(active 802-810 in Saint-Denis)

Cassiodorus: Commentary on the Psalms

Manuscript (Ms. lat. 2195)
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

The picture shows the initial 'B' on folio 9v with the head of an elephant embellished with green and red.

Charlemagne was given an Indian elephant in 802. Its name was Abulabaz and it excited much interest. This initial in the manuscript of Cassiodorus includes a remarkably accurate elephant's head. Medieval artists knew about ivory but not many had seen elephants. This illuminator probably knew the elephant which was presented to Charlemagne by caliph Haroun-al-Rachide in the year 802. Abulabaz lived until 1810, therefore the Cassiodorus manuscript cannot be earlier than 802.