Vienna Genesis

Vienna Genesis
Vienna Genesis

When we speak of the Vienna Genesis we refer to an illuminated manuscript, that is, a manuscript book whose text is accompanied by images that illustrate the narratives or even capital letters that embellish the style of the book.

According to the studies carried out in this regard, this manuscript must date from the first half of the 6th century, specifically between the years 526 or 531 and up to 595. It was probably made in Syria under the protection of King Justinian I, so that we can classify it as an imperial codex. This type of work was highly valued and was considered true luxury objects associated with a power with imperial connotations.


This unique piece is currently part of the collection of the Vienna Museum.

It seems that the original piece would have about ninety-six pages and more than one hundred and ninety illustrations, although currently only about twenty-four pages are preserved. They narrate one of the parts of Genesis according to the Septuagint, an ancient Greek Bible that is a translation of Hebrew and Aramaic texts into Koine Greek.

The text has been written entirely in capital letters, so we would be talking about a silver-colored uncial calligraphy that makes it stand out against the purple vellum. In this sense, we must clarify that vellum is a very fine and appreciated type of cowhide that comes from newborn calves oreven unborn. For its part, the purple color was used by the Byzantine and Roman emperors.

In each of the pages we find a fairly similar format, the upper half of the folio is occupied by the text while the lower half is the space dedicated to the illustrations. On this occasion it is precisely the illustrations that acquire a very unique value, perhaps we can speak of them as an art of transition between the traditional naturalistic Roman forms and the later medieval miniatures in which the scenes and characters are grouped without any respect by the frame. In fact, throughout the work it is common to find more than one scene represented in the same illustration and even characters that are repeated within them.

One of the most outstanding scenes of the Vienna Genesis is the one carried out by Rebeca, when she was about to leave Jericho to find some camels; it would be a scene taken from the Jewish paraphrase.

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