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Manuscript - Susannah and the Elders

Susannah and the Elders

  • Object:

    Manuscript

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (probably, illumination)

  • Date:

    ca. 1900 (illumination)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Spanish Forger (illuminator)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Body colour with gilt enrichments

  • Credit Line:

    Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2008

  • Museum number:

    E.529-2008

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case TECHS

The Spanish Forger was a skilful and prolific forger, who capitalised on the fashion for collecting medieval panel paintings and illuminated manuscripts, which was widespread in Europe and the United States between the mid-nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. His distinctive repertory of sweet faced figures set against a background of steep hills and castles derived from the study of illustrated books on the Middle Ages. His work was exposed as that of a forger in the 1930s, on the basis of a panel formerly attributed to the fifteenth century Spanish painter Jorge Inglés. This association provided the name of convenience by which he is still known, although it is generally believed that he was active in Paris in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

This is one of a group of five or six miniatures of similar size and borders, painted on the back of cuttings from a text page of an Italian choir book of fifteenth or sixteenth century date. It depicts Susannah and the Elders; a biblical subject taken from the Apocrypha (Susannah 15-24). Susannah is shown interrupted while bathing at the left. Her virtuous and modest nature is conveyed by her downcast eyes and the gesture with which she covers her body with a cloth as the two elders approach from the right. They threatened to accuse Susannah of adultery unless she slept with them. The costume of the two elders and the castellated landscape are reminiscent of Franco-Flemish manuscripts of around 1400, but the 'Venus Pudica' pose of Susannah suggests a more classicising source, such as Botticelli's Birth of Venus, painted in Florence during the 1470s. This anachronistic tendency to combine motifs derived from different schools and periods is a principal reason why the works of the Spanish Forger are readily identifiable as fakes.

Physical description

Manuscript

Place of Origin

Paris (probably, illumination)

Date

ca. 1900 (illumination)

Artist/maker

Spanish Forger (illuminator)

Materials and Techniques

Body colour with gilt enrichments

Dimensions

Height: 20.5 cm painting, Width: 14.5 cm painting

Descriptive line

'Susannah and the Elders': illuminated manuscript leaf by 'The Spanish Forger', ca. 1900.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Voelkle, William. The Spanish Forger, exhibition catalogue, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1978. ISBN 875980546, catalogue number L.65, p.56, plate 184, notes that this is one of a set of five, possibly six manuscripts (catalogue numbers L.66-69 and L.10).
MLA Acceptance in Lieu Report 2007/2008, p.20, notes that the manuscript is titled "Susannah and the Elders".
L. Burgio, R.J.H. Clark and R.R. Hark.“Spectroscopic investigation of modern pigments on purportedly medieval miniatures by the ‘Spanish Forger’”, in Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, vol 40, pp. 2031-2036, 2009.

Materials

Parchment; Body colour; Gold metallic pigment

Techniques

Illumination

Categories

Manuscripts

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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