Saint Matthew from Gospel Book of Archbishop Ebbo of Reims

Quick entry as a break from studying Art History… to talk about more Art History!

This a Carolingian illustration I’ve been a bit obsessed with ever since I saw it at the Art History course at university last year. Time moved on and so have I but today I stumbled across it again and I’m still amazed! Just look at it:


As my title suggests this is Saint Matthew from Gospel Book of Archbishop Ebbo of Reims. What it doesn’t suggest however is that this was made around 816-835 (after Christ). Am I the only one astounded by the amazing brush strokes, the overwhelming expression and vibrant energy of this?
This illustration is from the school of Reims which is supposedly the most influential of all trends of illumination in the Carolingian era, yet I can hardly find more info on this. Both in my course and in the most amazing book of all time, Janson’s History of Art. Strange, strange… What I do know however is that this was influenced by Late Classical painting (Romans) and this refers to the very dynamic style with a composed figure. However in Late Classical paintings the characters are mostly expressionless, their features seem to say nothing about which state they are in, emotionally. In this illustration on the other hand St. Matthew seems deeply entranced and even emotionally exhausted of writing.

I’m astounded because of the expression in this. It always seemed to me that around this era everything was rather static and emotionless. Everything was all about grandeur and wealth. Have I missed these classes? Did I not pay attention? or did no one ever tell me? Either how, I’m happy I found this after all!