RKD contributes technical research to the exhibition Magical miniatures

Breviarium (detail), Bute-Meester, omgeving Kamerijk, ca. 1270-1280. Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Den Haag
Breviarium (detail), Bute-Master, surroundings Cambrai, around 1270-1280. National Library of the Netherlands, The Hague

From 23 February to 3 June 2018, Museum Catharijneconvent and the National Library of the Netherlands are presenting the wondrous world of miniatures: minutely painted illustrations belonging to medieval manuscripts, showing a magical universe bursting with colour, fantastical creatures, animals, figures and flowers. The exhibition Magical miniatures brings together a selection of the most precious manuscripts produced in the Southern Netherlands in the period from the tenth to the sixteenth centuries.

RKD curator of Technical Documentation, Margreet Wolters, carried out research using Infrared reflectography for the exhibition, and wrote a contribution for the catalogue. This technique is a scientific research method that reveals the underlying layers of a work of art.

A special aspect of these delicate works is their colour. Many medieval objects have lost their original sparkle in the course of time. Paintings and textile objects are often discoloured and faded, sculptures have lost their polychrome decoration while murals, too, have grown dull or were covered with whitewash during the Reformation. By contrast, miniatures look as fresh as when they were first painted. Because these illuminations are preserved in books, they have been protected from the light.