Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Posts tagged ‘lettering on icons’

Fragments of beauty from 8th C Avranches

Avranches banner 2a
Painted letters in the style of 8th century French uncial hand

I began my dissertation for the Icon Diploma with lettering discovered in Mont St Michel, France.  The style is a majuscule script known as ‘uncial’, written in capital letters, in common use from the 4th to the 8th century by both Latin and Greek scribes.

I stumbled upon this exceptional 8th century lettering some fifteen years ago, whilst on a family holiday in Normandy. Mont St Michel is home to some beautiful illuminated manuscripts, some of which can be seen by request in the town hall at Avranches, nearby.

Guerison du Paralytique 1 rev.jpg

Guerison du Paralytique, from the Gospel of St Mark

Whilst there, I bought the book l’Enluminure Romane au Mont-Saint-Michel” by Monique Dosdat which includes several fragments from a Book of Gospels. There are only a few of these pages which survive – the author and dedication are unknown.

Their history is intriguing as they were discovered bound into a later manuscript, at Mont St Michel. The two pages are identified by their full titles:

  1. “Fragment d’un Evangeliaire, Vllle siecle, Annonce aux Bergers, Luke 2, 12. Avranches, BM, ms 48.
  2.  “Fragment d’un Evangeliaire, Vllle siecle, Guerison du Paralytique, Marc, 2, 5-12  Avranches, BM, ms 71.

The author Dosdat writes: “These pages are an impressive witness of a beautiful, perfectly legible uncial lettering, its characters uniting a classic uncial calligraphy born in 4th Century Italy under the influence of Irish round hand lettering”.

This scribe had mastered the art of consistency, spacing, layout and rhythm so that the text itself is a work of art.

So let’s look at the lettering as examples for use on icons. This script would lend itself to early Celtic or French saints. The following studies are my second attempt at translating this quilled hand into painted letters.  I have ‘waisted’ the uprights and some letters will need to be refined but feel free to print them off and use them if you wish. I can see the serifs on the letter ‘C’ are pretty clumsy – so use the body of the letter C instead.

ABCDEF

DDD

Looking at the two types of ‘D’ used in the same manuscript.

GIJKLN

OGEC

MAQ

The right hand stroke of the letter A is a little top heavy.

ORSTUV

 

 

PQLH

 

WXXYZ

These ‘X’ and ‘Y’ letters are my favourite!

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie

Hallowed be thy Name

Lettering on handmade book

Hand made book covers for the dissertation showing four different manuscript lettering styles.

Hello icon friends,

Part of  the icon course includes submitting a dissertation. This sounded quite daunting but Aidan has been great at keeping this in perspective explaining that it is really just an essay on a subject which we are passionate about – something we can share with the rest of the students. I will be sharing my subject in stages here and will start off with an overview of my subject.

I was encouraged early on in the course when Aidan spoke about illuminated manuscripts as a rich resource for western iconongraphers. I have loved calligraphy and illuminated manuscripts since I was at school and so my dissertation subject was waiting in the wings: ‘A comparative study of four illuminated manuscripts as a resource for lettering on contemporary western icons’.

Hand painted illuminated letters

Finished letter samples and bound lettering books

The best part for me about this subject was when, on the very first day of the course, Aidan explained how it is the name on an icon that makes it an icon:

We venerate the icon that bears the name”.

It struck me how important it was to apply the same care to naming the icon as given to painting the image itself. When we are named in Baptism, the sacrament leaves an indelible spiritual mark of belonging to Christ on the soul and thus our chosen name becomes an intrinsic part of who we are. Solomon declared that:

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” (Prov. 22:1).

The significance of naming is a wonderfully rich subject but my dissertation is a practical one based on writing out alphabets interpreted from the lettering of four manuscripts, which I will briefly touch on here. I will go through each manuscript study in stages in subsequent posts.

The first manuscript I chose was a European example of an early 8th century uncial hand, taken from an unidentified manuscript from Mont St Michel which I named ‘Avranches‘ for the purpose of my study:

Avranches manuscript

Example of lettering from the Avranches manuscript

Avranches lettering

Samples of gilded lettering in the ‘Avranches’ style and the hand bound book of lettering.

Gilded letter G from Avranches

Gilded example of letter G from the ‘Avranches’ manuscript.

The second is the Anglo-Saxon Benedictional of St Aethelwold, written in Winchester 963-984, by the scribe Godeman.

gilded lettering

Examples of gilded letters and hand bound book of Aethelwold lettering

Aethelwold benedictional

Gilding the letter X from the Aethelwold Benedictional.

Gilded letter sample on heavyweight, hot-pressed watercolour paper, using gesso made from the recipe when I attended Patricia Lovett’s Gilding and Illumination skills course. Vellum makes the ideal surface for gilded letters but these are lettering studies rather than finished pieces.

Gilded letter X

Gilded letter X from the Aethelwold Benedicitonal

Gilded letters D and S

Letters D and S in the Aethelwold style

The third and fourth manuscripts were written about the same time but one written in Bury St Edmonds the other in the Holy Land – the latter providing context for my study.

lettering of the Bury Bible

Bury Lettering on the hand bound book of letters

The Bury Bible is an example of High Romanesque style, written c.1130-1135 AD, and is a spectacular work of art by the hand of Master Hugo, considered one of the earliest professionally documented artists in England.

letter A gilded in 23 ct gold leaf

Gilded letter A from the Bury Bible

letter N Bury Bible

Illuminated Letter N based on the Bury Bible manuscript

The Melisende Psalter was my fourth and final study.

melisend Psalter pic of dissertation work

Gilded letters and hand bound book of lettering based on the Melisende Psalter

It is written in the style known as ‘protogothic’ by a group of six artists and a scribe, thought to be of French or Italian origin, in the scriptorium of the Monastery of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, between 1134 and 1143 not long before the second crusade.

Illuminated letter A

Letter A from the Melisende Psalter, painted with Azurite and Terre Verte.

gilded letter B

Here’s B taken from the Melisende Psalter – painted in egg tempera with lapiz lazuli and terre verte.

My choice was also influenced by the availability of clear letter examples within the manuscripts. I was looking for enough images of each letter to study and compose an alphabet in the spirit of the original. That’s more than enough for now. Hope it has sparked a little interest in the subject!

letter C

Last example from the Melisende Psalter – letter C

Before I sign off,  I would like to say a big thank you to those who take the trouble to get in touch. I really appreciate hearing from you:-)

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie