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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 264

 The situation in crusader painting changes markedly in the thir teenth century.
In the difficult years from 1229 to 1244 Jerusalem retained only a shadow
of its former glory as the artistic center of the crusader states. Acre took
over the position Jerusalem had formerly held, but painting started to flourish
there only after 1250. No monumental painting equivalent to the work found
in and around Jerusalem survives from the thirteenth century in the Latin
kingdom. Indeed, the most important frescoes known from this period come
from Constantinople during the Latin empire. In manu scripts and icons French
influence emerges as the most potent western tradition, growing strongest
in the last ten years before 129 1. 
 After 1187 Jerusalem never fully regained its central importance in painting,
but during the period of access negotiated by Frederick II one splendid work
seems to have been done there, commissioned by the emperor for his third
wife, Isabel of England, about 1235-1237. Despite the precedent of the Melisend
Psalter, the Riccardiana psalter is illustrated in an entirely different
way.16 Following German prac tice, the initials beginning major divisions
of the psalter are decorated with scenes from the life of Christ. The Beatus
initial is the most elab orate (pl. XLIa). Isaiah and Habakkuk foretell the
Annunciation and Nativity respectively, with David between the two standing
proph ets. The artist composes the program so that as one's eye moves from
left to right, one goes from Old Testament to New Testament image, from prophet
and ancestor to the living reality of the advent of Jesus. This is painted
with iconography strongly Byzantine once again (though distinct from that
of the Melisend Psalter), but the style is Sicilian and the interplay between
the letter B and the copious figural decoration is wholly western as well.
Thus the blend of east and west in crusader art continues, but the components
change some what from those found in the twelfth century. 
 Shortly after the Riccardiana psalter was executed Jerusalem was definitively
lost to the Khorezmian Turks, in 1244, and the way was open for Acre to become
the chief artistic center as it had been the political and military capital
since 1191. The impetus for Acre's new role in the visual arts seems to have
come from the visit of Louis IX to the Holy Land between 1250 and 1254. 
 The French king was instrumental in the establishment of a major new scriptorium
in Acre. The Arsenal Bible, one of its earliest pro ducts, seems to have
been commissioned for Louis himself and it set 
16. The Riccardiana psalter, Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, MS. 323; see
also above, pp.129-130. 

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