In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews 191 National Gallery of Australia, The Book of Kells and the Art ofIllumination, Catalogue of the Exhibition, Canberra A C T 2000; paper; pp. 80; 11 illustrations, plus 74 marginal illustrations, all in full colour. T w o line drawings. Distributed in Australia by Thames and Hudson. R R P A U S $29.95. As one would expect for an international treasure such as the Book of Kell inclusion in this exhibition has attracted the comments of a plethora of worthy notables. Included in the forewords are the Hon. John Howard M P and M r Bertie Ahem TQ, Prime Ministers ofAustralia and the Irish Republic respectively, and Dr Thomas N. Mitchell, Provost ofTrinity College, Dublin. The Preface is by Dr Brian Kennedy, Director of the N G A . H e also wrote the contribution 'Celtic Ireland' (pp. 8-12). In the segment 'The Book ofKells and the Art ofIllumination', Dr Bernard Meehan, Keeper of Manuscripts, Trinity College Library, Dublin, wrote on 'The Book of Kells: Word and Image' (pp. 22-35). Professor Emerita Margaret M. Manion penned an Introduction (pp. 1-15), a commentary on the art ofillumination (pp. 16-21) and wrote the catalogue entries for the remainder (pp. 36-77). Staff ofthe National Gallery deserve credit for their editing and layout. The colour separation by Colourbox, Perth, is of a high standard. The Book ofKells (c. A D 800) is presently bound into four volumes. It is the smallest volume, the Gospel of Saint Mark, fols. 129v to 187v (out of 680 surviving folios) which has come to Australia. Displayed along with it are examples ofother manuscripts also on loan for the occasion from Australian and New Zealand collections. Amongst these are 55 examples of Byzantine, English, 'French', 'Italian', and 'Netherlandish' works. Brian Kennedy's potted notes (pp. 8-12) on the history of Celtic Ireland place Kells in the context of its times. Kells, w e are told, originated during a time of factional fighting and struggles within the Celtic Church itself and devastating raids by the Vikings which began in A D 795. It survived the vicissitudes ofthe centuries relatively unharmed, and since the days of Cromwell, i t has been under the care ofTrinity College, Dublin. Dr Bernard Meehan (pp. 22-35) informs us that Kells was probably created at a monastery of the followers of Saint Columba, on Iona (Argyll, Scotland) or in their foundations at Kells itself. Three openings only were selected for display in Canberra and Meehan's commentary is limited to them. His offering is briskly stated but is oddly truncated. To tie in an important subject, such as Kells, with an exhibition of- in some cases, relatively lesser works - in order to popularise the event, is a trap. For 192 Reviews example, one would question the assertion that '...the medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in Australia and N e w Zealand collections ... demonstrate the legacy of Kells through the centuries' (p. 14), or in the heading 'The Legacy of the Book ofKells: Medieval and Renaissance Illumination' (p. 36). Not only are these claims overstatements but when applied to the majority ofthe manuscripts, are incorrect. Catalogue entries are rather uneven. Quite lengthy commentaries cover some and others are rudimentary and merely pictorially descriptive. It would have been pertinent for Manion to have included a short discussion in her introduction on the scholarly works published in monograph or article form antecedent to catalogues published or exhibitions held in Australia prior to the appearance of Manion and Vines' Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts (1984). Indeed, no publications prior to the 1984 date appear under the entries other than a article of 1979 by Meyer Schapiro in relationship to exhibition entry no. 32. Further, in accordance with acceptable scholarly practice, it would be preferable to see the terminus quo work of a scholar listed below the individual manuscript entries rather than, as in Professor Emeritus Keith Val Sinclair's case, in the bibliography only. Many of the codices were seen collectively for the first time at the exhibition of some 85 Western European manuscripts organised by Professor Sinclair at the University of Sydney and held in July-September 1967. Over two-thirds...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 191-193
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.