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Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages

January 7, 2010

Opicinus de Canistris (1296–ca. 1354) – Diagram with Crucifixion

The exhibition Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages presented a great collection of drawings done in between the 9th Century and the 16th Century. The earliest drawings in the exhibition, the initials in the Corbie Psalter, date to around 800, when draftsmen understood the power of the drawn line.

Opicinus de Canistris (1296–ca. 1354) – Cathedral of Pavia

Incipit Page for Gospel of Luke – From the Morgan Gospels

About Architectural Drawings, we can read:

“The so-called Strasbourg Plan A1, seen below, offers an exquisite example of medieval architectural drawings, which are rarely accessible to anyone, including scholars and researchers. It is one of the earliest surviving graphic documents of a monumental structure, authored by an anonymous artist. Although we do not know his name, the artist left us with enough information, in pen and ink, to express his vision for the design of the west façade of Strasbourg cathedral.”

Façade of Strasbourg Cathedral (“Plan A1”) – Strasbourg, France, 1260s

“It was more than pen and ink that I wished to find when I approached the framed drawing for the first time. It was leaning against the wall, silently, waiting to be hanged. I knelt down and started looking for prick holes—yes, prick holes—those barely discernible marks left by the sharp point of a compass. Prick holes serve two important functions. In an original drawing, they reveal the invisible geometric forms underlying the design: circles, say for a rose window; or arcs, two of which combine to form a pointed arch for a window or doorway.” Nancy Wu, Museum Educator, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

Byrhtferth’s Diagram; Computus Diagrams – From the Thorney Computus

Saint Eligius Saves the Basilica of Saint-Martial in Paris from Fire; Saint Eligius Cures a Crippled Man at the Tomb of Saint Denis – From a roll

Opicinus de Canistris (1296–ca. 1354) – Diagram with Zodiac Symbols, folio 24r

More info: Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages and all the exhibited images here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 13, 2010 9:42 pm

    This is so cool it is like you are out in the middle ages.

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