"The Scribe"
A quote by an 8th century scribe
FULL ARTIST STATEMENT
 

25”x 19”

Gouache, Miniatum Ink and 23k gold leaf

on Arches Watercolor Hot Press.

 

Every single time I look at a medieval manuscript, it is a very humbling experience for me. I feel so deeply touched and keep asking myself, under what conditions was it done? Who was the scribe, who was the illuminator? Were they working in freezing temperatures by candlelight? How many years in out of their lives did it take? What did they think about their work and their world? A scribe from the 8th century took the freedom to write this quote in the margin of a book on Burgundian Law, which he had to copy. The words truly speak for themselves. They also made me take a close look at many of the techniques and materials that the ancient scribes had to know and use, apart from the actual writing: preparing the vellum, grinding the pigments, using binders and glair, knowledge about storing everything correctly, cutting quills and reed pens, ruling lines, etc.
I wanted this work to be a kind of homage to the ancient scribes and depicted many of these techniques and materials in the flourished borders that surround the writing. 

There are 20 little illustrations hidden in them, which I created a little legend for, so they are easier to find. The flourishes in the borders are made up of typical variations of acanthus leaves, called “Fleuronnée,” that started to be used in 12th century France. I also added Celtic knots, spirals, and key patterns as a referral to the earlier insular decorations used in the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow and the Lindisfarne Gospels. 
The whole piece uses old design elements, but I also wanted it to have a more modern feel. I tried to achieve that by detaching the Initial “O” from the beginning of the text and putting it into the middle of the layout, so it would become more of an illustration that balances the two heavy borders. Originally, Fleuronnée was used to decorate initials and drag the flourishes along the text to create delicate vertical borders. Instead, I used them in a horizontal position to create a rich framework for the writing. The original Latin quote is written in Carolingian and gilded with 23K Patent gold. The English translation is written in pressurized Italic with gouache. 

© 2015 Julia B. Silbermann. All rights reserved. 

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