(active 510s in Byzantium)

Vienna Dioscorides

c. 512
Manuscript (Codex Vindobonensis Med. gr. 1), 380 x 310 mm
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna

From amongst the rich variety of scientific manuscripts of late antiquity, the Vienna Dioscorides, which survived only in part, stands out by virtue of its artistic quality and the number of illustrations. Written in Greek, it is a compendium of six pharmacological and scientific works; an herbarium, minor medicinal works, a book of birds. It consists of 392 full page miniatures, 66 pictures of venomous animals, 47 pictures of birds.

The manuscript, named after one of the authors, Pedanius Dioscorides (1st century AD), was made for Princess Anicia Juliana of Byzantium (462-527).

Folio 5 verso represents one of the two author portraits in this manuscript. It shows Dioscorides in profile, with brown hair and a pointed beard, seated and at work on a codex resting on his lap. In front of him is a young miniaturist, with a large sheet of parchment fastened to the easel before him. On this he is painting a mandrake root (mandragora), the mysterious root that growth in a shape resembling a man. Before the niche stands a personification of epinoia holding up a mandrake root.

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