Art, Art & Archives, 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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      Composed from memories and from drawings made during his travels in Italy, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot painted this view for the Paris Salon of 1839. A dramatic colored sky and a few lone figures appealed to the melancholic sensibilities of the Romantic critics of the time.


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