|A VELLUM LEAF FROM A 15TH-CENTURY BOOK OF HOURSWITH A LARGE MINIATURE OF THE CRUCIFIXION.
FRANCE, CIRCA 1475
Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:
“The root of all disturbance, if one will go to its source, is that no one will blame himself.” — Dorotheus of Gaza, sixth-century monk
Through April 8, the Getty Center is featuring an exhibit of illuminated manuscripts titled “Outcasts: Prejudice and Persecution in the Medieval World.”
To prepare, I read Christopher de Hamel’s “Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts,” a delightful entrée to the millennia of history, obsessive scholarship and arcane world of palace intrigues that characterize these splendid worship aids and works of art. (“Illuminated” refers to the frequent use of gold leaf).
The Getty is an L.A. treasure. I am grateful to it. I really wanted to like “Outcasts.”
But within seconds I felt the spikes of contemporary “identity politics” being driven into my hands and feet.
The opening commentary set the tone.
“Life provided significant obstacles for those who were not fully-abled, white, wealthy, Christian, heterosexual, cisgender males. For today’s viewer, the vivid images and pervasive subtexts in illuminated manuscripts can serve as stark reminders of the power of rhetoric and the danger of prejudice.”
Cisgender? A term invented and that came into usage in the 1990s? Oh those hateful bigots of the Middle Ages, with their backward insistence upon a sense of personal identity and gender that actually corresponded with their birth sex!