The magical effect of trompe l’oeil

I had been fascinated with scatter borders for quite a long time, but did not dare to replicate any of them until my mother’s birthday last year. I was working on the catalogue of the Royal Exhibition at the time and writing about Henry VII’s copy of the Imagination de vraie noblesse (Royal 19 C. viii, http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/record.asp?MSID=7942&CollID=16&NStart=190308).

The manuscript is an adaptation of the Burgundian work Enseignement de vraie noblesse by Hugues de Lannoy that the royal librarian and scribe, Quentin Poulet, dedicated to the English king. Poulet was born in Lille, but educated in Bruges (his name was registered at Bruges amongst apprentice illuminators in 1472-1473), the very place where the scatter borders flourished during the last decades of the 15th century. To embellished Henry VII’s dedication copy, Poulet contracted a Bruges artist, known as the Master of the Prayer Books of around 1500. It was his work that inspired my gift idea. I selected just one motif, a giant iris on the outer border of f. 18 http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=47703, and reproduced it as a slightly bigger, separate image. My painting is not a ‘proper’ copy, but rather a cheaper version of the original. Instead of a genuine shell gold, I used a ready-made gold-like paint. Unfortunately, this substitute-for-gold made virtually impossible to follow the original technique used by the Flemish illuminators to paint shades. Water-based colours simply do not stick to it properly. I tried a denser gum arabic solution and it work to some extend, but a proper scatter border experience is still ahead of me.

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