The Walters Art Museum
presents The Saint Johns Bible: A Modern Vision through Medieval Methods, an exhibition showcasing 44 contemporary illuminated manuscript pages from two volumes of a Bible commissioned by Saint Johns Abbey and University in Minnesota. In addition, 49 renowned Walters manuscripts and rare books, from a variety of religious traditions, will set the The Saint Johns Bible within the historical context and global traditions of decorating sacred text. The exhibition will be on view from Feb. 15 to May 24, 2009. This large-scale book, approximately 3 feet wide by 2 feet tall when open, is being created in Wales under the direction of Donald Jackson, master calligrapher and senior scribe to Queen Elizabeths Crown Office in the House of Lords. Even though The Saint Johns Bible is not yet finished, it has already been widely recognized as a major monument of contemporary calligraphy and book arts, particularly for its use of new and innovative imagery within an ancient tradition. This exhibition will feature the Books of Wisdom, on view for the first time outside the Saint Johns University campus, and the Books of Prophets.
The Saint Johns Bible is a masterpiece of calligraphy and a showcase of contemporary illumination, said Walters Director Gary Vikan. It is particularly fitting to pair this Bible with the Walters distinguished collection of illuminated spiritual manuscripts and rare books to demonstrate how these historic traditions are being carried into the 21st century.
Jackson and a team of calligraphers and artists have spent the last 10 years writing and illustrating the manuscript by hand using quills fashioned from turkey, swan and goose feathers, natural handmade paints and inks, and silver and 24-karat gold on carefully selected calf-skin parchment. The Saint Johns Bible embraces the medieval materials and processes used in creating handwritten Bibles, but it also interprets and illustrates scripture from a contemporary perspective. The text is based on the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, a modern English translation, and the decoration of the Bible takes a boldly contemporary approach, reflecting trends and ideas in current thought and humanitys enormous strides in science and technology. The Saint Johns Bible also adopts an inclusive perspective by incorporating imagery from Eastern and Western religious traditions as well as influences from the Native American cultures in the Minnesota area.
The Walters exhibition will include original folios from the fourth and fifth completed volumes of The Saint Johns Bible: Prophets and Wisdom Books. Highlights include leaves of the Vision of Isaiah, Suffering Servant, Valley of the Dry Bones and Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Original tools, sketches and materials from Jacksons scriptorium will also be on view.