Are manuscripts biased in perspective?

Thus far, our class conversation surrounding illuminated manuscripts has made it apparent that the primary creators of these works were male. Recently, in my Sexuality & Gender of Ancient Greece and Rome classics course, we’ve discussed the problem of male-centered primary resources. I think this dialogue could be extended to works such as Très Riches Heures or the Book of Kells.

The question becomes, are we making assumptions and associations of a time period based on a male-dominated perspective? Are we truly understanding stories of the time if we are only receiving half the story? These illuminators have the ability to portray whatever it is they would like, as we discussed with their ability to incorporate their patrons into works with either kind or snarky effects. This makes me wonder if their representation of culture are swayed or inaccurate. I’m curious to hear other people’s thoughts on the matter.


2 Replies to “Are manuscripts biased in perspective?”

  1. This is an interesting point. I think something that we have not done yet as a class is question who commissioned these pieces of art and with what purposed were they created? We briefly mentioned that patrons will be placed within the art, but have yet to divulge into the circumstances that surround each one of these art works when they were created. This is something I hope we do and question as the semester continues!

  2. Very true!  We did note in class that often times patrons were depicted in various works of art, Tres Riches Heures being one of them.  Some of these images were flattering, some where more tongue and cheek.  Darby and Matt are right about the gender aspect.  There is also the heavy religious influence.  Manuscripts reflect other pieces of art and literature (including history) for most of mankind, which was often written by older white men with power (the papacy or nobility).  I think unless we have some kind of broader historical knowledge about who commissioned the manuscript, it’s difficult to really know what’s going on.  Yet, similar to today there are various works of art where people either don’t know or choose not to know the context behind it.  I don’t think it’s ignorant to choose not to learn such background information, just a different way of looking at art.

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