The Arbor caritatis et misericordiae and typological art in fourteenth-century Italy
Jeffrey F. Hamburger is the Kuno Francke Professor of German Art & Culture in the Dept. of the History of Art & Architecture at Harvard University. Areas of interest include medieval manuscript illumination, the art of female monasticism, and diagrams, modern as well as medieval. Recent publications include The Liber ordinarius of Nivelles: Liturgy as Interdisciplinary Intersection (Tübingen, 2019), co-edited with Eva Schlotheuber, and Diagramming Devotion: Berthold of Nuremberg’s Transformation of Hrabanus Maurus’s Poems in Praise of the Cross (Chicago, 2019). In 2019-20, Prof. Hamburger will be in residence as the Kress-Beinecke Professor at CASVA, to complete preparation of a loan exhibition, Imperial Splendor: The Art of the Book in the Holy Roman Empire, 800–1500, to open at the P. Morgan Library and Museum in 2021.
As part of his ongoing research on diagrams and diagrammatic imagery in the Middle Ages, Prof. Hamburger will devote his stay to the study of the Arbor caritatis et misericordiae (Manchester, John Rylands University Library, MS. Lat. 18), an immense illuminated roll ca. 21’ in length with a vast typological program arranged around a Tree of Life with 48 branches, each of which bears fruit in the form of three historiated roundels or blossoms. Each of the 148 images is flanked in turn by a pair of prophets bearing scrolls. Previously unpublished, in part, presumably, because M.R. James, who catalogued the collection, identified the manuscript as German rather Italian, the roll most likely originated in or around Siena towards the middle of the fourteenth century, although both its date and localization, as well as the identification of the bishop-patron’s coat-of-arms, all require further research. In addition to transcribing and identifying the copious inscriptions, he will seek to situate this exceptional object in the context of the other great typological programs of the later Middle Ages (including the Biblia pauperum, Speculum humanae salvationis, and the Concordantiae caritatis) in general and, more specifically, the numerous images of the Arbor vitae that flourished in various media in Italian painting of the fourteenth century.