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The Model Book of Rein
The oldest preserved template guide book of the Middle Ages
Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. Vindob. 507, Monastery of Rein (Syria), 1st half of the 13th century

CODICES SELECTI, Vol. LXIV

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Further Pictures

 

Generations of medieval artists patterned their great works on cartoons and sketches compiled in so-called Model Books. The Model Book of Rein, named after the Cistercian abbey at Rein near Graz in Styria where it was made, is probably the finest of all.


The first medieval Model Book

Our Model Book is the work of an anonymous artist who, on 13 pages, carefully illustrated scenes of everyday life, created animal depictions, a series of initial alphabets, as well as patterns for floor tiles and glass windows. The codex was produced in the 13th century and the copy in Rein thus constitutes the oldest surviving Model Book of this size in medieval art. The Model Book commences with 12 scenes taken from medieval daily life. The precisely executed genre pictures represent typical farm duties, different arts and crafts, as well as hunting and fishing scenes and activities of monastic life.

These pictures are followed by three different alphabets, ranging from a simple majuscule alphabet to a lavishly illustrated initial alphabet including animals skilfully hidden in the expressive interlace. The books continues with 48 real and fabulous creatures, plants, and stones. Especially the birds deserve particular mention due to their complicated posture and movements and it is assumed that they could have been destined for use in initials. The same applies to the sketches showing multi-lobed, scroll-like leaves enclosing ensembles of flowers and fruit. The Model Book ends with sumptuous ornaments designed for use in floor tiles and glass windows with interlace modelled in the style of Greek mosaics.

All this makes the Model Book a delightful reflection of medieval art, thus improving our understanding of medieval culture.

   
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