Canticum Canticorum

Canticum Canticorum

f. 233v, initial O for the opening of the Song of Solomon (Canticum Canticorum) in the Old Testament, showing an abbot wearing a black habit, holding a crozier, kneeling before the Virgin and Child.  The Abbot is most likely Abbot James who according to the colohpon was the person who commissioned the Bible.  The portrait is particularly notable as there are only a few parallels for the depiction of an abbot before the Virgin and Child in this period, and none at all include an abbot in a Song of Songs illustration. 

An image of the Virgin and Child was the most common subject chosen for a Song of Songs illustration but here the emphasis is on the devotions of the Abbot before the holy figures.  A southern bible now in Santa Barbara, UCSB, BS 75 1297, depicts a group of black monks standing behind the Virgin and Child in its Song of Songs initial. 

Otherwise, some northern portraits of abbots are to be found among Cistercian manuscripts of other kinds: Robert de Béthune, Abbot of the Cistercian Abbey of Clairmarais near Saint-Omer from 1257-1266, is represented kneeling before the Virgin and Child in the opening full-page miniature of his copy of the works of Richard de Saint-Laurent (Saint-Omer, BM 174); the Ritual for Ter Duinen (O. Cist., Dioc. Thérouanne), has a portrait of an abbot, probably Lambert Uppenbroeck (1318-1354), wearing a brown habit and holding a crozier, shown in the bottom margin beneath the full-page Crucifixion miniature (Bruges, Groot Seminarie, 77/98); and a Breviary owned by the Abbot of Clairvaux (O. Cist., Diocese of Troyes), perhaps Philippe (1262-1273) or Beuve (1273-1280), has an image of a simple monk kneeling before the Virgin and Child (Troyes, BM 1146). 

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