Re-Conceptualizing the Poems of the Pearl-Gawain Manuscript in Line and Color

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Manuscript Studies
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Gawain
Pearl
Cleanness
Patience
science
manuscript
þ
ʒ
miniatures
pigments
conservation
Manuscript studies
Middle English
medieval
scribal practice
iconography
Medieval Studies
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This paper furthers my argument that the scribe was also the artist of the underdrawings of the miniatures in the Pearl-Gawain manuscript and includes a re-assessment of the role of the colorist/s. Previously the 12 miniatures framing Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in London, MS Cotton Nero A.x (art. 3), the only version of these poems extant, were largely dismissed. The miniatures do not convert the texts pictorially; rather, they place the poems within a larger icongraphic framework individually and as a whole. It is true that the painted layers, often unevenly applied, obscure many important details that are thematically significant, as shown in scientifically enhanced images that help to recover some of the outlines of the underdrawings. Taking into account the analysis of the pigments used, a closer look at the role of the colorists (likely more than one, judging from the overlays and differing levels of skills) it appears that the painted layers sometimes support the interpretations of the scribe-artist: at other times they appear to offer competing readings. The result is that the miniatures provide multilayered visual readings that interconnect and link motifs by repetition and contrast to unify the poems at various levels for engaged audiences. This is exemplified by a close look at the seascapes, landscapes, and courtly settings, as well as at preaching scenes and related sacramental issues, along with the presentation and role of women, all reconceptualized in line and color.

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2019-10-25
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Fall 2018
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