Kathryn Finter - Contemporary Manuscript Illumination

Ariadne on Dia

Ariadne on Dia
Ariadne on Dia, Kathryn Finter, 2005
23K gold leaf, semi-opaque watercolour paint and black ink on goat skin parchment, illuminated area (h x w) 165 x 127 mm (6.5 x 5.0")

This piece was prepared for the conference Metamorphosis: The Changing Face of Ovid in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (March 11-13, 2005), organized by the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, with the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at Victoria University, University of Toronto.

This illuminated art piece Ariadne on Dia commemorates 20 years of friendship and association with the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto. Professor Robert (Bob) Taylor, Rosemary Beattie and Randall Rosenfeld initiated my interest in medieval manuscripts and illumination techniques for which I will be forever grateful.

The piece:
I prepared Ariadne on Dia by imagining I was an apprentice illuminator in the atelier of the Master of Guillebert de Mets about 1440. As an apprentice illuminator, near the middle of the 15th century, this folio will be my first independent study attempting to prepare a manuscript following in the franco-flemish style of my Master which had been taught to him by Parisian illuminators. Although classical subjects are not as popular for illumination I have chosen my favourite from Ovid's Metamorphoses (Book VIII), the story of Ariadne and Theseus, to illuminate as a folio for myself.

The story:
Ariadne gives a thread to Theseus so that he can find his way out of the labrynth of the Minotaur. They then travel to the island of Dia (Naxos) where Theseus abandons Ariadne. Ariadne is rescued from the island by Dionysus (Bacchus) who sets her crown in the sky to create the Corona Borealis stars.

Description of Ariadne on Dia:
The outer border has a design of lilies with a small labrynth in the bottom border. The miniature has Ariadne alone on the island of Dia (Naxos) with the ship carrying Theseus sailing away in the background. A slender thread of gold is caught in her hand extending beyond the miniature back to the labrynth and a small jug of wine and bunch of grapes indicate that Dionysus (Bacchus) is nearby. Ariadne's crown is represented in the sky by a circle of stars forming the Corona Borealis.

Ovid's latin text:
Metamophoses - Book VIII - line 151 "Vota Iovi Minos taurorum corpora centum"