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Sometimes only a piece from a manuscript has survived the millennia. This example was made by Johannes Plasschaert, a Flemish illustrator of whom no further biographical data could be found.

This cutting from the lower border of a book is described as follows [1]:
‘A central roundel encloses a vignette of an artist illuminating a choirbook. We see the artist as though peeping through a circular keyhole into his medieval panelled workroom. He is seated with the window on his left, the shutters are folded back and there is glass in the window; the lattice panes were painted with silver, which has now oxidised. The artist is seated on a bench, starting to paint the right-hand border of a leaf of a choirbook, written in black with black neumes on 4-line red staves. The sheet is at an extremely steeply sloped angle, close to the artist’s face. It appears to be secured to its support by a single fine thread tied horizontally around the top, parallel with the top line of music; the sheet could be slipped underneath. He has no pattern-book or exemplar. He is holding a substantial brush in the tips of his fingers. In his left hand is a dish of pigment, probably a shell, held quite close to the work. On the left a rose and a rose bud and two storks with a snail and a caterpillar (which storks eat) and on the right two pinks (or dianthus, perhaps sweet william, introduced into northern Europe in the sixteenth century) and a swan and a beetle, blue and yellow backgrounds; verso with tiny traces of descenders of script including part of a ‘g’; cut to shape’.


The shell is stylised, left-coiled, reddish-brown with a yellow line at the suture and a dotted yellowish spiral line at the periphery, bordered by two dotted blackish lines. The lip is suggested to be strongly developed. The animal stretches out to the left, its head – with two tentacles and a black dot suggesting an eye – slightly lifted, the tail with suggested wrinkles.

The painting is signed, FRATER. IOHANNES. PlAECSAERT. PICTOR. HUIUS. LIBRi . [1548]. This cutting is in the Lilly Library, inv. Ricketts 274.

[1] http://bit.ly/JQwVCW (4-01-2014).