Drawing, memory and imagination in the Wolfenbüttel Musterbuch

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The Wolfenbüttel Musterbuch (Cod. Guelf. 61.2 Aug. 8°, fols. 75-94, Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, Germany) is considered a crucial example of a medieval modelbook. The collection of drawings contained within its pages has long been identified as key evidence for the transmission of artistic motifs between Byzantium and western Europe in the thirteenth century. Offering an in-depth analysis of the drawings and the quire that contains them, the present article suggests that the drawings were made with the purpose of working through visual representations that the draftsman found intriguing and that he sketched in order to train his own hand, memory and imagination. This hypothesis challenges some of the assumptions behind the category of medieval modelbooks as a means of faithfully reproducing images so that they can be further copied in another context. If the main goal of the drawings in Wolfenbüttel was that of enriching the draftsman's visual memory and exploring imaginative possibilities, their value as reproductions might have been marginal, but their role as means of cross-cultural encounter was decisive.

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Mechanisms of Exchange: Transmission in Medieval Art and Architecture of the Mediterranean, ca. 1000-1500

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