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Jiří Just – Martina Šárovcová

Bohemian Book Painting in the Early Modern Period in a New Context: An Illuminated Printed Book from the Property of the Bohemian Brethren Priest Vavřinec Orlík 

The recent finding of an illuminated Bohemian Brethren printed book provides important knowledge about Bohemian Brethren book culture. The significance of this discovery impacts the wider issue of the use of fine art within the Unitas Fratrum and Bohemian book painting in the Early Modern period. This newly-found exemplar of the Ivančice Hymnal from 1576 comes from the private estate of the Bohemian Brethren priest Vavřinec Orlík (1520–1589). In 1580, Vavřinec Orlík had an illuminated parchment bifolium with his portrait inserted in the printed book which is coloured and gilded throughout. The documented hand-painted exemplars of the Brethren hymnal from 1576 reveal the unexpected use of serial hand painting and gilding of woodcuts in printed books. The existence of serial hand painting and gilding supports the hypothesis about the use of this technique in Brethren workshops, together with their functioning and distribution networks. The painted portrait of Orlík represents a unique example of a personal representation of a Brethren priest within the context of Brethren book culture as individual portraits of members of the Unitas Fratrum are only known to us from more recent commemorative medals.  This newly-discovered portrait suggests that the existence of individual portraits of the Brethren priests was not a unique phenomenon in the milieu of the Unitas Fratrum. Attributing the portrait to Matouš Ornys of Lindperk allows us to analyze the contacts of the Unitas Fratrum with Prague painters. Another important finding is the identification of the artist who carried out the model drawing for the woodcuts in the Ivančice Hymnal from 1576 and several other Brethren printed books from a later period (Matyáš Hutský of Křivoklát). The personalized presentation of the printed book suggests how the unknown book collections of more important members of the Unitas Fratrum may have been composed and how richly they may have been decorated.

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