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God's Compass and Vana Curiositas: Scientific Study in the Old French Bible Moralisée

Katherine H. Tachau
The Art Bulletin
Vol. 80, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 7-33
Published by: College Art Association
DOI: 10.2307/3051252
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3051252
Page Count: 27
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God's Compass and Vana Curiositas: Scientific Study in the Old French Bible Moralisée
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Abstract

The frontispiece of the Old French Bible moralisée depicting God, compass in hand, creating the world, has come to represent the fruitful interaction of learned science and theology in the High Middle Ages. This assessment of the painting's meaning derives from its treatment as a freestanding painting of a divine Architect rather than as the first image in an illuminated codex with deliberate iconographic and textual messages. This essay restores the manuscript context, reading its images and text alongside those of related thirteenth-century Bibles moralisées to locate this illumination within the iconographer's evaluation of astronomy, logic, philosophy, and disbelief.

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