The Ratisbon book illuminator Berthold Furtmeyr (ascertainable in 1460-1502) was one of the most important illuminators of his time. His inventiveness was not limited, as would be usual in his time, to the formulation of a pictorial subject and its continuous repetition. Instead, he always strove for new solutions. This ingenuity as well as his mastery of colour and line turned his miniatures into masterworks of book art but also of art in general during the early Renaissance. For his patrons who included the Bavarian dukes as well as the prince archbishops of Salzburg he, together with the members of his workshop, created luxurious manuscript illuminations, which count among the leading works of their kind.

The present online presentation allows access to twenty completely digitised manuscripts that were either created with the participation of Furtmeyr and his workshop or originated in Ratisbon workshops connected to the artist.

Berthold Furtmeyr: His Life and Work

The Ratisbon book illuminator Berthold Furtmeyr created his miniatures during the hype of the most dynamic decades of the early modern period. His pictorial inventions display tradition and modernity as well as the focus on the artist’s own individuality (signature: “perthold furtmeyr illuminierer” in the first volume of the Augsburg Furtmeyr-Bible, Universitätsbibliothek Augsburg [University Library Augsburg], Cod. I.2.3° III, fol. 2v). Therein, Furtmeyr presents himself as a successful entrepreneur and as a discoverer of nature as living environment for humans.

The first artistic note of the book illuminator Furtmeyr is given by six medals of a theological-philosophical composite manuscript dated to 1460 (Württembergische Landesbibliothek [Württemberg Regional Library], Cod. theol. et phil. 2° 100) and created in Ratisbon. Here already, pictorial qualities come to the fore that would determine the artistic career of Furtmeyr. In the smallest possible space, he presents his skills to his audience via the narrative structure of his images. Landscapes, cityscapes and figurative depictions as well as a selection of essential motifs, atmospheric charge of the pictorial statement and a sensual treatment of the human body distinguish Berthold Furtmeyr. The smallest detail, be it human hair or the blossom of a flower in the field, is included in an astonishing visualisation of events.

In 1466, he married the daughter of Hans Rainer, lute maker in Ratisbon. After this wedding Furtmeyr started to build up his workshop that counted the bishops of Ratisbon and Salzburg as well as the Duke of Bavaria-Munich Albrecht IV (1447-1508) and Elector Palatine Philipp der Aufrichtige (“the Upright”;1448-1508) among its patrons. The most high-level commissions of the early years include the richly illuminated volumes of the Old Testament for the brothers Hans Stauff zu Ehrenfels (Universitätsbibliothek [University Library] Augsburg, Cod. I.3.2° III and Cod. I.3.2° IV) and Ulrich von Stauff zu Ehrenfels (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München [Bavarian State Library Munich], Cgm 8010a). In the years between 1478 and 1489, Berthold Furtmeyr illuminated the five-volume Salzburger Missale (Salzburg Missal, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, Clm 15708-15712) for the prince archbishops of Salzburg.

In 1478, Furtmeyr was able to purchase from his brother-in-law – after years of economic consolidation of his enterprise – the property of his parents-in-law. Furtmeyr increased his fortune during the period of 1473 up to 1487 from 15 Pfund Pfennige (pounds of pennies) to 411 Pfund Pfennige, as can be shown by the secret tax records of the imperial city of Ratisbon. Therefore, he was one of the most prosperous citizens of Ratisbon. Between 1490 and 1500, the Lectionale de Sanctis (Lectionary of Saints, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, Clm 23024) was illuminated, an order which a Benedictine monastery is likely to have commissioned. Around the year 1500, the daughter of Berthold Furtmeyr got married; by means of the miniatures in the Statuten-, Kopial-, und Saalbuch (urbarium, rent-rolls) of the Regensburger Domkapitels (Ratisbon Cathedral Chapter; see Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv [Bavarian Main State Archive], DK Regensburg 443). Around this time, the artist is ascertainable through one of his works for the last time.

If the biography of the Ratisbon artist seems somewhat incomplete, his artistic work preserved for posterity in over 15 manuscripts remains an eloquent testimony for an outstanding artist’s personality. In the Salzburger Missale (Salzburg Missal) alone, 48 full-page miniatures survive. Their number reveals that Berthold Furtmeyr, more than most other book illustrators of his time focused on diversity. This impression can be gained, however, not only by studying diverse works by the artist but simply by looking at the canon tables of one of the volumes of the Salzburger Missale. No illustration is like another. He reached this impressive range of variation in his depictions from his knowledge of the iconographic tradition in Ratisbon as a mediaeval centre of book illumination, from printed models and from the artistic engagement with the panel painting of his time. Berthold Furtmeyr as book illuminator of the second half of the fifteenth century is well connected to contemporary culture. His works give an insight into the visual culture of these decades, which profit from the rich iconographic tradition of the previous artists’ generations and connect them to the new trends of the Renaissance. He and his colleagues are therefore able to produce something entirely individual.

Wolfgang Neiser, Ratisbon

Guidelines for Use

Each digital copy is available in a format that can be browsed. This is made possible in part by means of an index and supplemented by links to additional digital offerings (for example digitised catalogues or the research documentation Handschriften der BSB [manuscripts of the BSB]).

Further reading material (selection)

  • Christoph Wagner, Klemens Unger (Hgg.), Berthold Furtmeyr. Meisterwerke der Buchmalerei und die Regensburger Kunst in Spätgotik und Renaissance, Regensburg 2010.

Project Information

The digitisation of the manuscripts by Berthold Furtmeyr and of his circle was executed in the year 2010 in collaboration between the Amt für Archiv und Denkmalpflege der Stadt Regensburg (Office for the preservation of archives and historic monuments in Ratisbon) and the Staatliche Bibliothek Regensburg (State Library Ratisbon) with the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library; Cgm und Clm -Handschriften) and the Universitätsbibliothek Augsburg (University Library Augsburg; Cod. I.3.2° III und Cod. I.3.2° IV). The project was prompted by the exhibition "Berthold Furtmeyr. Meisterwerke der Buchmalerei. Aufbruch zur Renaissance in Regensburg" (Berthold Furtmeyr. Masterworks of Book Illumination. The Emergence into the Renaissance in Ratisbon), held between 29.11.2010 and 20.02.2011 by the department for cultural affairs of the city of Ratisbon in collaboration with the Institut für Kunstgeschichte of the Universität Regensburg (Institute for Art History at the University of Ratisbon) and with the Historische Museum der Stadt Regensburg (Historical museum of the city of Ratisbon).

The digitisation of the manuscripts owned by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library) took place at the Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum (MDZ) [Munich Centre for Digitisation] with the support of the Institut für Buch- und Handschriftenrestaurierung (IBR) [Institute for the Restoration of Books and Manuscripts]. The digitisation of manuscripts Cod. I.3.2° III and Cod. I.3.2° IV took place at the Universitätsbibliothek Augsburg (University Library Augsburg).