finely wrought cycles of miniature paintings. Among the highlights of Leaves of Gold will be two magnificent early 13th-century Psalters (books of the collected Psalms); five extraordinary miniatures from a 12th-century South German Psalter; many exquisite Books of Hours, some of which are remarkably tiny; antiphonal leaves (sheets of choral music); and illuminated Bibles. Among the notable artists in the exhibition are the Orosius Master, Jean Bourdichon, Jean Colombe, Liberale de Verona, and the workshop of the Bedford Master.
Leaves of Gold: Treasures of Illuminated Manuscripts from Philadelphia Collections is organized by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries in association with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is supported by generous grants from the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by The University of the Arts, Philadelphia; and from The William Penn Foundation. Initial funding was provided by generous individuals.
Leaves of Gold was conceived and is organized by James Tanis, Director Emeritus of the Libraries and Professor Emeritus of History at Bryn Mawr College. Katherine C. Luber, Associate Curator for the John G. Johnson Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is curatorial liaison for the project. Jennifer Thompson, an independent scholar, is research associate for the project. A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition, featuring essays by Mr. Tanis, Ms. Thompson, and other noted scholars and specialists in the fields of illuminated manuscripts and medieval and Renaissance art, including James H. Marrow, Princeton University; William Noel, Walters Art Gallery; Kathryn Smith, New York University; Roger Wieck, Pierpont Morgan Library; Consuelo Dutschke, Columbia University; Debra Cashion, Bryn Mawr College; and Carl B. Strehlke, Adjunct Curator, John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The membership of PACSCL includes 21 publicly accessible libraries: Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia; American Philosophical Society; Athenaeum of Philadelphia; Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies; Bryn Mawr College; College of Physicians of Philadelphia; Free Library of Philadelphia; Hagley Museum and Library; Haverford College; Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Library Company of Philadelphia; Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Presbyterian Historical Society; Rosenbach Museum and Library; St. Charles Borromeo Seminary; Swarthmore College; Temple University; University of Pennsylvania; Wagner Free Institute of Science; Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library. Some of the libraries will also present own focused installations in conjunction with Leaves of Gold.
Leaves of Gold: Treasures of Illuminated Manuscripts from Philadelphia Collections will travel to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee, where it will be on view from September 27, 2001 to January 6, 2002.