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The dedication miniatures in the Egmond Gospels: a Byzantinizing iconography?

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The Egmond Gospels, a much cherished manuscript in the Netherlands, have provoked a wealth of publications, descriptions, commentaries, catalogue entries etc. Most noted are the two dedication miniatures representing count Thierry of Holland (d. 988) and his wife Hildegard, offering the Evangeliary to the abbey of Egmond. The MS is now in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, cod. 76 F I. In the present article an attempt has been made to describe the colour programme of these two miniatures more accurately with the help of a stereomicroscope and the Munsell Color Atlas. Some suggestions have been made about the pigments which were probably used. A new date for the miniatures has been proposed, taking into consideration their historical context and their iconography. The most likely period is from 974 to 980. In this period double portraits are being introduced in the West, in the Ottonian world. An incentive for this new style was undoubtedly the arrival of the Byzantine princess Theophano who married Otto II in 972. In the Byzantine world imperial double portraits were very common. After the death of her father-in-law Otto I, in 973 and the official recognition of her co-rulership in 974, her role became more prominent, and may have stimulated the making of Western double portraits, if not as propaganda then at least to imitate Byzantine court life. Egbert, son of Thierry II and Hildegard, became chancellor of the Reich in 976 and archbishop of Trier in 977. He played an important role in Ottonian art as a patron and promoter, in which Byzantine influence is clearly discernible. Iconographical elements in the Egmond Gospels, such as the proskynesis, the disproportion between donors and 'authorities', the symmetry, the double portrait etc. betray influence from Byzantine iconography. Byzantine influence, indirectly via the Ottonians, was thus an active force in the execution of these miniatures, wherein Egbert is likely to have played an active role, even if the artist and the workshop are unknown.


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