The World Chronicle of Rudolf of Ems – and its miniatures. Art technology and more !
An art-technological study was the starting point for a new interdisciplinary look on images and texts of one of the most magnificent German-language manuscripts of the Middle Ages. A German-Swiss research team now presents the philological, historical, art-historical and art-technological results in an sumptuous publication.
At a Glance
|Research project||New publication from the CICS: Die Weltchronik des Rudolf von Ems - und ihre Miniaturen|
Dr. Doris Oltrogge
Prof. (em.) Dr. Robert Fuchs
|Faculty||Faculty of Cultural Sciences|
|Institute||CICS - Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences|
Dr. Rudolf Gamper (ehem. Kantonsbibliothek St. Gallen)
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Wolf (Univ. Marburg)
St. Gallen, Kantonsbibliothek
Universität Marburg, Institut für Deutsche Philologie des Mittelalters
Joseph and the wife of Putiphar / Joseph is accused, fol. 32v. (Image: TH Köln – CICS – Robert Fuchs)
Joseph’s coat, the infrared picture shows an opening for the head in the underdrawing which was not executed in the painting, fol 32v. (Image: TH Köln – CICS – Robert Fuchs)
Epic of Charlemagne, Soldier, detail, part II, fol. 52v. (Image: TH Köln – CICS – Robert Fuchs)
Epic of Charlemagne, battle scene, detail of a vigorous horse with bloodshot eyes, part II, fol. 26v. (Image: TH Köln – CICS – Robert Fuchs)
One of the most beautiful German-language books of the Middle Ages was made in Zurich around 1300. The codex, which still contains 291 (of the original 322) parchment leaves, is today kept in the Vadian Collection of the Cantonal Library of St. Gall. It contains the World Chronicle of Rudolf von Ems and the Epic of Charlemagne by Stricker. This magnificent book is not only written world history, but also a testament to the greatness and power of the city of Zurich: here one can afford the most magnificent book that the art of the time produces!
The World Chronicle and the Epic of Charlemagne are richly illustrated, 52 miniatures are still extant, some others were removed from the manuscript in the course of the centuries. At the suggestion of the former head of the Vadian Collection, Rudolf Gamper, and with generous financial support from the civic community of St. Gallen, the manuscript was able to be examined in terms of art technology in 2013 by Robert Fuchs and Doris Oltrogge (both CICS) at the Cantonal Library.
New findings bring new questions, and it became clear that 35 years after the publication of the facsimile commentary, a new interdisciplinary approach to researching the manuscript makes sense. In 2019, the project became more concrete and the Germanist Jürgen Wolf (Univ. Marburg), the historian Rudolf Gamper (Vadian Collection), the art historian and art technologist Doris Oltrogge and the chemist Robert Fuchs (both CICS) formed a team to jointly research and publish the World Chronicle and the Epic of Charlemagne.
The results are now presented in an opulently illustrated book. Underdrawings and painting techniques provide an insight into the workshop organisation based on the division of labour and, in connection with the palaeographic findings, clues to the question of how one must imagine secular scriptoria outside the university cities in this period. At the same time, the close interconnections between text, image and context are revealed and the book is thus 'deciphered' as part of a historically specific situation that is probably unique from a Zurich perspective.
In this book, not only are the text and illustrations described in detail and documented in 550 colour pictures, but it is also possible to look into the structure of the pictures through their surfaces. Underdrawings, overpaintings, but also very individual image designs are made visible through elaborate technical processes. Infrared images, vis spectra and transmitted light examinations made it possible to reconstruct the procedures of the various painters in the workshop. From the detailed analyses, conservation conditions for the preservation of the manuscript are derived and discussed.
The magnificent volume is now available from Nünnerich-Asmus Verlag:
Rudolf Gamper / Robert Fuchs / Doris Oltrogge / Jürgen Wolf: Die Weltchronik des Rudolf von Ems – und ihre Miniaturen. Illustrierte Weltgeschichten aus dem mittelalterlichen Zürich.
ISBN: 978-3-96176-167-8 (45 €)