I spend a profound amount of time in the illumination world. Next to my Ornamental Penmanship and Offhand Flourishing, studying and illumination take up the greatest portion of my time. This week, as I was going through my files, I had a crazy thought about trying do a portion of a manuscript that I loved. I wanted to do a Nativity or an Annunciation scene to mark this festive season but I soon found myself in the world of angel borders and settled on a small border.
Early in my illumination studies, we were taught how to transfer an image from an old manuscript and do our best to copy the design while bringing some of ourselves to the piece. I worked using that method from 2007 until 2011. In 2011, I started creating my own illuminations. This year's Christmas Card, The Gift Bearer is one such design. Based on techniques I learned in my illumination studies, but now drawing my own little creatures and foliate work.
But for this larger project based on the work of the Boucicaut Master, I wanted to capture the lines of the of the original illuminator and truly enter the piece. I have already made some discoveries about the piece that I wouldn't have found by observing it online. The first thing I did was enlarge the image to discover the treasues that it held.
Observe the little jewel like centre of the acanthus leaf! What a treat and a surprise that is lost in the small scale of the piece. I am still trying to confirm the original dimensions of this manuscript but my research is pointing to a size of 160 x 115 mm. Pretty tiny! The project I am working on is the angel border found on the right hand side of the manuscript. I enlarged the image to 2 1/4 x10 to explore the image. I am amazed at the intricacy found within this border. My first challenge has been to transfer and now gild this piece. I gilded this piece with Miniatum ink. I am using a piece of 140 LB Arches Hot Press paper.
As I paint it, I hope to update you on my trials and my discoveries as I try to enter the project. The thoughts I had at this transfer and gilding level were constant wonder at the eyesight capabilites of the original illuminator. How did he see those tiny little elements of his design. How did he apply the gesso so cleanly? He captured detail within detail brilliantly. As I transferred and gilded this morning, I worked in silence, surrounded by a sense of wonder and awe at the skill of Boucicaut Master. I hope to discover more about him as I continue to enter the project. Although I am using modern supplies to work on this project dating back to 1420, I will enjoy exploring this peaceful project. Might take me some time to complete but I will post my observations!