- Cathleen A. Fleck, Saint Louis University, USA
As a 'biography' of the fourteenth-century illustrated Bible of Clement VII, an opposition pope in Avignon from 1378–94, this social history traces the Bible's production in Naples (c. 1330) through its changing ownership and meaning in Avignon (c. 1340–1405) to its presentation as a gift to Alfonso, King of Aragon (c. 1424). The author's novel approach, based on solid art historical and anthropological methodologies, allows her to assess the object's evolving significance and the use of such a Bible to enhance the power and prestige of its princely and papal owners.
Through archival sources, the author pinpoints the physical location and privileged treatment of the Clement Bible over a century. The author considers how the Bible's contexts in the collection of a bishop, several popes, and a king demonstrate the value of the Bible as an exchange commodity. The Bible was undoubtedly valued for the aesthetic quality of its 200+ luxurious images. Additionally, the author argues that its iconography, especially Jerusalem and visionary scenes, augments its worth as a reflection of contemporary political and religious issues. Its images offered biblical precedents, its style represented associations with certain artists and regions in Italy, and its past provided links to important collections.
Fleck's examination of the art production around the Bible in Naples and Avignon further illuminates the manuscript's role as a reflection of the court cultures in those cities. Adding to recent art historical scholarship focusing on the taste and signature styles in late medieval and Renaissance courts, this study provides new information about workshop practices and techniques. In these two court cities, the author analyzes styles associated with different artists, different patrons, and even with different rooms of the rulers' palaces, offering new findings relevant to current scholarship, not only in art history but also in court and collection studies.
Contents: Introduction: what is a biography of a Bible?; Illuminated Bibles at the court of Naples: the creation of the Clement Bible (c. 1325–1362); A courtier and a bishop at the king's court: the first known owners of the Clement Bible (c. 1326–1340); The artist at court in Naples: the stylistic meaning of Pietro Cavallini and the Clement Bible (c. 1308–1330); Vision and artistic translation in Naples: iconographic meaning and the Clement Bible under King Robert the Wise (1309–1343); Court play: the Clement Bible and the papal library in Avignon (c. 1341–1377); The court in exile: the Clement Bible and art in Avignon during the 'Babylonian captivity' (1341–1377); The divided court of the popes: the Clement Bible and Clement VII (1378–1394); The court's triumph and defeat: the Clement Bible beyond Clement VII (1394–1424); Epilogue: the Clement Bible after the Middle Ages; Appendix; Bibliography; Indexes.
About the Author: Cathleen A. Fleck is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Saint Louis University, USA
Reviews: 'Fleck’s solid historical research draws upon papal archives, library inventories, church history, and artists’ workshop practices. By tracking the manuscript’s “biography” and its “career” as a cultural commodity, Fleck makes an innovative contribution to manuscript studies that will have a broad appeal not only to scholars and students of papal history and manuscript studies, but also to those who study the connections between art and politics, the court cultures of Angevin Naples and Avignon, patronage practices of the popes, and the history of medieval libraries.'
Janis Elliott, Texas Tech University, USA
'Fleck’s study is a model for other scholars of manuscript illumination in its combination of recent theory with traditional analysis, as it reaches beyond problems of attribution and motif source that easily consume scholars working on thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italian art. She couples her archival research and careful iconographic and stylistic analysis with recent historical and anthropological methodology… Fleck’s The Clement Bible at the Medieval Courts of Naples and Avignon provides an important model for future studies of individual manuscripts. She brings to manuscript studies methodologies that provide fascinating insights into the appearance of objects, their lives, and the social and political contexts in which they have functioned. But she skillfully joins them to her extensive art-historical and codicological experience and knowledge. While this combination is essential to contemporary manuscript studies, it remains rare.' caa.reviews
'Tracing the Clement Bible’s first century, Cathleen A. Fleck’s well-researched and revealing ‘biography’ shows that its extraordinary journey began in the milieu of the royal court of Naples and moved next to the ancient Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino from where it travelled to the papal palace of the Avignon popes and then to Spain.' Sharp News
Cathleen A. Fleck's profile page on the Saint Louis University website
Extracts from this title are available to view:
Full contents list