THE VISIBILITY OF the intentions and identities of the leading artists, sculptors, scribes, and illuminators of early medieval England seems to become more apparent as the centuries progress, but such acts of representation always require thoughtful work on the audiences’ part. One of those acts of representation concerns the teams of producers, whose work may be deliberately rendered invisible within the object. In early medieval English art, for example, clear signs of the hands of the artists – their personal style, how this thing was carved, painted, and made – are often concealed, yet indications of the maker may be discoverable if one searches carefully for them. These are not meant to stand out, or even to be identifiable, except in a minority of cases, where a lead artist or scribe has significant prestige. In this study we seek to uncover the evidence for the ways in which the producers of textual and artistic objects in the early medieval period made manifest their individual efforts, to determine what presence the maker does have within their own work, and the different ways in which individual craftspeople are identified within objects, especially when the artefact was produced by a team.
Artworks, including illuminated manuscripts, were made for God, or at least manufactured in the sight of God, and expressions of personal artistry might usually have been considered evidence of pride or vanity. Very few artists’ identities are known prior to the twelfth century, and where self-reference appears to be made through the possible depiction of an artist by that artist, their name is concealed and thus lost to history. On the other hand, a portrait of the scribe (and possibly artist) Eadwig Basan survives on folio 133r of the Eadwig Psalter (London, British Library, Arundel 155, c. 1012–23), but scholars cannot be sure that it is actually by his hand. In the twelfth century, by contrast, it is possible to identify some professional artists, including the well-known ‘Master Hugo’, whose work is seen in the famous highly-illuminated manuscript, Cambridge Corpus Christi College, 2 – the Bury Bible, made at Bury St Edmunds.