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The Getty Museum acquires the Irmengard Codex

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Marie Docher | AltoPress | PhotoAlto

Antique book with illuminations, close-up

Daniel Esparza - published on 03/24/23

The codex is a richly decorated manuscript made for the 11th-century noblewoman Irmengard of Nellenburg.

Last week, the Getty Museum acquired the Irmengard Codex, a richly decorated manuscript made for the 11th-century noblewoman Irmengard of Nellenburg –the niece of the Ottonian Emperor Henry II, member of the House of Egisheim-Dagsburg in Germany, and related to Pope Leo IX.

Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the Getty Museum, explained at the Museum’s website that “the Irmengard Codex, with its unusually rich body of imagery, is a spectacular example of early medieval manuscript illumination, the likes of which has not appeared on the market in over half a century.”

The Codex was created in Germany around mid-11th century, and it is mainly a collection of readings for the Mass. It also contains 15 full-page illuminationsexecuted in the otherworldly pinks, blues, and lavenders that characterize painting of the so-called long Ottonian era”.

The Codex’s patroness, Irmengard of Nellenburg, was a member of a powerful local ruling family – the House of Egisheim-Dagsburg. Whereas it is thought that the text of the Codex was written around 1030-1050, the full-page miniatures were added shortly after 1053, at the order of Irmengard herself.

“The illumination program,” the Getty’s website explains, “culminates in an extremely rare dedication image in which Irmengard presents her book in memory of her deceased husband Werner and their son Adalbert, who were killed in 1053 at the Battle of Civitate.”

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