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Medieval drawing - Miniatures and Parchments

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Medieval symbolism (colours, bestiary, etc..)

Middle Ages Images (how to read them, by Chiara Frugoni)

Christian Symbols

Medieval painting

Medieval artists

Medieval Women Artists



Medieval drawings are

  • for narrative (Bible or common life)
  • for scientific and scholarly illustration
  • diagramm
  • studies for book illustrations

The interest is often to illustrate the invisible and there is no interest in studying the human anatomy when drawing the human figure.

Note: Miniatures were often made by two artists: and "Adumbrator" - the draughtsman, and the "Illuminator", the painter. (Much similar to the Comic industry today where there was a artist for the drawing, one for the inking process and one for the colouring. I think with the new era of computers, today, all three tasks can be made by a single person and software like Photoshop or Manga Studio)

"...drawing, better than any other technique, offers access to the artist's thought processes"
Vasari, quoted by Melanie Holcomb



medieval drawing a manuscript

MINIATURIST, English ,Gospel Book c. 1150, Illumination on parchment, Cathedral, Winchester.
See the dragon? The Middle ages was fascinated with the unsual and the fantastic...but, is our "modern" society not the same? Video games, fantasy illustrations and holliwood movies are not diffrent....




medievak drawing miniature ca 1180

Miniature probably from the Benedictine monastery of San Pedro de
Cardeña, near Burgos- Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment; 17 1/2 x 11 13/16 in. (44.4 x 30 cm)



medieval drawing. miniature of a letter D

Jesus Entering the Temple in a Letter D, ca. 1408–11
From a gradual created for the Camaldolese monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence
Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni) (Italian, Florentine, documented 1391–1423/24)
Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over traces of leadpoint, on vellum

12 x 9 1/5 in. (30.5 x 24.1 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1999 (1999.391)

Source: Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni): Jesus Entering the Temple in a Letter D (1999.391) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art



medieval drawing, Peter of Poitiers, gnealogy of Christ

Peter of Poitiers' Genealogy of Christ, ca. 1230
Ink on vellum

Overall 65 9/16 x 13 1/16 in. (166.5 x 33.2 cm), framed 76 1/2 x 23 x 2 1/4 in. (194.3 x 58.4 x 5.7 cm)
The Cloisters Collection, 2002 (2002.433)

Source: Peter of Poitiers' Genealogy of Christ [English] (2002.433) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art



medieval drawing diagramm

St John's College 17, Thorney Abbey, Benedictine monastery in Cambridgeshirefirst decade of the 12th century

This text opens by describing the affinity of each of the four humours for a particular organ. Blood dominates the right side of the body in the liver, and also the heart; red bile rules the gall bladder; black bile, the spleen; and phlegm the head and bladder. Each humour has characteristic qualities: hot and cold, wet and dry, sweet, acid, or salty. Each is related to one of the four seasons: blood to spring, red bile to summer, black bile to autumn, and phlegm to winter. They are excreted through different orifices, and finally, they produce different physiological and psychological types.




Uthrecht Psalmer, the beginning of miniature, ca. 840.


PSALM XI (12), f. 6v.

medieavl drawing, utrecht pslater, ca. 820

"In the upper left of the picture, the beardless Christ-Logos1 is stepping out of a globe-mandorla (verse 6, (5)) to hand a cross-spear to an angel armed with a shield and striding toward the right, while four angels to the left of the mandorla discuss the matter. The same angel, repeated as the instrument of God, is smiting with the same weapon, the 'flattering lips' of the foremost of a group of the wicked represented as soldiers (verse 4, (3)) in the lower right corner. In the middle register below the Christ-Logos are nine of the 'poor and needy,' some represented as cripples (verse 6, (5)), in whose defense the Lord has arisen. In the foreground below them are two groups of the wicked. One of the groups is walking around a circular object resembling a table-top, and the other is pushing round a turnstile. The Latin text (verse 9, (8)) reads: 'in circuitu impii ambulant ,' i.e., the wicked walk about in a circle! In the upper right of the picture the psalmist holds a scroll containing 'the words of the Lord' and points to two smiths at work at a forge in front of a building, which illustrates verse 7, (6): 'the words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth.'"

1 Cross-nimbed.




The Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux, ca. 1324–1328

Jean Pucelle (French, active in Paris, ca. 1320–34)-Grisaille and tempera on vellum.

The technique of "Grisaille" is also used today (in Comic illustration, painting on leather and on any other medium such as oil or acrylic and it is very helpful to work with colour values, although only using greys, before applying colors...)

medieval drawing, miniature and grisaille

The whole manuscript opened to text page to show scale.
3 1/2 x 2 7/16 in. (8.9 x 6.2 cm)

Source: Jean Pucelle. The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux (54.1.2) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art


medieval drawing


medieval drawing


medieval drawing11v - Calendar Page for November (Gathering Acorns)


Return from medieval drawings back to the homepage

Return from medieval drawing back to the middle ages art page



Melanie Holcomb
Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Source: Drawing in the Middle Ages | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art





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