An extraordinary embellished scroll opens "Imagining the Past in France: 1250-1500," the similarly extraordinary exhibition recently opened at the J. Paul Getty Museum. It introduces one of the strangest, most coercive if successful ideas to have taken hold in Europe in the past two millenniums.
Painted and written by one or more now unknown artists and scribes and dubbed "The Universal Chronicle," the scroll, nearly 34 feet in length, is one of 29 surviving copies from the late 15th century. Partially unfurled here to show a long and critically important central sequence, with small painted medallions sprinkled into four columns of text, it is not the most beautiful among the show's 58 French manuscripts and individual sheets. But it says a lot.
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