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Rarely seen medieval manuscripts make it to a new Korean art fair



Daniel Esparza - published on 09/21/22

The Frieze Seoul showcased two rarely seen medieval manuscripts from the Renaissance and the Middle Ages.

The Frieze Seoul is a new international art fair, organized by the same team behind other premium art fairs such as Frieze London, Frieze Masters, and Frieze New York. Frieze is one of the largest contemporary art meetings in the world, hosting over 180 international galleries and hundreds of contemporary artists every year for five days. Early this September the Frieze Seoul showcased two rarely seen medieval manuscripts, property of Les Enluminures, a renowned gallery specialized in manuscripts and miniatures from the Renaissance and the Middle Ages.

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As read in Medievalists, the first manuscript to be shown is the only illustrated copy of the famed Bellifortis in a private collection. Being one of the most important medieval manuscripts preserved on warfare, it shows 125 full-page watercolor pictures of rare, unusual weapons, medieval grenades included.

The second manuscript is the second volume of the only known illuminated copy of a popular French translation of Aesop’s Fables. Richly illuminated with 66 miniatures, the manuscript was painted around 1500 by the famed

Master of the Parisian Entries

Why “illuminated”?

Early copyists would leave spaces in the margins of medieval manuscripts for further commentaries and annotations that could be related to the text itself, to the translation, or to include some indications for the readers. Sooner or later these commentaries were accompanied by miniature illustrations and illuminated initials that conveyed some important allegorical messages that could not be so easily transmitted in writing.

These often-sumptuous books are described as “illuminated” for a rather straightforward reason: they are literally “lit up” (that is what the Latin illuminare means) with either gold or silver leaf, or with the brightness of the colors applied to the decorative motifs.

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