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2017 | 20 | 6-15

Article title

Viduslaiku miniatūra ‘Krustā sistais ar Mariju un Jāni’ no ‘Missale Rigense’


Title variants

Medieval Miniature ‘Crucifixion with Mary and St. John’ from ‘Missale Rigense’

Languages of publication



The unique ancient Livonian cultural and religious testimony ‘Missale Rigense’ is held by the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books of the Academic Library of the University of Latvia. In line with the common medieval practice, ‘Missale Rigense’ has an oak cover binding with brown leather finish and two clasps (damaged). The manuscript consists of 192 spread pages (36 x 27 x 10 cm) and two parts: a calendar and missale with one canonical illustration ‘Crucifixion with Mary and St. John’. The central foreground image is of Christ crucified on a large cross with three massive iron nails. The heavy head falling sideways and closed eyes with swollen eyelids indicate that Christ is already dead; so the expression of suffering is somewhat subdued, but the link with Crucifixus dolorosus common in European Gothic art has not been lost completely. The Saviour’s touched up wounds continue to bleed; the grey-toned body suspended by thin arms also conforms to the message. However, dramatic exaggerations are not accentuated. The Saviour’s sad foreground image is contemplated from the back by Mary and the Apostle John standing a little way off. Both have soft and handsome features, but the well-considered costume gatherings reveal typical late Gothic repeated V-shaped rhythms, the so-called cornet and hairpin-style folding elements. The three-figure composition set against green grassland, low horizon line and blue sky do not strive for emotional overstatement. The artist’s rejection of Gothic expression is deliberate and most likely anticipates the new Renaissance epoch. Considering all research aspects related to the ‘Missale Rigense’ miniature, dating it to the 1460s–1490s looks most plausible. As the number of digitalised manuscripts grows, there will possibly be a chance to specify the origin of this sheet in subsequent years.


  • Institute of Art History of the Latvian Academy of Art, Akadēmijas laukums 1-302, Riga LV-1050, Latvia


Document Type

Publication order reference


YADDA identifier

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