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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume IV: The art and architecture of the Crusader states

VII: Painting and sculpture in the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, 1099-1291,   pp. 251-280 PDF (16.3 MB)

Page 252

surrender on October 2, 1187, following the catastrophe at Hattin. The second
encompasses the hundred years from July 12, 1191, to May 18, 1291, during
which Acre was the de facto capital of the kingdom. In this century there
was only limited access to the holy city, negotiated by Frederick II, from
February 18, 1229, until August 23, 1244, when Jerusalem was overrun by the
Khorezmian Turks. 
 The best-known monument from the earlier period, though cer tainly not the
earliest work of painting, is "Queen Melisend's Psalter," to be dated probably
between 1131 and 1143. 1 Several artists ex ecuted the miniatures of this
codex and their work gives us a broad introduction to crusader painting in
the first half of the twelfth cen tury. Basilius, the artist of the twenty-four
full-page introductory miniatures, paints in a strongly Byzantine tradition,
visible especially in the Crucifixion (p1. XXXIXa). The austere style with
its slender, attenuated forms, the specific iconography of the dead Christ
with four nails, and the number and arrangement of the figures who sur round
him show that Byzantine models have been followed quite closely. Nonetheless,
Basilius was surely a westerner who had care fully studied Byzantine art.
On occasion his Latin background emerges, as in the miniature of the women
at the sepulcher (p1. XXXIXb). Byzantine practice was to depict the scene
with two women, based on St. Matthew's gospel, while the three Marys are
drawn from St. Mark's narrative, which was the standard tradition in western
Europe. Otherwise, with the exception of the handling of the gold ground
as a neutral foil, the scene is done in the Byzantine manner; these telling
details alone seem to reveal something of Basilius's native tradition. 
 A second artist, who did the eight initials for the Psalter, was Basilius's
equal in ability but painted in a more sumptuous and exotic decorative technique.
The overall effect of oriental splendor in the Beatus "B", derived from painting
in black directly on a burnished gold ground, is blended with a western pictorial
vocabulary such as the interlace, the mask head, the clambering figures in
the vines, and David with his harp (p1. XXXIXc). These elements demonstrate
a good knowledge of English art on the part of this painter, but the "Islamic"
technique is most closely comparable to several manu scripts of the Monte
Cassino school about 1100. It is thus likely that this artist was a south
Italian transmitting northern European ideas 
1. "Queen Melisend's Psalter," London, British Library, MS. Egerton 1139;
see above, pp. 

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