Theophilus Presbyter

Theophilus Presbyter

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Encyclopedia
Theophilus Presbyter is the pseudonymous author or compiler of
a Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 text containing detailed descriptions of various medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 arts, a text commonly known as the Schedula diversarum artium ("List of various arts") or De diversis artibus ("On various arts"), probably first compiled between 1100 and 1120. The oldest manuscript copies of the work are found in Vienna (Austrian National Library
Austrian National Library
The Austrian National Library , is the largest library in Austria, with 7.4 million items in its collections. It is located in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna; since 2005 some of the collections are located in the baroque Palais Mollard-Clary...

, Codex 2527) and in Wolfenbüttel
Wolfenbüttel
Wolfenbüttel is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany, located on the Oker river about 13 kilometres south of Brunswick. It is the seat of the District of Wolfenbüttel and of the bishop of the Protestant Lutheran State Church of Brunswick...

 (Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. Gud. Lat. 69 2°). Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic, and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era. His plays and theoretical writings substantially influenced the development of German literature...

 rediscovered the document when he worked as librarian in Wolfenbüttel.

Theophilus' Schedula allows detailed insights into the techniques used in the applied arts in the high Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

. The work is divided into three books. The first covers the production and use of painting and drawing materials (painting techniques, paint
Paint
Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which after application to a substrate in a thin layer is converted to an opaque solid film. One may also consider the digital mimicry thereof...

s, and ink
Ink
Ink is a liquid or paste that contains pigments and/or dyes and is used to color a surface to produce an image, text, or design. Ink is used for drawing and/or writing with a pen, brush, or quill...

), especially for illumination of texts and painting of walls. The second deals with the production of stained glass
Stained glass
The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works produced from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches and other significant buildings...

 and techniques of glass painting, while the last deals with various techniques of goldsmithing
Jewellery
Jewellery or jewelry is a form of personal adornment, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.With some exceptions, such as medical alert bracelets or military dog tags, jewellery normally differs from other items of personal adornment in that it has no other purpose than to...

 and other metalwork. It also includes an introduction into the building of organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

s. Theophilus contains perhaps the earliest reference to oil paint
Oil paint
Oil paint is a type of slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil, commonly linseed oil. The viscosity of the paint may be modified by the addition of a solvent such as turpentine or white spirit, and varnish may be added to increase the glossiness of the...

. The work has been translated into English, French, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Hungarian, German, Italian, Japanese, Bulgarian, and Russian, mostly in the 19th and 20th centuries.

'Theophilus' was quite possibly a Benedictine
Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

 monk. It has been suggested (particularly by Eckhard Freise) that Theophilus is the same person as the artisan monk Roger of Helmarshausen
Roger of Helmarshausen
Roger of Helmarshausen was a well-known goldsmith and metalwork artist, and also a Benedictine monk.-Artistic career:Roger is first heard of in connection with Stavelot Abbey in the Meuse valley, a centre of Mosan art, and especially goldsmith's work. He worked between 1100 and 1107 in St....

. Roger appears to have come from Stavelot Abbey in the Meuse River
Meuse River
The Maas or Meuse is a major European river, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea...

 region, was active as an artist and author between 1100 and 1107 in St. Pantaleon's church in Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

, and moved to Helmarshausen Abbey
Helmarshausen Abbey
Helmarshausen Abbey was a Benedictine monastery situated in the small town of Helmarshausen, now part of Bad Karlshafen in Hesse, Germany.-History:...

in 1107. The identity of the two men has been argued among researchers for some time, but Freise's conclusions have not yet been accepted by all researchers. Other suggestions have also been made, and at present there can not be said to be a consensus.

Theophilus, as the author of a "handbook", has been described as a mere theorist, but this view is currently in the minority. The First Book, on painting, is not particularly well-informed, but adequately reliable, the Second, on glass, is better, while most of the Third Book is clearly the work of a practicing metalworker. It has recently been suggested that the apparent contradictory evidence as to dating, practical experience, and location of 'Theophilus' is best explained if the Schedula is understood to be a compilation.

Works

  • De diversis artibus or Schedula diversarum artium (in three books, date controversial but ca. 1125)


Two editions of Theophilus's work with English translations:
  • Dodwell, C.R. The Various Arts. De Diversis Artibus. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961, reprinted 1986
  • Hendrie R. An Essay upon Various Arts in three Books by Theophilus called also Rugerus. London, 1847, 1961


A good English translation:
  • Hawthorne, J.G. and C.S. Smith Theophilus: On Divers Arts. University of Chicago Press, 1963; reprinted New York: Dover Publications 1979; ISBN 0486237842


Reference in English:
  • White, Lynn Theophilus redivivus. Technology and Culture 5, 1964, 224-233; reprinted in Medieval Religion and Technology, University of California Press, 1978.


The following references are in German:
  • Brepohl, E. Theophilus Presbyter und das mittelalterliche Kunsthandwerk. Cologne, 1999. (2 volumes).
  • Freise, E. "Roger von Helmarshausen in seiner monastischen Umwelt". In Frühmittelalterliche Studien, 15, 1981.
  • Ilg, A. (Editor). "Theophilus Presbyter. Schedula diversarum artium". In Quellenschriften für Kunstgeschichte, volume 7. Vienna, 1874.
  • Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim. Vom Alter der Ölmalerey aus dem Theophilus Presbyter. Berlin, 1774.
  • Theobald, W. Technik des Kunsthandwerks im 10. Jh. Des T. Schedula Diversarum Artium, Berlin, 1933, 1953 and 1983. (Includes translations and explanations of sections of the work.)

External links