Art historical sources and symbolism:

This manuscript is based upon the common Gothic format of the bar-and-ivy border. For my particular design, I followed "Henry I; death of his sons in the White Ship" (England, prob. London, ca. 1321. Cotton MS Claudius D.ii, fol. 45b) as presented in The Illuminated Page by Janet Backhouse. From it I borrowed the basic shape of the bar, and adapted the versal capital and surrounding foliage with leaf shapes from other bar-and-ivy manuscripts. Note that the versal capital 'E' is draped with a laurel crown, a reference to the poem's end.  I should point out that it was common practice for medieval monks to copy designs, particularly figures in miniatures. Examples of pattern books have been preserved, as well as manuscripts from different origins containing almost exactly the same images. 

I adjusted the grotesque underneath the versal into a peacock, and also added a few naturalistic birds and insects from a bar-and-ivy antiphonal called "The Resurrection" (NE France/Flanders, ca. early 14th century, Yates Thompson MS 25, fol. 1; Backhouse). These are in homage to the whimsical and realistic figures that regularly invaded the borders and margins of Gothic manuscripts. The final drollery, a small monk working on the illumination down in the bottom left corner, was adapted from "Florus on St. Paul's Epistles" (ca. 1164, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, Latin 11575, fol. 1). He serves a similar purpose to the author portraits of my Greek manuscript, showing work actually being done on the manuscript of which he is a part. There are a great many images of scribes and illuminators in the process of writing or painting on a given page, working either alone or in groups.

In the bottom right margin, I added a simple marble pillar, entwined with branches from the bar-and-ivy design, and which I attempted to model realistically with shadowing. Because the Horace poem I was illuminating has so many references to three-dimensional monuments, I chose to include this pillar as a reminder of architectural artworks. The Romans loved trompe-l'oeil artwork, and their surviving wall paintings are renowned for the illusionistic effects of depth they achieve. The First Pompeiian style of wall paintings, as it is called, consisted of decorating molded plaster panels to appear as though they were made of expensive marble or porphyry. The Second Pompeiian style, which I kept in mind for the illusionistic portions of this manuscript, abandoned the three-dimensional plaster modeling for deceptively substantial paintings. Also called the Architectural style, it involved the realistic reproduction of columns, ledges, and porticoes opening onto imaginary scenes. The Third Pompeiian style, called the Ornamental, also bears some relationship to the bar-and-ivy designs of Gothic manuscript illumination in its flat colored backgrounds, delicate, fanciful architecture, and jewel-like miniature portraits.

The final illumination, in the middle right-hand column, shows us another monumental image. The 'rip' in the vellum bears a function similar to the naturalized cave and roots beneath the miniature of my Greek manuscript: it seeks to tear away the stylized appearance of an illuminated manuscript, revealing layers and depth of meaning below the surface which may not be apparent in a cursory glance. The theme of three-dimensionally ripping through a two-dimensional image is one that I first found in "Hair Shirt and Madonna Seen Through Torn Curtain" (Hours of the Virgin: Matins, France, Tours or Bourges, ca. 1510-20, Walters 446, fol. 15v). Inside the window formed by the vellum, we see an image of the Colossal Head of Constantine, which only exists today in fragments of head and hand, but which is nevertheless enormous. Next to it a woman stands (another self-portrait) holding a tiny volume which can just be made out as Horace's Odes, in which my illuminated poem can be found. I chose to use the Colossal Constantine for several reasons. First, it is a well-known Roman statue and therefore appropriate in origin to my Latin poem. Second, it was created during a period in Roman art where figures were being returned toward the stylization and simplification of antiquity. Constantine has virtually been turned into an icon, transcending his physical humanity. This plays with the idea of crossing the lines between artwork and real life—it shows us that real people could become symbols, and also makes a two-dimensional artwork seem to have depth. Finally, I chose the Colossal Head of Constantine because it resonates with the poem "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelly, another poem that favors the lasting nature of the written word over visual artwork.