(active in the 1420s)


Manuscript, 155 x 161 mm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

The picture representing St Benedict was cut out from a so-called antiphonary (which is a manuscript containing liturgical texts and music) along the line of its frame. When and why this happened is not known. The picture originated from the workshop of an artist known as The Master of the Martyrologium of Gerona, who, in the first two decades of the fifteenth century, was one of the most important figures in Bohemian miniature painting. He knew the leading movements in Western European art at first hand, and adopted the layout of his compositions and the method of representing landscape masses mainly from the painter of the Maréchal of Boucicault and the Limbourg brothers. The prolific output of his workshop, where numerous assistants were engaged, exerted a marked effect on miniature and panel painting not only in Bohemia but in the neighbouring countries too (for example on the Hungarian Thomas de Coloswar).

The picture reproduced here is, in all likelihood, the work of one of his assistants. Its frame is a three-dimensional, quatrefoil green shape embedded in a golden square. The background is provided by a geometrical design of stylised white flowers in a golden network on a red ground. The ground- plan of the setting is undefinable, the only furniture being a stepped, pale yellow platform, on whose right side stands a lectern of the same colour. Facing the spectator, St Benedict is seated in the middle, holding an abbot's crosier in his left hand and, with his right hand, presenting to the monks the book containing the rules of the Benedictine order. The rich design of the background sets off the simplicity of the monks and the same effect is achieved by the contrast of the plain décor without any details and the figures in their plain black habits.

The emphasis on the massive group of the monks is brought into equilibrium by the mass of the lectern placed fairly high and by the figure of St Benedict which is set slightly to the right of the central axis. His right foot, placed somewhat higher, is in the axis of the composition. His black mantle falls asymmetrically to two sides from his raised right knee. The undulating hem of this garment runs parallel with the lines of his arm and virtually merges with the lobes on both sides of the frame.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.