The Donaueschingen Wigalois: one of two illustrated manuscripts
16 Wirnt von Grafenberg, Wigalois (Wigalois manuscript k)Manuscript on paper, illustrated by the circle of the Workshop of 1418 and of Diebold Lauber. Alsace, c. 1420/1430.
270 x 205 mm. 221 leaves (lacks one leaf): I8+3, II10, III14, IV10,V12,VI10,VII14,VIII10, IX14, X10, XI14-1, XII10, XIII14, XIV10, XV14, XVI10, XVII14, XVIII10, XIX8+3 (the three additional leaves at the beginning of the quire), fol. XI8 has been cut out (illustration and v. 6265-6296 – Kapteyn 1926 p. 61ff); no catchwords; fol. 1-20 foliated, as of fol. 20 to fol. 220 each 10th leaf is foliated, incorrect pagination in pencil 1-300 (skips the missing leaf), continued by a different hand 301-433.Water marks: several balances, according to Saurma similar to Piccard IV 45 (Metz 1415/1416), IV 51 (Upper Rhine 1419), IV 52 (Durlach 1419), IV 55 (Hagenau, Metz 1421), IV 57 (Metz 1420) and IV 59 (Hz.V. Urslingen 1421).The watermarks also correspond with the group Piccard IV 187-222 (1428-1438). – Written space 182 x 80- 90 mm, 25-31 lines.Written in a neat batârde hand, probably identical with the main scribe of London, BL,Add. 24917 (Saurma-Jeltsch 2001, vol. 2, p. 27f.), capital letters touched in red. Opening initial of eight lines on fol. 1 left blank, captions in red, two-line red lombards. Cycle of 31 (originally 32) pen-and-ink half-page to full-page drawings coloured with washes in green, brown, yellow and red. – Over all very fine condition; strong paper, few wormholes (e.g. fol. 1-9); some brown staining, damp stains in the second half of the book on the inner upper margins; the few paper tears restored; minor rubbing. Inserted in the manuscript is an envelope with notes on the codex by a late 19th or early 20th century hand. – Blind-stamped half-pigskin over wooden boards, presumably second quarter of the 16th century. Inscription on the fore edge in capital letters in brown ink:“VIGELIS VOM RAD.” Inscription on the spine:“König Artus? d.i.Wigalois vom Rade Hdschr. 1400”, and paper label with the number 71. Back-cover expertly restored, two metal clasps in period style. Housed in a modern green morocco box.
PROVENANCE: 1. Probably in the possession of a southern German, presumably princely library (Kautzsch 1895, p. 78/79). 2. Fürstlich Fürstenbergische Hofbibliothek Donaueschingen, ms. 71 (Barack, p. 44ff).We are grateful to Dr. Ute Obhof, Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe, for pointing out to us that the manuscript can be identified as belonging to the Meßkirch library.The codex thus belongs to the old holdings of the princely library (Heinzer 1993). 3. Private collection, USA.
TEXT: fol. 1-219v:Wirnt von Grafenberg, Wigalois.
Wirnt von Grafenberg’s Wigalois is one of the most important Arthurian romances of the High Middle Ages.The author’s place of origin can be identified with Gräfenberg, located north-east of Nuremberg. On the basis of references made by the author to his probable patron, Duke Berthold IV of Andechs-Meranien († 1204), and the citation of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parcival, a dating of the Wigalois to 1210-20 seems reasonable. In 11780 verses, the work tells of the adventures of the knight Wigalois in search of his father Gawain and in striving for the love of his lady, Larie. Shortly after his son was born, Gawain had left his wife Florie to return to the Arthurian court. Many years later, the young Wigalois is himself admitted to Arthur’s court and seeks the task of liberating the land of Korntin, from which Larie and her mother had fled after it was seized by the devil’s advocate, Roaz of Glois. Before Wigalois is led by the female messenger Nereja to his central quest he has to prove his knightly virtues in five tests. Afterwards, Larie sees the young hero at the castle Roimunt, and each confesses their love for the other. On his departure for the quest Wigalois is equipped with several devices which, together with his armour, a wondrous girdle and a shield depicting the wheel of fortune, will help him to defeat Roaz. In this he finally succeeds, and on the occasion of a feast to mark the victory,Wigalois takes Larie as his wife. In an epilogue the poet contrasts the general moral decline with the figures of Wigalois and Larie as ideals of a righteous rule and a knightly code of ethics. 13 complete manuscripts of the poem (11 paper and 2 vellum codices) and 34 fragments are preserved, establishing the Wigalois epic as the second most widely circulated medieval Arthurian romance, after Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parcival. Other than our manuscript only one further copy of the poem was illustrated (Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, cod. Ltk. 537, dated 1372).
ILLUMINATION: The manuscript is illustrated by 31 coloured pen-and-ink drawings, most of which cover two-thirds of a page. The illustration cycle ends with the wedding and crowning of the hero, while the last fifth of the poem is not illustrated. The figures seem to act in a narrowly defined space, as if on a stage, indicated by a few summary details. The disproportionately large hands, often raised in expressive gestures, are a striking feature. Clothing is the principal means of identification for the characters, and the illustrations seem to aim at imparting a clear image of the events described in the text by restricting themselves to essential components. In a first step the drawing was roughly prepared by a sketch drawn in blind.Thereafter, the outlines of the figures and the surrounding setting were delineated in black ink. The larger areas of the illustration were marked by washes applied in semi-transparent layers, the painters simultaneously working on the colouration of a number of drawings using one colour at a time. More detailed work was done after the application of colour. The operations follow a fairly systematic order, facilitating the efficient, uninterrupted working of a group of painters in parallel shifts. In her fundamental study, Liselotte E. Saurma attributes the illustrations to a circle directly connected to both the Workshop of 1418 in Strasbourg, which started to dissolve at the beginning of the 1430’s, and to the predecessors of Diepold Lauber’s atelier in Hagenau, known to be active by c. 1427 (Saurma 2001, p. 27f.). The Donaueschingen Wigalois is a major example of the Middle High German heroic epic and its reception on the threshold of the early modern age and a monument to the wealth of a southern German princely library. It is of great importance and value for the extant corpus of abundantly illustrated, late medieval Upper Rhenish manuscripts.
LITERATURE: Kautzsch 1895, pp. 1-32, 57-113, esp. p. 78f; Barack 1865, pp. 44-46; Hilgers 1971, pp. 228-288, esp. p. 235 and 255; Henderson 1986, pp. 59-73; Henderson 1991, pp. 123-149, esp. pp. 125-129 and fig. 1-3; Heinzer 1994, p. 13; Heinzer 1995, pp. 312-319; Saurma-Jeltsch 2001, no. I.17. Kapteyn 1926, p. 61ff; Ziegler 1999, col. 1252-1267; Saurma- Jeltsch 2001; Seelbach 2005.