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A limner is an illuminator of manuscripts, or more generally, a painter of ornamental decoration. One of the earliest mentions of a limner's work is found in the book Methods and Materials of Painting by Charles Lock Eastlake (1793–1865).


"The treatises [on oil painting] cannot be placed later than the thirteenth, or beginning of the fourteenth, century. This was the age of Dante, and "the art which in Paris was called illuminating" (limning) is well illustrated by such guides." p. 45 [1]

United Kingdom

In London in the mid-19th century the limner David Laurent de Lara established himself as a modern illuminator of manuscripts and documents. [2] His work broke new ground and helped establish the idea of illumination as a contemporary artform in its own right, rather than as a historical artform. [3]

The office of Her Majesty's Painter and Limner is a position within the Royal Household unique to Scotland. It is currently held by Dame Elizabeth Blackadder. [4] The position of portrait painter to the royal household is honorary and for life.

United States

In early 19th-century America, a limner artist was one who had little if any formal training and would travel from place to place to solicit commissions.

Among colonial America's rising mercantile class, a limner was an unattributed portrait commissioned as a status symbol. The local landowners and merchants who commissioned these portraits posed in their finest clothes, in well-appointed interiors, or in landscapes that identified their position, property, good taste, and sophistication.

A late named artist who began in this genre is the Maine landscape artist Charles Codman, who in Eastern Argus (April 1, 1831) is described as an "ornamental and sign painter" or "limner" who practiced "Military, Standard, Fancy, Ornamental, Masonic and Sign Painting". [5]


The Victoria Limners Society was a group of artists working in Victoria, British Columbia from 1971 through 2008. They worked within a variety of artistic styles and mediums, such as painting, sculpting, pottery, and other forms of visual art. [6] The artists include Maxwell Bates, Pat Martin Bates, Richard Ciccimarra, Robert De Castro, Colin Graham, Helga Grove, Jan Grove, Elza Mayhew, Myfanwy Pavelic, Carole Sabiston, Herbert Siebner, Robin Skelton, and Karl Spreitz. [7]

Related Research Articles

Illuminated manuscript Manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration

An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented with such decoration as initials, borders (marginalia), and miniature illustrations. In the strictest definition, the term refers only to manuscripts decorated with either gold or silver; but in both common usage and modern scholarship, the term refers to any decorated or illustrated manuscript from Western traditions. Comparable Far Eastern and Mesoamerican works are described as painted. Islamic manuscripts may be referred to as illuminated, illustrated, or painted, though using essentially the same techniques as Western works.

International Gothic

International Gothic is a period of Gothic art which began in Burgundy, France, and northern Italy in the late 14th and early 15th century. It then spread very widely across Western Europe, hence the name for the period, which was introduced by the French art historian Louis Courajod at the end of the 19th century.

Renaissance art Visual arts produced during the European Renaissance

Renaissance art is the painting, sculpture and decorative arts of the period of European history known as the Renaissance, which emerged as a distinct style in Italy in about AD 1400, in parallel with developments which occurred in philosophy, literature, music, science and technology. Renaissance art, perceived as the noblest of ancient traditions, took as its foundation the art of Classical antiquity, but transformed that tradition by absorbing recent developments in the art of Northern Europe and by applying contemporary scientific knowledge. Along with Renaissance humanist philosophy, it spread throughout Europe, affecting both artists and their patrons with the development of new techniques and new artistic sensibilities. For art historians, Renaissance art marks the transition of Europe from the medieval period to the Early Modern age.

Jean Fouquet

JeanFouquet (ca.1420–1481) was a French painter and miniaturist. A master of panel painting and manuscript illumination, and the apparent inventor of the portrait miniature, he is considered one of the most important painters from the period between the late Gothic and early Renaissance. He was the first French artist to travel to Italy and experience first-hand the early Italian Renaissance.

Early Netherlandish painting Work of artists active in the Low Countries during the 15th- and 16th-century Northern Renaissance

Early Netherlandish painting, traditionally known as the Flemish Primitives, refers to the work of artists active in the Burgundian and Habsburg Netherlands during the 15th- and 16th-century Northern Renaissance period. It flourished especially in the cities of Bruges, Ghent, Mechelen, Leuven, Tournai and Brussels, all in present-day Belgium. The period begins approximately with Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck in the 1420s and lasts at least until the death of Gerard David in 1523, although many scholars extend it to the start of the Dutch Revolt in 1566 or 1568. Early Netherlandish painting coincides with the Early and High Italian Renaissance but the early period is seen as an independent artistic evolution, separate from the Renaissance humanism that characterised developments in Italy, although beginning in the 1490s as increasing numbers of Netherlandish and other Northern painters traveled to Italy, Renaissance ideals and painting styles were incorporated into northern painting. As a result, Early Netherlandish painters are often categorised as belonging to both the Northern Renaissance and the Late or International Gothic.

Book of hours Type of Christian devotional book, popular in the Middle Ages

The book of hours is a Christian devotional book popular in the Middle Ages. It is the most common type of surviving medieval illuminated manuscript. Like every manuscript, each manuscript book of hours is unique in one way or another, but most contain a similar collection of texts, prayers and psalms, often with appropriate decorations, for Christian devotion. Illumination or decoration is minimal in many examples, often restricted to decorated capital letters at the start of psalms and other prayers, but books made for wealthy patrons may be extremely lavish, with full-page miniatures. These illustrations would combine picturesque scenes of country life with sacred images. Books of hours were usually written in Latin, although there are many entirely or partially written in vernacular European languages, especially Dutch. The English term primer is usually now reserved for those books written in English. Tens of thousands of books of hours have survived to the present day, in libraries and private collections throughout the world.

Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry Illuminated manuscript book of hours

The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry or Très Riches Heures, is the most famous and possibly the best surviving example of manuscript illumination in the late phase of the International Gothic style. It is a book of hours: a collection of prayers to be said at the canonical hours. It was created between c. 1412 and 1416 for the extravagant royal bibliophile and patron John, Duke of Berry, by the Limbourg brothers. When the three painters and their sponsor died in 1416, possibly victims of plague, the manuscript was left unfinished. It was further embellished in the 1440s by an anonymous painter, who many art historians believe was Barthélemy d'Eyck. In 1485–1489, it was brought to its present state by the painter Jean Colombe on behalf of the Duke of Savoy. Acquired by the Duc d'Aumale in 1856, the book is now MS 65 in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.

Miniature (illuminated manuscript) Picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript

The word miniature, derived from the Latin verb miniare indicates a small illustration used to decorate an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript; the simple illustrations of the early codices having been miniated or delineated with that pigment. The generally small scale of such medieval pictures has led to etymological confusion with minuteness and to its application to small paintings, especially portrait miniatures, which did however grow from the same tradition and at least initially used similar techniques.

Nicholas Hilliard 16th and 17th-century English artist

Nicholas Hilliard was an English goldsmith and limner best known for his portrait miniatures of members of the courts of Elizabeth I and James I of England. He mostly painted small oval miniatures, but also some larger cabinet miniatures, up to about ten inches tall, and at least two famous half-length panel portraits of Elizabeth. He enjoyed continuing success as an artist, and continuing financial troubles, for forty-five years. His paintings still exemplify the visual image of Elizabethan England, very different from that of most of Europe in the late sixteenth century. Technically he was very conservative by European standards, but his paintings are superbly executed and have a freshness and charm that has ensured his continuing reputation as "the central artistic figure of the Elizabethan age, the only English painter whose work reflects, in its delicate microcosm, the world of Shakespeare's earlier plays."

Persian miniature Small Persian painting on paper

A Persian miniature is a small Persian painting on paper, whether a book illustration or a separate work of art intended to be kept in an album of such works called a muraqqa. The techniques are broadly comparable to the Western Medieval and Byzantine traditions of miniatures in illuminated manuscripts. Although there is an equally well-established Persian tradition of wall-painting, the survival rate and state of preservation of miniatures is better, and miniatures are much the best-known form of Persian painting in the West, and many of the most important examples are in Western, or Turkish, museums. Miniature painting became a significant genre in Persian art in the 13th century, receiving Chinese influence after the Mongol conquests, and the highest point in the tradition was reached in the 15th and 16th centuries. The tradition continued, under some Western influence, after this, and has many modern exponents. The Persian miniature was the dominant influence on other Islamic miniature traditions, principally the Ottoman miniature in Turkey, and the Mughal miniature in the Indian sub-continent.

The year 1800 in art is often estimated to be the beginning of the change from the Neoclassicism movement, that was based on Roman art, to the Romantic movement, which encouraged emotional art and ended around 1850.

Charles Codman American painter

Charles Codman was an American painter. A native of Portland, Maine, he was known for his landscape and marine paintings.

Simon Marmion

Simon Marmion was a French and Burgundian Early Netherlandish painter of panels and illuminated manuscripts. Marmion lived and worked in what is now France but for most of his lifetime was part of the Duchy of Burgundy in the Southern Netherlands.

Lucas Horenbout

Lucas Horenbout, often called Hornebolte in England (c.1490/1495–1544), was a Flemish artist who moved to England in the mid-1520s and worked there as "King's Painter" and court miniaturist to King Henry VIII from 1525 until his death. He was trained in the final phase of Netherlandish illuminated manuscript painting, in which his father Gerard was an important figure, and was the founding painter of the long and distinct English tradition of portrait miniature painting. He has been suggested as the Master of the Cast Shadow Workshop, who produced royal portraits on panel in the 1520s or 1530s.

Ottoman illumination Painted or drawn decorative art in books or sheets

Turkish or Ottoman illumination covers non-figurative painted or drawn decorative art in books or on sheets in muraqqa or albums, as opposed to the figurative images of the Ottoman miniature. In Turkish it is called “tezhip”, meaning “ornamenting with gold”. It was a part of the Ottoman Book Arts together with the Ottoman miniature (taswir), calligraphy (hat), Islamic calligraphy, bookbinding (cilt) and paper marbling (ebru). In the Ottoman Empire, illuminated and illustrated manuscripts were commissioned by the Sultan or the administrators of the court. In Topkapi Palace, these manuscripts were created by the artists working in Nakkashane, the atelier of the miniature and illumination artists. Both religious and non-religious books could be illuminated. Also sheets for albums levha consisted of illuminated calligraphy (hat) of tughra, religious texts, verses from poems or proverbs, and purely decorative drawings.

<i>Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry</i>

The Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, or Belles Heures of Jean de Berry is an early 15th-century illuminated manuscript book of hours commissioned by the French prince John, Duke of Berry, around 1409, and made for his use in private prayer and especially devotions to the Virgin Mary. The Belles Heures is one of the most celebrated manuscripts of the Middle Ages and very few books of hours are as richly decorated as it.

John Greenleaf Cloudman

John Greenleaf Cloudman was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, one of seven children, on December 17, 1813 to David P. Cloudman and Susan D. Cloudman (1792–1858). He died in Bethel, Maine on October 11, 1892. He was a landscape and portrait painter.

Great Canterbury Psalter

The Great Canterbury Psalter is an early 13th- and mid 14th-century illuminated manuscript with the shelfmark MS lat. 8846 in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. It was made in two different locations and moments in time: at Canterbury around 1200 and in Catalonia around 1340. It is the last of a series of copies of the Utrecht Psalter made in Canterbury, following the Harley Psalter and the Eadwine Psalter.

David Laurent de Lara was a London-based, Dutch-born limner of Spanish descent. He has been described as a pioneer who helped illumination to become recognised as an artform in its own right at a time when very few had ready access to the original illuminated manuscripts or to fine quality reproductions. His illuminated Hebrew calendar and almanac, and a portrait of Hananel De Castro, 1840-1 president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, led to his being greatly admired among London's Jewish community. He exhibited a custom-designed illuminated chess table for the Queen and Prince Albert at The Great Exhibition of 1851.


The Pseudo-Jacquemart was an anonymous master illuminator active in Paris and Bourges between 1380 and 1415. He owed his name to his close collaboration with painter Jacquemart de Hesdin.


  1. Eastlake. Methods and Materials of Painting. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2001. ISBN   978-0486417264
  2. Rubinstein, William L.; Jolles, Michael; Rubinstein, Hilary, eds. (27 January 2011). "Laurent de Lara, David". The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. ISBN   9780230318946.
  3. Watson, Rowan (2007). "Publishing for the Leisure Industry". In Coomans D, Thomas; De Maeyer, Jan (eds.). The revival of medieval illumination : nineteenth-century Belgium manuscripts and illuminations from a european perspective = Renaissance de l'enluminure médiévale : manuscripts et enluminures belges du XIXe siècle et leur contexte européen. Leuven: KADOC. pp. 88–92. ISBN   9789058675910.
  4. The Times, Birthdays Today 24 September 2014
  5. Nicoll, Jessica. "'The Real Pioneer of Art in this City': Charles Codman and the Rise of Landscape Painting in Portland, Maine". Resource Library Magazine, July 2003 Archived 2006-08-22 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Bovey, Patricia. A Passion for Art: The Art and Dynamics of the Limners. Victoria, B.C.: Sono Nis Press, 1996. ISBN   9781550390704
  7. "Limners (Group of artists)" MemoryBC