Steve Sachs Duke


Monday, January 03, 2005


Happy New Year! As recent events offer a sobering reminder of how tenuous life can be, best wishes for a safe, happy, healthy year to all.

This has been both a busy and relaxing break -- in between studying for classes and thesis revision, I was able to spend some time at home with family, as well as to attend the wedding of two friends in Rockford, Ill. I've got exams as soon as I get back, so posting may be a little light in January.

One highlight: on my last day at home, I went to see Painted Prayers, an exhibition of medieval books of hours at the St. Louis Art Museum. As you probably know, I'm partial to medieval and renaissance art, especially books of hours, and these works were absolutely terrific. If any of you are in St. Louis before Jan. 9, you must go see the exhibition.

These books of hours were designed for personal use in a private home, where readers would return to them several times a day for the 'hours' of prayer. As a result, the manuscripts offered intricate designs and complex imagery to hold the reader's attention in repeated readings. The books themselves were small and easy to hold; the museum wisely provided magnifying glasses in the exhibition, so that visitors could see the extraordinary level of detail in the painted miniatures. Unfortunately, some of the most memorable works aren't available online, but some are in the Morgan Library's digital collection -- such as a simple but beautiful Nativity, a penitent Jerome in the desert, and an allegorical representation of Lust. (Note the checkered pavimento pattern in the latter, displaying an attempt at artistic perspective.)

The exhibit was very informative, explaining the unusual medieval system of marking time -- complete with lunar-based "Golden Numbers," Roman 'kalends' and Christian saints' days -- in the following calendar page for February:

The audiotour was also helpful -- and as it turned out, I recognized some of the background music. To accompany an Annunciation scene, you could certainly do worse than Dufay's Ave Maris Stella (buy it here or here). (Best line from the audiotour, concerning an "Annunciation to the Shepherds" by the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen: "At the bottom of the page, there's a monkey, playing the bagpipes." Haven't you always wanted one of those?)

The promotional book is sold out, for good reason, and the exhibition will only be traveling to one more city. But if you're within range of the Getty Museum when the exhibition reaches L.A. on October 18, 2005, make sure to check it out.

P.S.: I've been linking to Ross Douthat and The American Scene since way back, but I'm very pleased to see their recent resurgence (and guestblogging role!) with a new co-conspirator. Go read their stuff.

P.P.S.: Confidential to CLM -- thank you for your interest in my writings on Missouri statutes concerning pornography and prostitution. Even were I inclined to assist you with Volume 2 of your DVD series, however, I have not yet passed the Missouri bar, and thus am not qualified to offer legal advice.




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