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The Pierpont Morgan Library

The Pierpont Morgan Library has recently chosen Art Resource as its rights and permissions representative for the Library's splendid collection of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts.

The Morgan Library originated with rare books and fine bindings, manuscripts and master drawings assembled by the legendary financier, J. Pierpont Morgan. Morgan began his collection in 1890, and in a comparatively short time, it came to rival the great libraries of Europe. He commissioned Charles F. McKim to design a building adjacent to Morgan's own home, to accommodate the burgeoning collection. Completed in 1906 in a neo-classic Palladian style, the palazzo-like building stands as part of the complex that today includes the home of Morgan's son, and a new garden wing which connects the various parts of the Library.

In 1924, eleven years after Morgan's death, his son, J.P. Morgan Jr., transformed the private library into a public institution, as a memorial to his "father's love of rare books and manuscripts, and his belief in the educational value of the collections." The Library has greatly expanded its holdings since that time and continues to be the premier source of Medieval and Renaissance manuscript study in North America.

As a source for fine art reproductions, the illuminated manuscripts are an unequaled repository of exquisite genre scenes, flora and fauna motifs, and religious compositions. Virtually every aspect of life in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is depicted in the manuscripts, including scenes of courtship, chivalry, manners, husbandry, hunting, sports, the domestic life of the lower and upper classes, not to mention specialized illustrated treatises on science, astronomy and the care of the sick both human and animal.

It is perhaps little known that the number of panel paintings which have survived from the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries can be counted in the low hundreds. By contrast, a well preserved manuscript, such as Gaston Phebus' Book of the Chase or the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, may contain one hundred or more paintings on vellum within its own covers.


Creation of the earth, dividing the waters, creation of the heavens, creation of plants. Psalter, France (probably Arras), last quarter 13th c. Ms. M.730, f.9.
Photo Credit: Pierpont Morgan Library/Art Resource, NY