Book Series Studies in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art History

Colour. The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts

Stella Panayotova

  • Pages: 420 p.
  • Size:220 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:414 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2016

Out of Print
  • ISBN: 978-1-909400-56-6
  • Hardback
  • Out of Print

This publication was included in the " CHOICE 2016 Outstanding Academic Title List".


"This work provides a wonderful demonstration of what can be achieved by effective collaboration of art historians and scientist..." (AMARC Newsletter, no. 67, October 2016, p. 28)

"This splendid catalogue of an exhibit at Univ. of Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum is interdisciplinary in both its art historical and its scientific scholarship. (...) The catalogue is lavishly illustrated with color plates, stunning close-up details, infrared photos, and spectral analysis diagrams. An appendix on scientific methods and equipment used, a glossary of color terminology, an index of art works, and an impressively extensive bibliography round out this accessible, well-written scholarly volume." (J. Oliver, in: Choice, December 2016, Vol. 54, No. 4)

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers.

“This volume will be a point of reference for many years to come. The logistical achievement of bringing together scientists, conservators and scholars of manuscripts, and of getting manuscripts into proximity with scientific equipment, is enormous, and the leaders of the project are to be congratulated.” (Rowan Watson, in Burlington Magazine, CLIX, Nov. 2017, p. 914)

“This volume is beautifully produced and well designed (…) this catalogue is an impressively wide-ranging guide to the main features of medieval and Renaissance manuscript illumination, accompanied by the results of some truly ground breaking scientific research into the secrets of these beautiful objects.” (Toby Burrows, in Parergon, 34/1, 2017, p. 185)

“This innovative publication successfully challenges the misconception that manuscript illumination was a ‘quintessentially medieval static art form’. But it is an enterprise that has achieved much more besides.”(Lynda Dennison, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 69, 2018, p. 146)

« Sous l’impulsion très efficace du Fitzwilliam Museum, et dans un travail remarquable de longue haleine dans lequel Stella Panayotova, mais aussi Nigel Morgan, jouent un rôle central, les institutions patrimoniales et universitaires de Cambridge apportent a la communauté scientifique un profond renouvellement de nos connaissances sur leurs fonds exceptionnels de manuscrits enlumines. » (Christian Heck, dans Bulletin Monumental, 176/3, 2018, p. 278-279)


This richly illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition that celebrates the bicentenary of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge with a display of its finest illuminated manuscripts. Of all the medieval and Renaissance arts – from sculptures, ivories, frescoes and stained glass to easel and wall paintings – it is manuscript illuminations, protected inside volumes, that best preserve the glowing colours and precious metals that would have dazzled their original spectators. The focus of this exciting and innovative exhibition is on COLOUR: it integrates scientific and art historical analyses of painting materials and techniques with studies on the manuscripts’ historic contexts of production, including the relationships between artists and patrons. Identifications of the pigments’ chemical composition and methods of application are considered alongside their aesthetic impact as well as the multiple dimensions and meanings of colour appreciated by medieval and Renaissance viewers.

Over 150 manuscripts are displayed in the exhibition dating from the 8th to the 19th century and all are catalogued and fully illustrated here. The manuscripts are grouped in 14 thematic sections each of which is introduced by an essay that includes further relevant illustrations and presents the scientific and art historical analyses in a broader cultural context. The majority of the exhibits are from the Museum’s collection and the main focus is on Western European illumination, but examples of Byzantine, Armenian, Persian and Sanskrit manuscripts are also included. In addition there are special loans from other Cambridge, British and European collections. The catalogue entries and introductory essays are written by a team of leading manuscript scholars, scientists and conservators who offer an integrated, cross-disciplinary approach and new insights into the art of illumination.


Director’s Preface

Stella Panayotova
Colour in Illuminated Manuscripts

Paola Ricciardi and Kristine Rose Beers
The Illuminators’ Palette

Spike Bucklow
The Trade in Colours

Richard Gameson
The Image of the Illuminator

Nancy K. Turner and Doris Oltrogge
Pigment Recipes and Model Books: Mechanisms for Knowledge.Transmission and the Training of Manuscript Illuminators

Spike Bucklow
Alchemy and Colour

Stella Panayotova and Paola Ricciardi
Masters’ Secrets

Stella Panayotova
with contributions by Marie D’Autume, Edward Cheese, Rebecca Honold, Paola Ricciardi
and Carola-Bibiane Schönlieb
From Vandalism to Reconstruction

Nigel Morgan
Painting with Gold and Silver

Nigel Morgan
Modelling in Manuscript Painting c.1050–c.1500

Nigel Morgan and Elizabeth J. Moodey
Grisaille in Manuscript Painting

Nancy Turner
‘Incarnation’ Illuminated: Painting the Flesh in Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts

Stella Panayotova
Colour Theory, Optics and Manuscript Illumination

Deirdre Jackson
Colour and Meaning


Paola Ricciardi
Analytical Methods and Equipment Glossary of terms

Index of works of art cited - Bibliography