Illuminating the Epic: The Kassel "Willehalm" Codex and the Landgraves of Hesse in the Early Fourteenth Century (Monographs on the Fine Arts)

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9780295975917: Illuminating the Epic: The Kassel
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Illuminated for Heinrich II of Hesse in 1334, the Kassel Willehalm Codex differs from other secular manuscripts of the Gothic period by its lavish illumination cycle and the firm identification of its patron and date of execution. In spite of these distinguishing features, and the well-known epic text by Wolfram von Eschenbach and his epigones, the illuminations have been studied only in stylistic terms. In order to understand the meaning this manuscript held for its patron and the role of the codex in his Kunstpolitik, Joan A. Holladay examines the ways in which the illuminations interpret the text they accompany and places the codex in the larger contexts of the family's commissions and the patron's political actions and ambitions.
After a review of the earlier scholarship, the epic's text, and its popularity and reception, Holladay looks at the notices of ownership that frame the text and the ways in which they link the patron intimately with both the book and its contents. She then demonstrates how the miniatures provide a specific interpretation of the text. The frequency, size, and placement of the miniatures call attention to certain text passages that stress themes with parallels in recent family history.
Finally, the commission and use of the Willehalm Codex are discussed in relation to the physical, political, and religious contexts of the Hessian court at Marburg. An examination of the family's earlier commissions, the additions to the castle, and the tombs of the dynastic necropolis in the church of the family saint reveals the ways in which the manuscript both continues the traditions established by earlier works and more finely tunes their messages. The patron's relationships with religious and royal authorities help to relate the manuscript to his political concerns at the time of its commission.
The identified patron allows this manuscript to be set against the family's commissions of the two previous generations in a way that broadly illuminates artistic practice and purpose at small courts in the later Middle Ages. Students and scholars of Gothic art as well as specialists in medieval German literature will find new and stimulating material in this volume.

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About the Author:

Joan A. Holladay is associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas, Austin.

From Library Journal:

This examination of a 13th-century manuscript that "disappeared" during World War II, only to be recently rediscovered, is a debut publication for Holladay (art and art history, Univ. of Texas, Austin). The scholarship is obvious, but the text remains very readable. Holladay traces the influence of the manuscript's patron, a 13th-century German noble, and situates the work in the context of the contemporary politics and society. Examining stylistic and organizational elements of the codex, she strives to depict its artistry and history. Yet the black-and-white illustrations are disappointing; color would have been a better testament to the art. Holladay neatly covers the visual details of this beautiful illuminated manuscript, but readers should note that the epic poem itself is not examined at length. Recommended for specialized art collections or larger academic libraries.?Karen Ellis, Baldwin Boettcher Lib., Humble, Tex.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9781597407489: Illuminating the Epic: The Kassel Willehalm Codex and the Landgraves of Hesse in the Early Fourteenth Century

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