Looks like* the Morgan Library recently digitized selections from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves and put them on the web, which is awesome**. I’m less impressed by the commentary included with the newly available images, full of observations like “the many rabbits symbolize fertility” and “the peas symbolize fertility” and, presumably, on the later pages after I gave up reading, “hell, all this crap symbolizes fertility, really.” But my biggest complaint is how often the commenter sees what they know they should be seeing, instead of what’s actually on the page. Take this image, for instance:
Here we have a closeup on a larger image of Sts. Joachim and Anne, father and mother to St. Mary, in a pose the website’s annotator helpfully describes as “the joyous meeting of Joachim and Anne at Jerusalem’s Golden Gate, where they tenderly embrace, sharing their delight in the prospect of parenting a child in their advanced years.” To me, Anne’s expression looks at least as much like nausea as joy, but that might be due to a lack of detail on the part of the artist. But, regardless, I don’t see how anyone could read that dead-eyed grimace on the old man’s face as “delight”–unless, of course, knowing that the meeting is supposed to be joyful, they just ignore what’s right in front of their eyes.
Sadly, the commenter also largely ignores the marginalia–except the fertility peas–which is largely devoted to creatures eating or otherwise destroying in creative ways the vegetative borders they inhabit. We see what we want to see, I guess. Me, I want to see more of this guy, who lives in the lower right-hand margin of the page devoted to Christ’s crucifixion:
*Why no, I don’t get all my news from BoingBoing, why do you ask?
**…but would be more awesome if it they just provided access to the full-sized scans instead of embedding them in an annoying image browser that forces you to click and drag to pan around the page instead of looking at it all at once–but I digress.