‘Make a Joyful Noise’ at the High Museum in Atlanta, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

Here’s one small detail that’s gorgeous enough to be cover art It’s from an illuminated book of chants for the Mass for Florence Cathedral, currently part of the exhibition Make A Joyful Noise at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta GA (USA). The lamb gets a place of honor as the emblem of the Wool Guild that supervised and subsidized the cathedral project.

Florence Italy, "Dedication of Florence Cathedral" detail.The lamb is the emblem of the Wool Guild that supervised and subsidized the cathedral project.

“Dedication of Florence Cathedral” detail.

Now let’s back up and put that lamb in context. Can you find it?

Dedication of Florence Cathedral Gradual, Edili 151, fols. 7v–8r, 1470-1471 Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on parchment Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

Dedication of Florence Cathedral;
Gradual, Edili 151, fols. 7v–8r, 1470-1471;
Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on parchment.
Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, This photo courtesy of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta GA

I can’t decide if I’m more transported by the heavenly blue, by the gold that’s glimmered through the centuries in candlelight and shadow, or by the intricate bird and flower drawings in the border. The three choir books in this exhibition have survived for over 500 years, much of that time in use.

Here’s another photo for context — these are not small books. In the 15th century, one illuminated book could take years to construct, making it too precious for individual use as a hymnal. These giant books were mounted on lecterns above eye-level for use by more than one person.

Choir books from Florence Cathedral

Stepping back for an exhibition overview.

Now for a closer look. What more proof do we need that God is in the details? There’s an energy flowing through the dark inked lines that decorate the golden buds. They rhyme with the combs on the heads of the birds. It’s there again in the white lines that curl over colored leaves. The forms connect and entwine and meander, and somehow make me gladder than ever to be part of life on earth.

Fabulous birds and flowers:  Francesco di Antonio del Chierico  Italian, 1433-1484 Dedication of Florence Cathedral Gradual, Edili 151, fols. 7v–8r, 1470-1471 Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on parchment Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

I love these fabulous birds.

Another fabulous bird:  Francesco di Antonio del Chierico  Italian, 1433-1484 Dedication of Florence Cathedral Gradual, Edili 151, fols. 7v–8r, 1470-1471 Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on parchment Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

Another manuscript shows the wear of daily use — years upon years of fingers turning pages to sing the Hours — as well as water damage from the Nov 4 1966 flood which reached the Cathedral and many other historical treasures in Florence.

Psalm 81 Psalter N. 2, n. 3, fols. 117v-118r, ca. 1439 Ink and tempera on parchment Collection of the Archivio dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

Psalm 81
Psalter N. 2, n. 3, fols. 117v-118r, ca. 1439
Ink and tempera on parchment
Collection of the Archivio dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

I’ve focused here on the manuscripts, but they’re just part of an exhibition that includes three of the marble panels from Luca Della Robbia’s organ loft, also from Florence Cathedral. The audio guides feature music from transcriptions of the medieval notation. Live performances will be scheduled throughout the exhibition, which is on view through January 11, 2015.

I’m already overloading this post, so I’ll just include a few more pictures and say “see it!” (the following photos of Luca della Robbia work courtesy of the High Museum of Art)

(If you’re reading this in email and have an extra minute, please click through to the blog for a better view of the marble sculpture.)

And yes, I’ve taken a little time off from downsizing but I’m still getting there bit by bit, and sometimes an ‘art fix’ is exactly what’s needed to get recharged. Um, too bad I won’t be finding any 500 year old illuminated manuscripts in my basement. Or at least I don’t think I will…

 Have you had an art fix lately?

Related links:

For more on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

For the High’s exhibition site

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10 thoughts on “‘Make a Joyful Noise’ at the High Museum in Atlanta, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

  1. That is a lovely piece of artwork indeed. You are right – so many colours and patterns (first photo/book), it’s hard to pick which part I like best. The lamb seems overshadowed by all the colour. It looks as if the flowers and birds are popping out of the close-ups, how life-like – art that comes to life.

    Last weekend I went into an art gallery. On display where many paintings by Australian artists. It was a very quiet exhibition – not many people were there. Come to think of it, many art exhibitions aren’t crowded at all in local towns. Sometimes I wish there were more people there to appreciate art.

    • Seeing the ms made me think about things I’d read lately and I remembered this bit about cat paw-prints: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/03/130326-animals-medieval-manuscript-books-cats-history/

      This exhibition wasn’t as crowded as the lead-in show, which was a collection of paintings, including Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Soutine. The biggest mob I’ve seen lately was at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam — there was a line to get in, then it was so crowded we sometimes had to wait to sidle up to a picture. I guess more tourists = more interest in art.

      • That is very odd, cat prints all over an ancient manuscript. Maybe it was the cat of the famous author of the book, you never know, and it wanted to leave it’s mark.

        I too would line up for a Van Gogh exhibit. A crowd always attracts attention. For some strange reason, a lot of us like to follow the crowd.

      • Ah – maybe we think that if there’s a crowd viewing it, it must be worth viewing? A nice thing about the Van Gogh museum was, people weren’t just running up to snap a photo and move on without really looking, they seemed to be lingering and really looking.

      • Good theory. I’d be one of those people not budging if I ever had the chance to admire Van Gogh’s art with my very own eyes. Masterpieces on display 🙂

    • I keep thinking I should keep tabs on what’s on in Birmingham (and Chattanooga). There’s so much to see and learn if I only pay attention! Thanks for commenting Joan, I’ve been thinking of you and wondering how your projects are going. — Sandy

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