“Traversing the Globe through Illuminated Manuscripts”

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has opened a significant exhibit of illuminated manuscripts, on display from January 26 – June 26, 2016. Typically when I think of illuminated manuscripts, I imagine medieval monks working by candlelight in remote monasteries in Europe, creating beautiful works of art and literature. However, the Getty exhibition offers more: instead of focusing primarily on European works, it aims to illustrate a world of cross-cultural artistic interaction by including examples of Armenian, Ethiopian, Egyptian and Tunisian works in the exhibit. In this fashion, their goal is to illustrate a rich world where the “dynamic interchange of ideas, narratives, styles and images” is represented to demonstrate that globalization is not a new phenomenon.

Photo: Illuminated Manuscript Koran, The left side of a double-page illuminated frontispiece, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.569, fol. 2a

Photo: Illuminated Manuscript Koran, The left side of a double-page illuminated frontispiece, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.569, fol. 2a

In the time before the Internet, television, radio and air travel, even prior to the borders of the countries and cities that we know today, individuals turned to texts to learn about distant lands, foreign goods and other civilizations. The tomes they used were often accompanied by remarkable illustrations that brought to light what only daring travelers or creative imaginations could previously access. The exhibit also includes maps revealing diverse worldviews and texts that describe the land and sea routes of the Silk Road, where information and goods were traded from Asia to Africa and Europe.

The Getty hopes that the exhibit will inspire individuals to understand that cross-cultural trade was ubiquitous in the pre-modern world and these portable works allowed people to recognize and be inspired by new ideas from other cultures. In addition, it allows us, in our modern age, an alternative view regarding our ancestors’ thirst for “knowledge of the unknown” and their interest in remote lands.

For more information on this incredible experience, visit: http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/globe/

 

Molly Brown, ILN Content Officer

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