The Tres Riches Heures in Conversation

I really appreciated seeing the calendar months from Tres Riches Heures projected side by side in succession. Seeing the months next to each other as they would have been invites comparison and a conversation between the two. I realized that it was almost always an alternating presentation of the nobility/aristocrats and then the peasants save for a few exceptions. This thus allowed us to see both groups in wealth, prosperity, and happiness and there were always subtle unifying elements in the works that encouraged such a likeness to be brought to mind. For example, in the months of May and June:

The angle of the castle sloping in the background of June (on the right)  mimics the procession of nobles heading to their summer palace to go hunting. The two complement each other as our eyes naturally follow both scenes from the right to the left where it disappears beyond the frame suggestive of the expansive lands belonging to Duc de Berry. To match the predominantly green scene of June, some of the nobles depicted in May have also been clothed in green. Similarly, the peasants in the foreground of June have been clothed the dark beautiful blue to match the rich robes of the nobility. The religious motif is present in both with the crossing of the trumpets in the month of May and the church depicted in June.

Just as interacting with the physical books last Wednesday added the additional dimension of sensory understanding, seeing the two calendar months next to each other enriched the meaning of  each. The similarities that could be drawn between the two emphasized the highly romanticized depiction of the peasants that follows our discussion of the calendar meant to pamper the Duke’s vanity.

The Secret of Kells: Dimensionality of Cinematography

The Secret of Kells movie presented a very interesting cinematography that I had never seen before. The figures seemed both two and three dimensional with the unique combination of simple outlines and shadowing. Seeing these rather flat figures in movement mimicked the experience of seeing the Book of Kells itself. Because of the color and gold leaf and the dimensionality, the pages likely seemed alive in movement despite being printed. In fact, this movement and seeming life contained with the book is something they constantly alluded to in the movie when they would talk of the book giving hope and light through its beauty and importance.

One of my favorite parts in the movie was the last picture that zoomed in on a page of the actual Book of Kells. The way the camera panned and then deconstructed the individual elements of the page mirrored the aspects of the movie. Although we often see and appreciate the design as a whole, sometimes we fail to appreciate the individual elements which, with the emphasis on the magnifying, etc. The whole movie was about the construction of the Book of Kells so the final frame with deconstruction of the page seemed like a very appropriate end.

The Dimensionality of Ekphrasis

It’s interesting to consider the definition of illustration and how we understand it. When I think the innumerable movie versions of books, it makes me realize how often we interpret ideas across different mediums. From the various covers of the Iliad that range from images from greek pottery to comic strips, it becomes clear that in the realm of written and visual arts, we are very familiar with the interchange of visual and verbal representations. There is a constant dialogue between the two whether we are conscious of it or not and the complex iterations of this dialogue are evident through ekphrasis.  As a verbal representation of a visual object, Ekphrasis provides the reading of the work with another dimension, pulling in issues of identity and culture that make the experience both provocative and personal.

I thought the exercise we did in class with the Shield of Achilles was a very clear illustration of both the limitations and complexities of ekphrasis. Although it’s a passage filled with incredible description and vivid imagery, it became clear with the variety of interpretations and illustrations that it didn’t necessarily conform the images we saw in our minds. Quite the opposite, it seemed as if the complexity of detail actually resulted in even more interpretations of the shield.  Whats even more interesting is how the ekphrasic passage allowed us all to make into reality an object that never existed in reality.  And this perhaps speaks to the limitations of art forms that don’t hinder the written word. When we see a picture there is little left to imagination but, as in the case of the shield, any one description can result in any number of imaged interpretations.