Musiconis



Singers are most often represented in the Musiconis database in small ensembles of either humans or angels gathered around a book. Often, they are depicted singing harmoniously through the placement of their arms in an embrace, pointing at the page, and/or holding the book. Although there are images in the database from as early as the eleventh century, most date from the late 15th and 16th centuries. Singers appear in all media and a variety of contexts: secular and religious, human and angelic, realistic and stylized, professional and parodied.

Mouths may be either closed, open, or a combination as in the example below. It is rather the focused attention of the groups's eyes on a common book that most reliably indicates the act of performance.

Angels singing.png
Three angels singing from a book
Abondance, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France (1469)

The mouths of the angelic choir of Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece famously differ to such an extent that it is evident they are organized into voice parts singing polyphony.

340px-Jan_van_Eyck_-_The_Ghent_Altarpiece_-_Singing_Angels_(detail)_-_WGA07642.jpg
Jan van Eyck
Ghent Altarpiece (c. 1425-1432)

In most cases, the perspective is straight ahead, and so it is impossible to discern what the singers are singing. In some notable cases, like the Codex Gisle, the music, the text, or both are visible. Elsewhere, such as this parody of a singer as a dog, the pages of the book are visible, but there is no actual content.

dog singer.png
Dog singer
Breviary, Verdun, BM, ms. 0107, f. 1r
Metz, France (c.1302-1305)

There are several other parodies of singers found in the choir stalls from the Spanish monastery of Yuste in which the singers resemble wine skins or sausages signifying disharmony and disorder.

Sausage singers.png
Hybrids singing around a book
Cuacos de Yuste, Extremadura, Spain (1489-1506)