Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Musicians of Medieval Marginalia

The word cartoon first came into existence in the beginning of the Renaissance to refer to a study in preparation for a more permanent work of art, such as a painting. Later, in the 19th century the word "cartoon" came to refer to a comic picture with satirical or exaggerated graphic features--as in today's comic books, newspaper funnies, political cartoons, and graphic novels.

However, this leaves out the marginalia of medieval prayerbooks and hymnals. Here, surrounding the image of veneration--a saint, a scene from the life of Christ and of Mary, or a scene from the Old Testament, and calendars, or surrounding the musical notations in hymnals--a rich subterranean and often comic pictorial life flourishes in the marginalia.

For example, we see below that animals are often playing music in the marginalia--forerunners to the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the Musicians of Bremen. All animals, not just the birds, it seems, had some kind of musical talent back then, even dragons (see last picture).

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