ANONYMOUS RHENISH ARTIST
Saint Bartholomew (c. 130 x 100 mm.)
Germany, Rhineland (near Trier?), c. 1460
LIKELY THE WORK OF NUNS, A DELIGHTFUL DEPICTION OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW
This lovely miniature portrays Saint Bartholomew, identified by the knife with which he was skinned alive. The unconventional and naïve style opens a window onto the Middle Ages. Look closely at the flowery garden, the prancing deer, the charming pink-cheeked angels singing and playing lutes: it is easy to imagine the pious nuns who painted it (this type of miniature is called “nuns’ work”). But this illumination reveals much more about the medieval society that what appears at first glance. Such devotional images are strongly linked with the economic, social, and political contexts of their production. The convent often sought protection from lay society of its area. Depicting Bartholomew, patron saint of butchers, tanners, and binders, our miniature may refer to an important guild near the convent. Or it could indicate the presence of the relics of Bartholomew in the area. Different hypotheses are possible. The miniature offers a compelling glimpse, colorful and full of light, on our distant past.