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Analysis of Codex Amiatinus (8th century) 35 cm x 25 cm, painter unknown (biblical painting, the vulgate bible)

Updated on November 28, 2012

Analysis of Codex Amiatinus (8th century) 35 cm x 25 cm, painter unknown

As the title already suggests this picture is of biblical nature. A person is working on the renovation of the Bible. The perspective is not yet fully developed.
On the picture, there is only one man (a saint) to see. Because of his white beard and the halo over his head I assess him to be in a higher age. He copies the Bible. That’s why his back is curved as the Bible is a huge book. The face expression is concentrated and critical, because he has to do his work as perfect and free of any mistakes as possible and write as nice as possible which is a demanding task. What I want to note is that the face expression is not this distinct anyway, because on one hand, the knowledge or ability of such a diversity and preciseness was not attained and on the other hand, the naturalistic thought or desire did not exist at that time anyway (probably).
The Saint Ezra wears several long robes, where the outermost layer is red. Red is used probably, because crimson was used a lot back in these days. The wardrobe is also painted in red, but it rather looks like the painter wanted it to be more of somewhat brownish. The colour red is also the symbol of the blood of Jesus what would suit the choice of colour the Saint and the wardrobe.

Painting: Codex Amiatinus


In the background, there is a big, open wardrobe (as mentioned above). It contains most probably holy books. Also, the wardrobe is decorated with indentations. Probably, they all are holy symbols. One is a cross, what should grant it the content of holiness.
In the middle ground, there is a table that has somehow three table legs in the back. There is also a staff, which is in the diagonal of the table. On the table there is a small bowl and random wood pieces are scattered in the room.
In the fore ground, there is the Saint Ezra with his halo. He is sitting on a bench, resting his feet on an antique “hassock”. In the right down corner, there is an open book with an ink pot next to it.

The colours of the three levels are often the same. The Saint and the wardrobe are both red (holy). The wall is painted in an ochre greenish-brownish colour and the wood things are in something yellowish (or in a darker version of it if they are in the shadow).

Perspectively-spoken, the room is in chaos. There are hints of perspective, but no uniform centre. This is best seen on the doors of the wardrobe, because the directions of the centre are mixed up and more or less created in a 2,5-D room.

Regarding the composition of the painting, there are two dominating objects which are fighting about the dominance in the picture. One would be the Saint Ezra, who is in the middle horizontal and in the left vertical. His importance in the picture is insofar prominent, as he is doing the activity in the painting. Furthermore, he is the only person in this painting. The other one would be the big, reddish/brownish wardrobe. It is quite wide and also quite big in the picture. The reason, why it takes such an important role in this painting, is that the wall behind is it in something ochre greenish. This contrast lets the wardrobe stick out of the painting. As the wardrobe is reddish the red of the Saint Ezra is partly “neutralized”. Between the middle horizontal and the part below there is the bench of Ezra and random pieces of wood which make themselves a bit more prominent in the painting through their yellowish colour.
The colours on its own do not seem to have much diversity. They look like ochre colours and it seems that a brownish colour has been the origin in which other colours were put and mixed in order to get the desired colours for the wardrobe, the Saint Ezra, the wooden ground and items, the wall etc. The colours are laid on covering on the wall.

Reckoning the picture, the wardrobe and Ezra were predominating. The consequence is that the wooden pieces are strongly neglected and that there are things in the down right corner is only seen by a more accurate examination of the picture. What I noticed the last, is that there is a staff which starts below the bank of the Saint and goes up to the left table leg. On the left side of the hassock there is a small, black unidentifiable object.

The artist himself lived in an age, where the church was the employer and that’s why; there are a lot of religious paintings. The act represents the Saint Ezra copying the holy book, the Bible.


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