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The Freiburgh Leaf, Crusader States, c.1200AD

Christ & Zacchaeus (upper) & Saints George & Theodore Stratelates (lower), The Freiburgh Leaf, c. 1200 AD
Source: John Doran

What other more substantial evidence do we have for the presence of German artistic activity in the Holy Land? The Freiburg Leaf is a familiar work with two handsome drawings on the recto of the third of three extant leaves (fig. 7.3).The upper register of the Freiburg Leaf depicts Christ and Zachaeus (Luke 19:1-10)in silverpoint. Christ gestures to Zachaeus, depicted only half as large as himself,in keeping with the story, Zachaeus is standing in a sycamore tree before him. with Peter behind Christ looking back, presumably to other apostles who are lost where the vellum has been cut off at the left. A later hand has written the inscription “Christ” and "Zachaeus" in brown ink above the relevant figures. The upper scene seems to have been drawn first because the red lances held by the two soldier saints below. as well as the halo of the saint on the right. overlap elements of the upper scene.
    The lower image executed as a sepia pen drawing consists of two mounted soldier saints holding lances. each with a halo. Inscriptions by the same later hand in brown ink indicate a “consodalis” at the left, and at the right. “Theodorus.” To the far right of Theodorus’s head is the number “lxxv” in red ink. referring to the most likely reason for this artist to have been in the Holy land is that he came with the crusaders in 1197-98, the remnants of Henry VI’s ill-fated expedition, what we now call the German Crusade. Moreover, he might well have stayed in the Holy Land for a year or two after the other crusaders went home. In any case. his sojourn in Acre could very likely have been facilitated by the newly established house of the Teutonic Knights, which appeared in Acre at the time of the Third Crusade and which opened formally in 1198 at the end of the German Crusade.
    In sum. it is not surprising to find that the Freiburg Leaf can be seen quite plausibly as the work of a German artist in the Holy Land. After all, Weitzmann had already suggested this idea in principle in 1966. But it is important to realize that the Freiburg Leaf may help us to see crusader works that existed then, but do not survive today. It has the additional significance of being a rare exemplar of an artist’s sketch sheet. The quality of the drawings is. moreover, extraordinarily high and it is our great good fortune that this work has survived even fragmentarily to help us understand more about the way knowledge of crusader art was transmitted back to western Europe. It also suggests that pilgrim artists could have been active in this manner at other times during the crusader period. But it is most interesting to find such a work dating to this period (c. 1197-1200), a period considered to be lacking in the production of crusader objects and their visibility to visiting pilgrims. The Freiburg Leaf is evidence of important artistic work in the crusader kingdom that the pilgrim-painter was apparently able to see, but which has since been destroyed.
    Finally, if we ask the question whether the Freiburg Leaf artist is unique in doing this kind of work, the answer is no. We can see possible parallels in a much later crusader diptych containing bust-length images of the Virgin and Child Kykkotissa and the soldier saint Procopius, dating c. 1280. Clearly, the crusader painter of this work, who may have been Cypriot and working at Acre (or even at St. Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai) could well have seen the great Virgin Kykkotissa icon at the Monastery of the Kykkotissa on Cyprus. Furthermore, he apparently also visited the site sacred to “St. Procopius 'O PERIBOLITES,” as specified in the inscription, where he saw a special venerated icon of Procopius with this title. Weitzmann proposes to see the church of St. Procopius Peribolites at Siloam, just outside Jerusalem, as the likely site. It was there “where a ‘peribolost,’ i.e. a sacred precinct, may have given rise to the epithet,” where the icon could have been seen. It is there, in any case, where excavations have indicated that the crusaders were interested in the cult of this soldier saint, Procopius, as known from other evidence. Like the Freiburg Leaf artist, the painter of this magnificent diptych was apparently visiting important centers and copying icon models.
Source: pp.147-148 "Before Louis IX: Aspects of Crusader Art at St. Jean d’Acre, 1191-1244" by Jaroslav Folda in France and the Holy Land: Frankish Culture at the End of the Crusades edited by Daniel H. Weiss, Lisa Mahoney

And in 1966, Kurt Weitzmann, commenting on the drawing suggested that the German artist had "recourse to a Crusader icon as a model." So this means that it is likely that a separate Crusader icon with Sts. George and Theodore on horseback existed earlier than the Freiburg Leaf, in the twelfth century, possibly painted by a Crusader artist who worked in Acre or Lydda, the local cult center for St. George, where the German pilgrim may have seen it.
Source: p. 65, Byzantine Art and Italian Panel Painting by Jaroslav Folda, Lucy J. Wrapson

Back to the smaller image of Saints George & Theodore Stratelates on The Freiburgh Leaf, Crusader States, 12th Century, c.1200AD

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