Saturday, December 15, 2007

Guide for the Perplexed in Copenhagen

Guide for the Perplexed is beyond any doubt the most famous of the app. 300 Hebrew manuscripts in the collections of The Royal Library. Also known as "The Copenhagen Maimonides", the manuscript was written and illuminated in Catalonia in the years 1347-1348, and is one of the finest examples of the illumination traditions of this part of Spain in this era.
The “illuminatorship” of “the Copenhagen Maimonides” has been much debated, but the current consensus is that the main illuminator was Ferrer Bassa, active in Barcelona as leader of a workshop, which also included his son Arnau. He is better known as a mural painter (the San Miguel de Pedralbes monastery, Barcelona), but is thought to have been the illuminator of several manuscripts.
One possibility is that Ferrer Bassa is responsible for the larger panels in the codex, while other members of the workshop may have executed the marginal illuminations. Some of the details connect with words in the text, but whether these cases point to a Jewish illuminator is uncertain; they may also be a result of cooperation with the scribe or the patron. It has been suggested that "the Copenhagen Maimonides” was Ferrer Bassa’s last work. He died around the time of is completion, presumably from the Black Death; after 1348, nothing is known of him or his son.

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