Art, Exhibitions and Installations, J. Paul Getty Museum, Manuscripts and Books

The Manuscript Files: A Demon Whispering Sweet Nothings

Detail of Initial D: The Fool with Two Demons / Master of the Ingeborg Psalter

Initial D: The Fool with Two Demons (detail) in a psalter, illuminations by the Master of the Ingeborg Psalter, after 1205. Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment bound between pasteboard covered with brown calf, each leaf 12 3/16 x 8 5/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 66, fol. 56

One of my favorite details from the current exhibition Gothic Grandeur comes from a French psalter of the early 1200s. A hallmark of Gothic art was an increasing sensitivity to the natural world, which led not only to a new physical naturalism in images, but also to a new psychological realism.

Detail of Initial D: The Fool with Two Demons / Master of the Ingeborg Psalter


Here, a malicious demon whispers into a man’s ear, trying to convince him of the blasphemous notion that there is no God.

There’s something particularly devious about the way the demon leans in on the man’s shoulder from behind. The man, meanwhile, seems oblivious to the demon’s physical presence, so the worried expression on his face makes you wonder whether he fears that the thoughts are coming from within his own mind.

This image shows how Gothic artists were exploring new visual ideas, such as conveying a disturbed mental state or portraying the effect of invisible evil forces lurking in the world.

Initial D: The Fool with Two Demons / Master of the Ingeborg Psalter

The Manuscript Files is an occasional column featuring details from manuscripts in the exhibition Gothic Grandeur: Manuscript Illumination, 1200–1350, on view in two rotations at the Getty Center through May 13, 2012.

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      The Queen Who Wasn’t

      Louis XIV clandestinely wed his mistress, Madame de Maintenon, at Versailles on October 9 or 10, 1683. The marriage was much gossiped about but never openly acknowledged. She was never queen.

      Madame de Maintenon had been the {judgy} governess to Louis XIV’s children by his previous mistress, Madame de Montespan. Louis gave these children moneyed titles—such as the comte de Toulouse, who ordered the tapestries shown here for his residence outside Paris.

      Louis’s secret marriage ushered in a period of religious fervor, in sharp contrast to the light-hearted character of his early reign. Madame de Maintenon was known for her Catholic piety, and founded a school for the education of impoverished noble girls at Saint-Cyr in 1686 that stayed in operation until 1793. This engraving of the Virgin and Child was dedicated to her by the king.

      Virgin and Child, late 1600s, Jean-Louis Roullet after Pierre Mignard; Johann Ulrich Stapf, engraver. The Getty Research Institute. Tapestries from the Emperor of China series. The J. Paul Getty Museum


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