Scripture Transformed in Late Medieval England: The Religious, Artistic, and Social Worlds of the Welles-Ros Bible (Paris, BNF FR. 1)

Speaker: Professor Kathryn A. Smith - New York University

My talk brings together my early and more recent research on the manuscript that I call the Welles-Ros Bible (Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France MS fr. 1) — the most complete surviving witness and sole extant illuminated copy of the Anglo-Norman Bible, the “earliest full prose vernacular Bible produced in England” (Russell). Building on the work of biblical and literary scholars, I argue that this grand multilingual manuscript and the revised translation that it contains were produced in the later fourteenth century on the order of one or more matriarchs of the baronial Welles family of Lincolnshire. I discuss the circumstances of the commission and the volume’s functions and intended audience; and show how the Bible’s rich pictorial and heraldic program reframes Christian salvation history as Welles family history. Moreover, the manuscript’s main artist clearly read the scriptural text assiduously, adapting or even rejecting his wide-ranging, trans-regional models in order to visualize for his noble clients both the sense of the vernacular translation and its very words. My talk sheds new light on lay literate and religious aspiration and pedagogy; women’s cultural patronage; artists’ literacy and working methods; the history of bible translation and reception; medieval ideas about gender, sexuality, health, memory, and the emotions; and English art, society, and culture after the Black Death.”

Organised by Professor Alixe Bovey (The Courtauld) and Dr Tom Nickson (The Courtauld). 

This event is generously supported by the ICMA.



5:00pm, 14 Oct 2020