Saint John the Evangelist
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German, Helmarshausen, about 1120 - 1140
Tempera colors, gold, silver, and ink on parchment
9 x 6 1/2 in.

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At the beginning of the text of the Gospel of Saint John, the illuminator marked the new section of the book with a full-page author-portrait. The announcement Initiu[m] s[an]c[t]i evangelii s[e]c[un]d[u]m Johannem (The beginning of the holy Gospel according to John) appears above the portrait. John sits on a fancy bench next to a lectern that holds his writing utensils. On his lap he holds a scroll with the words In principio erat verbu[m] et verbum erat apud d[eu]m (In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God). The anonymous artist of this manuscript, like most German Romanesque illuminators, took delight in patterned ornament. He used multicolored fretwork and gold and silver interlace on the frame and variously patterned the marble of the lectern. He defined the folds of the saint's garments with simple geometric forms. Despite this stylization, John is a robust, full-bodied figure that commands the viewer's attention.