Color of the Middle Ages Reimagined : A Retrospective of Dr. Carl Nordenfalk and his 1976 Exhibition of Medieval Manuscript Facsimiles

Images Médiévales (1949)

Images Médiévales (1949) presents a sequence of miniatures from illuminated manuscripts of the 14th and 15th centuries found in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Beginning with the biblical creation story, the film depicts the daily work of the French peasants, the lifestyle and pleasures of nobility, tournaments, the violence of medieval warfare, and various other aspects of life in the Middle Ages. For the opening of Color of the Middle Ages on Thursday March 11, 1976, Carl Nordenfalk screened Images Médiévales twice in the auditorium of the Frick Fine Arts Building. The film then screened for the next three days (March 12 -14) at 3 pm each day. Nordenfalk most likely chose this film to juxtapose the replicated manuscript images of the facsimiles in the exhibition.
The film begins with a sequence of miniatures from the Book of Genesis. Although it is an abridged version of the story, the narrative focus of the images depicts the following verses:

[2:21] So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh [2:22] And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

The succession of film frames structures the progression of the scene, and it alters the original function of the physical manuscript medium. In the same way as a facsimile, film mechanical reproduction reconfigures the way one perceives manuscript illuminations. However, unlike a facsimile, the medium of film removes all indications of the name, origin, and workshop of the physical manuscript. 

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