Illuminating Women in the Medieval World
When one thinks of women in the Middle Ages, the images that often come to mind are those of damsels in distress, mystics in convents, female laborers in the field, and even women of ill repute. In reality, however, medieval conceptions of womanhood were multifaceted, and women’s roles were varied and nuanced. Female stereotypes existed in the medieval world, but so too did women of power and influence. The pages of illuminated manuscripts reveal to us the many facets of medieval womanhood and slices of medieval life—from preoccupations with biblical heroines and saints to courtship, childbirth, and motherhood. While men dominated artistic production, this volume demonstrates the ways in which female artists, authors, and patrons were instrumental in the creation of illuminated manuscripts.   Featuring over one hundred illuminations depicting medieval women from England to Ethiopia, this book provides a lively and accessible introduction to the lives of women in the medieval world.  

Illuminating Women in the Medieval World Details

TitleIlluminating Women in the Medieval World
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 20th, 2017
PublisherJ. Paul Getty Museum
ISBN1606065262
ISBN-139781606065266
Number of pages120 pages
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, Art, Historical, Medieval

Illuminating Women in the Medieval World Review

  • Bettie☯
    June 2, 2017
    Description: When one thinks of women in the Middle Ages, the images that often come to mind are those of damsels in distress, mystics in convents, female laborers in the field, and even women of ill repute. In reality, however, medieval conceptions of womanhood were multifaceted, and women’s roles were varied and nuanced. Female stereotypes existed in the medieval world, but so too did women of power and influence. The pages of illuminated manuscripts reveal to us the many facets of medieval wo Description: When one thinks of women in the Middle Ages, the images that often come to mind are those of damsels in distress, mystics in convents, female laborers in the field, and even women of ill repute. In reality, however, medieval conceptions of womanhood were multifaceted, and women’s roles were varied and nuanced. Female stereotypes existed in the medieval world, but so too did women of power and influence. The pages of illuminated manuscripts reveal to us the many facets of medieval womanhood and slices of medieval life—from preoccupations with biblical heroines and saints to courtship, childbirth, and motherhood. While men dominated artistic production, this volume demonstrates the ways in which female artists, authors, and patrons were instrumental in the creation of illuminated manuscripts.Featuring over one hundred illuminations depicting medieval women from England to Ethiopia, this book provides a lively and accessible introduction to the lives of women in the medieval world.A reference book featuring beautiful Getty images. Did I learn anything? - only that I do so very much like poring over beautiful Getty images about illuminating mediaeval women.
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  • Vivian
    May 5, 2017
    A coffee table book featuring a heavy reliance on Getty pieces. The book assumes little prior knowledge by the reader explaining how the book will deviate from preconceived ideas or stereotypes of females (damsels in distress) during the Middle Ages. It is geared towards a curious general reader, who should find this engaging without being too academic. It is divided into four thematic sections. Ideals of Womanhood: Beyond the norm in terms of illustrations with a couple extraordinary examples: A coffee table book featuring a heavy reliance on Getty pieces. The book assumes little prior knowledge by the reader explaining how the book will deviate from preconceived ideas or stereotypes of females (damsels in distress) during the Middle Ages. It is geared towards a curious general reader, who should find this engaging without being too academic. It is divided into four thematic sections. Ideals of Womanhood: Beyond the norm in terms of illustrations with a couple extraordinary examples: an Ethiopian Virgin Mary, two unusual representations of Saints Catherine and Agatha, and a Persian manuscript featuring King Khusrau and Shirin.Warnings to Women: The imagery addresses issues of immodesty and unchaste behavior, often erotic and bordering on salacious, the identity of the patron plays heavily into the interpretation of the illumination. The saving grace in this section is the idea of redemption. Daily Life: Broad title for non-religious or parables that highlight events in women's lives. Illuminated manuscripts were not cheap or plentiful. Patrons requested them and thus they commemorate important events of wealthy persons. Weddings, lineage, Caesarian birth, etc, and if the events are of religious figures they are presented in secular environs: Maria Lactans and Saints' baptisms. The naturalism is a reflection of Northern European trends that is surprisingly unaddressed in the book. Additionally, various female occupations are represented: bakers, spinners, and harvesters. Women in the Arts: Focuses on patronage, artists, and writers, The selection is not terribly large, but it does hold images that aren't often seen in a field where Book of Hours or prayer books dominate. Overall, excellent concise explanations of the context surrounding the imagery. It addresses the intended audience or patron in many cases, at times this seems paradoxical to the theme or rendering of the image. Most of the images are from Northern European artists as reflected by the J. Paul Getty Museum's holdings. Additionally, there are several lovely illuminations that don't fall into the typical Book of Hours or Christian works with a Persian manuscript and Torah images. Small gripe is that there are a few identifications of the illuminations that are discussed, but the evidence is not present in the image, often elsewhere in the work. Additionally, there are no essays about medieval women included in the book, the focus is the illuminations--yes, the reader will hear snippets about Heloise and Abelard and the lives of various saints, but not as much overall context of the time period. I guess I had hoped for a bit more depth regarding the subject rather than a just a gallery of images as lovely as it is.~Copy provided by NetGalley~
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  • Dee Arr
    June 20, 2017
    Most people have a limited knowledge of women in the Middle Ages. This book by Christine Sciacca will open up many eyes. The publication is timed to coincide with the 2017 exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.An illuminated manuscript is defined as a manuscript in which the text is supplemented with decorations. These could include initials, borders, and illustrations. Ms. Sciacca has divided her book into four sections, Medieval Ideals of Womanhood, Warnings to Medieval Women, Most people have a limited knowledge of women in the Middle Ages. This book by Christine Sciacca will open up many eyes. The publication is timed to coincide with the 2017 exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.An illuminated manuscript is defined as a manuscript in which the text is supplemented with decorations. These could include initials, borders, and illustrations. Ms. Sciacca has divided her book into four sections, Medieval Ideals of Womanhood, Warnings to Medieval Women, Medieval Women in Daily Life, and Medieval Women in the Arts. The layout is wonderful, and almost turns the pages for readers. The balance between text and illuminations changes constantly, never allowing the eyes to tire.The Middle Ages was a time when males dominated the church and state, and controlled much of what happened. However, there were women who thought differently, who were opposed to the “normal” order of things and had the courage to speak their minds. Many of the illuminated manuscripts present these women through the images and accompanying text. Not only are women featured, but many of the manuscripts were commissioned by female patrons as well as illuminated by women.The script is informative, enlightening readers not only about each illumination but also offering a back history of some of the essential characters featured in the art. For anyone interested in the medieval life and the attitudes of those living during that time, this is an excellent book. Five stars.My thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book.
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  • Gill
    May 4, 2017
    'Illuminating Women in the Medieval World' by Christine Sciacca 4 stars/ 8 out of 10This is a very nice book. It has been issued to support an exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, but works equally well as a stand alone book.It is short, but has much of interest in it. It is arranged in 4 chapters, along with an interesting introduction and epilogue.The commentary is both interesting and informative. I was especially interested in reading about the roles women played in commissioning, making 'Illuminating Women in the Medieval World' by Christine Sciacca 4 stars/ 8 out of 10This is a very nice book. It has been issued to support an exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, but works equally well as a stand alone book.It is short, but has much of interest in it. It is arranged in 4 chapters, along with an interesting introduction and epilogue.The commentary is both interesting and informative. I was especially interested in reading about the roles women played in commissioning, making and reading books.The illustrations are lavish and full of detail. Many of these are from the J. Paul Getty Museum itself.Christine Sciacca has done a good job here of collecting and using relevant images to back up the overview that she has provided.For anyone who is interested in finding out more about women in the medieval period, I recommend both Medieval People and Medieval Women by Eileen Power.Thank you to Getty Publications and to NetGalley for an ARC.
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  • Luci
    June 26, 2017
    I was fortunate to get to read a ARC of this book thru netgalley.The first thing that came to my mind when I finished this book was lovely. Yes this book is lovely. The flow between the images and the text was really good. It gives us a glimps of how women where seen in medieval times,through the beautiful illustrations made by hands of artists that are long gone. The authors accompanying text explains the pictures beautifully.
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  • Regina Hunter
    June 6, 2017
    A collection of medieval illustrations with narration and background provided. This book gives a great overview of a women's role or view upon women from a Church and Medieval perspective. One of the most amazing aspect of the book is seeing women that printed books! Quite amazing and colorful.
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  • Jessica Strider
    June 23, 2017
    Pros: lots of colour illustrations, good explanationsCons: This is an examination of medieval women as depicted in illuminated manuscripts. There’s a short forward by Timothy Potts, the Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, followed by the Introduction. There are four chapters: Medieval Ideals of Womanhood, Warnings to Medieval Women, Medieval Women in Daily Life and Medieval Women in the Arts. At the end there’s a short epilogue and some suggestions for further reading. The book is 120 pages, a Pros: lots of colour illustrations, good explanationsCons: This is an examination of medieval women as depicted in illuminated manuscripts. There’s a short forward by Timothy Potts, the Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, followed by the Introduction. There are four chapters: Medieval Ideals of Womanhood, Warnings to Medieval Women, Medieval Women in Daily Life and Medieval Women in the Arts. At the end there’s a short epilogue and some suggestions for further reading. The book is 120 pages, and there are 100 illustrations.The chapters start with a short explanation followed by a large number of illustrations. Each image has a good descriptive explanation that often gives context and/or insights into the medieval mind. I was impressed to see an Ethiopian and a Persian image in the Ideals of Womanhood chapter, as well as a few Hebrew manuscripts represented. The images depict a wide variety of women from a good mix of sources. There are saints, Biblical scenes, scenes of romance, giving birth, patrons praying, etc. Some of the sources are book of hours, prayer books, hymnals, medical and history texts, a book of law codes, etc.The Warnings chapter opens with a brief foray into nude female imagery and the male readership for whom those images were generally commissioned, something I had never considered before. There are several other interesting tidbits that give greater depth to the people who made and used the manuscripts.I found this a wonderful read. It’s an introductory volume and so accessible to anyone interested in learning more about the middle ages and the role of women.
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  • Annette
    May 13, 2017
    I’ve seen many beautiful illuminations at different museums, but never understood the deep meaning of them until reading this book. It is written in a straight-forward manner. Each story is supported by remarkable illumination. However, the order of presenting those illuminations strikes me as not well-organized. For me natural order would be from presenting birth, learning, to getting married or nunnery and life struggles or luxuries. The fact is: in the medieval times in the male-dominated chu I’ve seen many beautiful illuminations at different museums, but never understood the deep meaning of them until reading this book. It is written in a straight-forward manner. Each story is supported by remarkable illumination. However, the order of presenting those illuminations strikes me as not well-organized. For me natural order would be from presenting birth, learning, to getting married or nunnery and life struggles or luxuries. The fact is: in the medieval times in the male-dominated church and state little was recorded in regards to women. So those illuminated manuscripts offer glimpses into their lives: from giving a birth, baptism, teaching children read, to taking part in political and economic arena and giving spark to women literacy.The book starts with a breath-taking illumination of Saint Hedwig of Silesia, Poland, 1353. Her life reflects “the varied prescribed roles that women in the Middle Ages played: wife, mother, political negotiator, charitable patron, pious laywoman, and saint.Illumination of Mary Magdalene Borne Aloft depicts family of wealthier class where mother teaches her daughter read, often using prayer books as primers.Threshing and Pig Feeding illumination presents “important functions of women in medieval society.”“Manuscripts were some of the most expensive art objects that one could buy in the Middle Ages.” Lot of them were commissioned by and for women, thus leaving us with glimpses into their lives.In the Middle Ages, some women were forced to become nuns as their families could not afford dowries. Their dedication was to prayer, charity and God, but also led to encouragement of female literacy and “eventually spreading to the royalty, the nobility, and the middle class.”Saint Elizabeth of Hungary illumination depicts niece of Saint Hedwig. Elizabeth is widowed at young age and choses to join convent instead of marrying again. But her spiritual advisor subjects her to cruel treatment of lashing.Economic role: “Peasant women helped harvest the fields alongside men, and women of the growing merchant class produced and sold crafts and participated in the trade of goods…” And wealthy women commissioned luxury goods, including manuscripts.Through illuminations displaying love, we learn about types of courting women: flirtatious conversations, game playing, poetry citing, love letter writing.A Marriage Ceremony illumination depicts marriage contracts, creating political and economic alliances.The Birth of Caesar illumination portrays Julius Caesar’s mother giving birth to him through stomach incision; not clear if this gave term “Cesarean.”The Massacre of the Innocents illumination paints painful picture of Middle Age realities of mothers protecting their children from soldiers stabbing them.Most common manuscripts to be commissioned were books of hours and prayer books. Books of hours were the medieval bestsellers. There were relatively few women artists/writers, creating text and painting images, compared to male artists/writers.Christine de Pizan illumination is of one of the earliest known professional female authors. Hildegard of Bingen Receiving a Vision illumination “was 12th century nun famous for her visions, which she wrote down and were eventually published.”
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  • Havanah
    June 22, 2017
    Before I get onto the review proper I should say that I received a free digital copy of this book for review purposes. As someone who studies art history with a focus on gender representation, albeit in a different time period, and who has a personal interest in medieval art and history, it’s fair to say I was rather excited to start reading!In his forward to the book, Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum, states that the book aims to explore the roles of medieval women “highlighting both Before I get onto the review proper I should say that I received a free digital copy of this book for review purposes. As someone who studies art history with a focus on gender representation, albeit in a different time period, and who has a personal interest in medieval art and history, it’s fair to say I was rather excited to start reading!In his forward to the book, Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum, states that the book aims to explore the roles of medieval women “highlighting both the prominent and the overlooked” and that is exactly what Illuminating Women does. It uses manuscript illustrations to root an exploration of the expectations, anxieties, and realities surrounding womanhood in the medieval period. It consistently seeks to challenge stereotypical ideas as to the role of women in this time period and show that, as is often the case, the realities of identity are much more complicated then they may first seem. Illuminating Women was issued to coincide with the exhibition of the same name and, while it is a stand alone book, it also serves as something of a catalogue of this exhibition. This does mean that the argument may not be fully realised within the text itself and it is up to the reader to put the different ideas together a bit.To tackle the many faces of women, Illuminating Women splits its topic into four thematic chapters: Medieval Ideals of Womanhood, Warnings to Medieval Women, Medieval Women in Daily Life, and Medieval Women in the Arts. Each chapter comes with a page or two where it introduces the complexities within this particular area before moving on to give a plethora of examples from manuscript illuminations, each with some basic analysis. The tone of writing makes the book very accessible without being patronising. It doesn’t assume any prior knowledge at all, is full of interesting nuggets of information, and all necessary context is given, as needed. This also means that the book is exceptionally easy to dip in and out of as one can simply read a couple of pages from the middle and have them stand alone.If you already have a knowledge base in this area then you might not learn that much from the text itself but there is something to be gained for everyone from the illustrations included. In fact, I would recommend Illuminating Women on that alone. The examples included are numerous and come from many different types of manuscript, all high quality pieces of art. There are examples from Book of Hours and from choir books, from pieces commissioned for private use and those commissioned for monastical use… I also found it both surprising and refreshing to see Christian art from Ethiopia, for example, included. So many foundational art history books that focus on this period focus on Western (Mainland) Europe and, while there is that focus here too, it was awesome, and interesting, to see that canon challenged somewhat!
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  • J
    May 5, 2017
    I jumped at the chance to review this book as I've always been enthralled by illuminated manuscripts as well as life in medieval times. Please do note that this review comes from a layperson's point of view, and the book was read simply for enjoyment.The illuminations were gorgeous. There was a full range from more crudely drawn images to very detailed, gilded, intricate illuminations. I did view this ARC copy on a kindle. There were a couple of formatting issues which I assume will be corrected I jumped at the chance to review this book as I've always been enthralled by illuminated manuscripts as well as life in medieval times. Please do note that this review comes from a layperson's point of view, and the book was read simply for enjoyment.The illuminations were gorgeous. There was a full range from more crudely drawn images to very detailed, gilded, intricate illuminations. I did view this ARC copy on a kindle. There were a couple of formatting issues which I assume will be corrected before the final version is released but I still think this is a book that would be best viewed in hard copy form so as to get the full impact of the images.The text was a bit dry in the beginning but did get better. Not being Catholic, I know very little of the Saints and found their stories, and how they effected life for women in the middle ages, to be fascinating. And at times horrifying. Especially when emphasized with a beautifully wrought image... of someone being tortured. I can certainly see how women of the age would have been intimidated by it. I also found it ironic that there were quite a few risque illuminations in books requisitioned by male patrons. For the purpose of prayer. Hmmm. I enjoyed the everyday life section as well as the section on women who made illuminations. The book was mostly set up to portray an image and then describe what the image was about and how it was relevant to women of the time. The flow was a bit disjointed, going from piece to piece and sometimes jumping around from idea to idea and then back again.All in all though a very enjoyable compilation of some fascinating illuminations with perspectives I haven't thought of before.I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Michelle Kidwell
    June 20, 2017
    Illuminating Women in the Medieval Worldby Christine SciaccaGetty PublicationsJ. Paul Getty MuseumArts & Photography , HistoryPub Date 20 Jun 2017 I am reviewing a copy of Illuminating Women in the Medieval World through Getty Publications Netgalley:Almost nine hundred years ago in Medieval France Abelard and Heloise d' Argentueil became lovers engaged in an ill fated affair.Although Women formed an integral part of the Medieval World records of their achievements are few.At the age of twelv Illuminating Women in the Medieval Worldby Christine SciaccaGetty PublicationsJ. Paul Getty MuseumArts & Photography , HistoryPub Date 20 Jun 2017 I am reviewing a copy of Illuminating Women in the Medieval World through Getty Publications Netgalley:Almost nine hundred years ago in Medieval France Abelard and Heloise d' Argentueil became lovers engaged in an ill fated affair.Although Women formed an integral part of the Medieval World records of their achievements are few.At the age of twelve Hedwig of Selsia married the future Duke Henry of Selsia she raised seven children one who died in battle.Numerous female saints served as Models for both Men and Women I'm the Medieval World.Catherine of Alexandria was a learned woman who refused to worship paagan idols.Margaret of York was well renowned for her small but lavish collection of books.Hildegard of Bergen was a twelfth century mystic who was famous for the visions she wrote down and were eventually published.Jeanne de Montabason was a Pakistan Book Seller and illuminator.I give Illuminating Women in the Medieval World was five out of five stars.Happy Reading!
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  • Amanda Freeman
    June 4, 2017
    From Netgalley for Review:This is a lovely coffee-table style book on the subject of women in medieval illuminated manuscripts. If you know nothing on that subject it is a great starting off point, if you love perusing medieval art then it is a great addition to a collection. If you were wanting a deeper dive into the symbolism of art then you are going to want to look elsewhere. One thing I really liked about this book (even though I was reading it in digital format rather than its clearly inte From Netgalley for Review:This is a lovely coffee-table style book on the subject of women in medieval illuminated manuscripts. If you know nothing on that subject it is a great starting off point, if you love perusing medieval art then it is a great addition to a collection. If you were wanting a deeper dive into the symbolism of art then you are going to want to look elsewhere. One thing I really liked about this book (even though I was reading it in digital format rather than its clearly intended format) was how it inspired conversation. I was reading while surrounded by friends and they were greatly entertained by the various factoids about life for a medieval woman I was able to share. I passed around my kindle, but admit it would have been even more enjoyable to have the book with larger art to show off.
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  • Robin
    May 18, 2017
    This is an analysis of women's roles in the middle ages using medieval illustrations of women, and accompanying them with only a very brief description of each. It comes across as rather like an academic coffee table book. I was hoping for much more text and analyses than what there is, but it is still interesting if you take it for what it is. I am sure the images are much more interesting in the print version too (I was given a free ebook copy for review from the publisher via NetGalley). It i This is an analysis of women's roles in the middle ages using medieval illustrations of women, and accompanying them with only a very brief description of each. It comes across as rather like an academic coffee table book. I was hoping for much more text and analyses than what there is, but it is still interesting if you take it for what it is. I am sure the images are much more interesting in the print version too (I was given a free ebook copy for review from the publisher via NetGalley). It is published by Getty Museum, and indeed it strikes me as the type of book you would buy in a museum gift shop as a souvenir of the paintings you viewed there.Historical Readings & Reviews
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  • Kaja
    June 1, 2017
    I have received the copy from the NetGalley.As someone who does not have easy access to the illustrations presented, it was almost a revelation to see them all. It was also the first time I saw them and it was really nice to get explanations with them as well. It feeds to my addiction to medieval times and it was good for me to get to know some works from other countries than Britain. The length, or rather shortness, of it, was perfect. It gave a lot of new information in a short time. In each c I have received the copy from the NetGalley.As someone who does not have easy access to the illustrations presented, it was almost a revelation to see them all. It was also the first time I saw them and it was really nice to get explanations with them as well. It feeds to my addiction to medieval times and it was good for me to get to know some works from other countries than Britain. The length, or rather shortness, of it, was perfect. It gave a lot of new information in a short time. In each chapter, there was an introduction given first, to give one a broad, general, and quick insight into what happens in the chapter. The illustrations also had explanations next to them which was extremely nice and handy. It gave me quite a few new things to think about and research.
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  • Brooke
    May 4, 2017
    This short but enlightening volume presents one hundred illuminations that give readers insight into the role of women in the medieval world. The majority of the discussed artworks are Western European, but there are a few inclusions from places such as Poland, Ethiopia, and Iran. A treat for those interested in medieval and/or art history.
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  • Kristine
    June 8, 2017
    Illuminating Women in the Medieval World by Christine Sciacca is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early June.Beautiful and symbolic imagery from paintings, tapestries, manuscripts, prayer books, and other works commissioned by female patrons. They each are capable of promoting the importance of beauty, piety, virtue, fidelity, devotion, and courtly love.
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  • Melisende d'Outremer
    June 24, 2017
    Just had a preview of the booklet accompanying the J Paul Getty exhibition "Illuminating Women in the Medieval World" - stunning! See more here @ http://womenofhistory.blogspot.com.au...
  • Sruthi
    May 24, 2017
    The book features full colour illustrations of paintings depicting women and their life. A must-read if you want to know how women lived, the expectations imposed on them by society and the symbols of women in the medieval period.
  • Camille
    May 23, 2017
    Thanks to NetGalley and Getty Publications for the free ebook.Very interesting, short and accessible. The illustrations are gorgeous. I especially liked seeing a few pictures from Jewish and Muslim texts as well as a picture from a Christian book outwith Europe.
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  • Andréa
    June 12, 2017
    Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
  • Annelies
    June 19, 2017
    I received a copy from NetGalleyThis book will be a companion to the upcoming exhibition in the J. Paul Getty Museum.It is a lovely picture book, especially for those of us who will not have the opportunity to visit the actual exhibition. The text will give you an elementary context for the illuminations, but does not provide in-depth scholarly insights.
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