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Berthold Furtmeyr: Illumination of the Renaissance

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The Regensburg Illuminator Berthold Furtmeyr (documented 1460-1502), was one of the most prominent illuminators of his time. His inventiveness was not confined to the unique formulation of a singular compositional theme and its repetition, the usual practice of that time, instead he constantly searched for new artistic methods. This element, in addition to his mastery of colour and line, is what makes his miniatures masterpieces not only of the book, but also masterpieces of the early Renaissance. For his clients, among which were Bavarian dukes, as well as the Prince Archbishops of Salzburg, he created together with his workshop luxurious hand written-works that are ranked as masterpieces of their kind.

 

This web site presents twenty fully digitized manuscripts, which are either created with the participation of Furtmeyr and his workshop, or come from the Master's Regensburg scene.

 

Berthold Furtmeyr: Life and Work

The Regensburger illuminator Berthold Furtmeyr , together with his miniatures,  belongs to the dynamic decades of the early modern period. Tradition and modernity are visible in his pictorial inventions, as well as his emphasis on individuality as an artist (call number perthold furtmeyr illuminator  in the first volume of the Augsburg Furtmeyr Bible,  Augsburg University Library, Cod. I.2.3° III, fol. 2v). In his miniatures, Furtmeyr presents himself as a successful entrepreneur, and an explorer of nature, the living environment of humanity.

The first artistic works of note from Furtmeyr are six medallions depicted in a theological-philosophical manuscript from the year 1460 (Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Cod. theol. et phil. 2° 100), that was  created in Regensburg. Already in this work,  the artistic qualities emerging are those that will establish Furtmeyr's artistic career. In the tiniest of space, he leads the viewer into the narrative structure of the images as he perceives it. His works are characterized by landscapes, cityscapes and figurative representations, as well as his focus on the essentials of design selection; the artistic tension he creates in his images; and the sensual treatment of the human body. Even down to the tiniest detail, be it a human hair or the blossoming of a meadow flower, a wonder-inducing visualization of events is created.

In 1466 he married the daughter of Hans Rainer, a lute maker in Regensburg. After the wedding Furtmeyr began building his studio. His clients, in addition to the bishops of Regensburg and Salzburg, included Duke Albrecht IV of Bavaria-München Albrecht IV. (1447-1508) and the Elector of the Palatine, Philipp the Sincere (1448-1508). Included among the outstanding pieces from the early years are the richly illuminated the Old Testaments for the brothers Hans Stauff zu Ehrenfels (Augsburg University Library, Cod Cod I.3.2 I.3.2 ° III und ° IV)  and  Ulrich von Stauff zu Ehrenfels (Bavarian State Library in Munich, cgm 8010A).In the years 1478 to 1489 Berthold Furtmeyr illuminated the five-volume Salzburg Missal (Bavarian State Library in Munich, Clm 15708-15712) for the prince archbishops of Salzburg.

After years of economic consolidation, in 1478 Furtmeyr purchased the estate of his parents-in-law from his brother-in-law. In the period of 1473 to 1487 Furtmeyr enlarged his fortune from  15 pound pence to 411 pound pence, as the tax documents of the imperial city of Regensburg show. He was one of the wealthiest citizens of Regensburg. Between 1490 and 1500 he illuminated the Lectionale de Sanctis (Bavarian State Library in Munich,  Clm 23024), which we can assumed was made for his client, the Benedictine monastery. In 1500 the daughter of Berthold Furtmeyr married;  the miniatures illustrated in the Statuten-, Kopial-, and Saalbuch [registry] of the Regensburg Cathedral (Bavarian Central State Archives, DK Regensburg 443) are the last time the artist is tangibly felt in a work.

If the biography of the Regensburger seems lacking, it is his artistic work, in more than 15 manuscripts, that has been preserved for posterity. It is the eloquent testimony of an outstanding artist. Alone from the Salzburg Missal, 48 full-page miniatures have survived. This figure shows that Berthold Furtmeyr, like no other artist of his time, focussed on variety. This is the impression one gains, not only when looking at various works of the artist, but also by studying just the canon pages of one volume of the Salzburg Missal. Not one picture is similar to the other. The richness in variation of his illustrations are derived from his knowledge of the iconographic traditions of Regensburg, a medieval centre of book illumination; printed materials; and from his artistic analysis of the panel paintings of his time. Berthold Furtmeyr stands as an illuminator in the second half of the 15th Century, in the the middle of the illuminative tradition, and his works provide an insight into the visual culture of those decades.  He draws on the rich iconographic tradition of generations of artists previous to him, and links them to the new currents of the Renaissance. In this way, he was able to create something genuinely original.

Wolfgang Neiser, Regensburg

 

Literature:

  • Christoph Wagner, Klemens Unger (Hgg.), Berthold Furtmeyr. Meisterwerke der Buchmalerei und die Regensburger Kunst in Spätgotik und Renaissance, Regensburg 2010.


Read further information

All digitized versions are available in a browsing version. They are partially catalogued through their table of  contents and supplemented through links to other digital offerings (such as the digitized original catalogues or the research documentation from the BSB).

 

Project details

The digitization of  the manuscripts of Berthold Furtmeyr and his milieu was finished in 2010, in cooperation with the  Office of Archives and  the Historical Monuments of the City of Regensburg; the National Library of Regensburg; the Bavarian State Library (Cgm und Clm-manuscripts) and the Augsburg University Library (Cod. I.3.2° III und ° IV, Cod. 1.3.2). Impetus for digitisation was the exhibit  "Berthold Furtmeyr.  Masterpieces of Illumination. The Start of the Renaissance in Regensburg." that was organised from  29.11.2010 - 20.02.2011 by  the Cultural Department of the City of Regensburg, in cooperation with the Institute for Art History at the University of Regensburg and the Historical Museum of the City of Regensburg.

The digitization of the manuscripts was completed at the Bavarian State Library Munich Digitisation Centre (MDZ) and was supervised by the Institute for Book and Manuscript Conservation (IBR). The digitization of the manuscripts Cod Cod I.3.2 1.3.2 ° III und ° IV was completed at the Augsburg University Library.

Amt für Archiv und Denkmalpflege der Stadt Regensburg.

Staatliche Bibliothek Regensburg.

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek - Information in erster Linie.

Universitätsbibliothek Augsburg.
 

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