The Art of Illumination

Tuk e vzproizveden list ot Kru... Digital ID: 1551201. New York Public Library

Tuk e v"zproizveden list ot "Krupnishkoto" evangelie (vzh. list 3, 4).Digital ID: 1551201. New York Public Library

I’m reading a book that’s totally awakened me to an art form I previously knew little about.

The book is Graphic Design and Religion: A Call for Renewal, by Daniel Kantor. The art is a historical technique known as illumination.

Illumination is commonly associated with Middle to Renaissance Age religious manuscripts. Considered the most sacred of all documents, these manuscripts were embellished with decorative borders, elaborate initials and detailed illustrations. Because artists created them in gold, silver and other brilliant colors, they appeared illuminated on the animal skin pages.

The Slavic piece shown here, exquisite as it is, is a somewhat muted example (it’s the only image I could find with copyright permissions). Comparatively, works such as de Brailes Hours or Biblia pauperum, two of many listed in the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, are much more intense. Imagine the time and discipline that went into creating any of these beautiful works of art!

While illuminations, as an art form, are fascinating, I’m most inspired by the ideals they represent.

Kantor described the illuminators as the finest of artists who remained “lifelong students of their craft” and “eschewed shortcuts that compromised aesthetic integrity.” They chose the most quality materials available to create visuals for a largely illiterate population—visuals that, as much as humanly possible, communicated the divinity of Christ.

Illuminators saw their work as “a ministry worthy of their best efforts,” writes Kantor.

The techniques we use today certainly have changed the way we visually communicate our faith. Graphic design and commercial printing are light-years away from those hand-rendered illuminations. Yet the ideals are still the same. The time we spend training and conceptualizing, the quality of materials we use and the dedication we apply to our work, all reflect the reverence we hold to Christ.

Communicating Christ, after all, is a ministry worthy of our best efforts.

Advertisements

One response to “The Art of Illumination

  1. The Saint John’s Bible is an example of a modern day hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible. It’s beautiful!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s