Getty Exhibition Looks Closely at the Fanciful Images in the Margins of Medieval Manuscripts





Battles, celebrations, and fantastic creatures found in the margins of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts are closely examined in Out-of-Bounds: Images in the Margins of Medieval Manuscripts. On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, September 1 through November 8, 2009, Out-of-Bounds explores the margins of medieval books and explains their wealth of subject matter: children playing games, romantic pursuits, men battling fantastic creatures, and composite figures—half-human, half-beast—that pervade the blank spaces of the margins or wend their ways through the sinuous foliage of the painted borders.

The great age of marginalia (Latin for “things in the margins”) took place during the Gothic period (1200s–1300s). Artists during this time took particular advantage of the blank spaces around the text to delight, amuse, and occasionally educate readers. Out-of-Bounds not only features examples of marginalia in the Gothic era but also traces the pre-history of marginal figures in inhabited initials of the early medieval manuscripts. The exhibition also explores the persistent presence of marginal motifs in the elaborate painted borders of late medieval manuscripts.

“Part of the genius of medieval art lies in its unique ability to combine serious and profound images with playful and witty ones,” says Kristen Collins, associate curator of manuscripts. “This exhibition looks closely at the marginal scenes found in medieval manuscripts that sometimes expand on the main narrative but also often poke fun at the lofty themes and, more broadly, at human foibles.”..


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