at.This paper was written by Darren Worley and Marco Ponzi. Many thanks to them again for their interesting work.
This short paper follows-up on our earlier jointly-written post that described examples of the Sagittarius Crossbowman (cf. the example in the Voynich manuscript; f72v2). In this paper we review various 15th-century examples of the Zodiac sign of Gemini that are depicted as clothed, clutching or embracing male-and-female figures (cf. the Voynich manuscript, f72r2).
Below is a image showing VM f72r2 in full, together with the VM Gemini twins in detail.
We begin by reviewing the iconographic history of the Gemini sign –
Greek and Roman sources describe Gemini as a couple of Embracing males:
* Hyginus, Astronomica II,22:
“These stars many astronomers have called Castor and Pollux. They say that of all brothers they were the most affectionate, not striving in rivalry for the leadership, nor acting without previous consultation. As a reward for their services of friendship, Jupiter is thought to have put them in the sky as well-known stars. Neptune, with like intention, has rewarded them for he gave them horses to ride, and power to aid shipwrecked men.
Others have called them Hercules and Apollo; some, even Triptolemus, whom we mentioned before, and Iasion, beloved of Ceres – both carried to the stars”.
* Savage-Smith (“Islamicate globes”) writes:
“The twins were described in Greek literature as one having his arms around the other”
* Allen (“Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning”) quotes Manilius: “The Twins were placed in the sky by Jove, in reward for their brotherly love so strongly manifested while on earth, as in the verses of Manilius:
Tender Gemini in strict embrace
Stand clos’d and smiling in each other’s Face;”
In the Roman Phanes relief currently in Modena (2nd Century AD), one of the twins hold a lyre. So he is likely to be identified with Apollo and (on the basis of Hyginus) the other one could be Hercules.
Colum Hourihane (“Time in the Medieval World: Occupations of the Months and Signs of the Zodiac in the Index of Christian Art”) describes the different variants of the European iconography during the middle ages.
* Colum Hourihane: “Gemini is always represented by the twins, for the month of May (modern horoscopes align it to May 21 – June 20). The two figures can be shown full-length or as busts and are usually in a landscape. They can both be male or female or one of either sex. They can be fully clothed or nude. They can also appear in the guise of lovers and are sometimes shown touching each other on the breast or the face. They are particularly reminiscent of Adam and Eve when they are shown in a garden surrounded by foliage, and he may hold an apple in his hand towards her. In one example their modesty is covered by a large fig leaf (Morgan Library, M.264 fol 5r). Often related to the twins Castor and Pollux, it is clear that some examples are directly based on male twins. Some examples show them as not quite nude – as when they have a piece of transparent gauze over their middle (Morgan Library, M.262 fol 5r). They are frequently shown as two conjoined figures with one set of legs and one trunk but two heads (Morgan Library, M.700 fol 6r, M.64 fol 5v). In a number of other cases their middles are covered by a heraldic shield (Morgan Library M.283 fol 3v, M.440 fol 3r)”.
Angélique Ferrand https://cem.revues.org/13937#text (“Le zodiaque dans la décoration ecclésiale médiévale”) traces some elements of the evolution of these images (she is discussing <a href=https://cem.revues.org/docannexe/image/13937/img-11.jpg>a XII Century capital</a> in the Church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Vézelay, our translation):
“On the right side of this capital , Gemini are incarnated by Adam and Eve. Traditionally represented by two naked male figures and the like, kissing or holding hands, Gemini sometimes take the appearance the original couple – [Footnote 76:] from the thirteenth century, Gemini is becomes the pretext for a scene of courteous love, as a positive replacement of the original couple. This is the case at <a href=https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zodiaque_Amiens_03.jpg>Notre Dame in Amiens</a>, on the foundations of Saint-Firmin portal (circa 1220-1230), or even at <a href=https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Right_portal_of_the_western_facade_of_Notre-Dame_de_Strasbourg#/media/File:Zodiaque_05_Gemeaux.jpg>Notre Dame in Strasbourg</a>, on the foundations of the statues of the south portal of the western façade (1280). “
“Les Gémeaux seraient quant à eux incarnés sur le côté droit de ce chapiteau par Adam et Ève. Traditionnellement figurés par deux figures masculines nues et similaires, s’embrassant ou se tenant par la main, les Gémeaux en viennent parfois à prendre l’apparence du couple originel. – Footnote 76: À partir du XIIIe siècle, les Gémeaux sont de plus en plus le prétexte d’une scène d’amour courtois, comme une réactualisation positive du couple originel. C’est le cas à Notre-Dame d’Amiens, sur les soubassements du portail Saint-Firmin (vers 1220-1230), ou bien encore à Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, sur les soubassements des piédroits du portail sud de la façade occidentale (vers 1280)”.
The identification of Gemini with Adam and Eve is made explicit by Bede (De Temporum Ratione, 16):
Gemini, Adam and Eve, because in paradise they were made from a single body.
Gemini, Adam et Eva, quod uno corpore facti sunt in paradiso.
On the basis of what Ferrand writes, a hypothetical evolution could be:
* in Greek-Roman iconography, a couple of embracing males (male-male)
* transformed into Adam and Eve in the Christian context of Romanesque cathedrals (male-female, naked)
* in the 13th C, transformed into a scene of courtly love: the typology we see in the Voynich ms (male-female, dressed)
In Indian astrology, Gemini are called “Mithuna” (the Lovers). “Astrology and Religion in Indian Art” by Swami Sivapriyananda provides a 1790 AD example of the Indian iconography. It is not clear if images like this were also produced in earlier periods and in other countries (e.g. Persia).
In this Ottoman Turkish example (Walters ms W.659, 1717), the sign of Gemini is represented by two identical crowned figures embracing each other. The manuscript is a version of the XIII Century Persian work ‘Aja’ib al-makhluqat (Wonders of Creation) by Zakariya al-Qazwini.
In the next section we review other 15th-century examples we’ve found –
- MS Ludwig XII 8 (1464) [found by Marco Ponzi]
This astrological manuscript is written in German and was created in Ulm, Southern Germany shortly after 1464.
There are many similarities of this image with the VM Gemini sign, for example, both figures are fully clothed, they are both clasping hands, both are standing in a similar posture and are depicted within a circle. However the figures have been cropped and the man appears on the right (not the left, as in the VM).
2) Österreichische Nationalbibliothek ; cod. 1842 Brevier (Horae canonicae in Polonia Scriptae) (1395-1405) [found by Marco Ponzi]
We have been unable to find detailed information about this manuscript. From the title, it apparently is a Book of Hours written in Latin and it was produced in Poland.
This image is also relevant because the same series presents a Crossbow Sagittarius. Until now, this is the only case in which the two typologies (Gemini as Lovers and Sagittarius as a Crossbowman) appear in a single source.
3) Getty Ms. 34, fol. 3 (1389 and 1404) [found by Marco Ponzi]
A Latin Book of Hours, written in Bologna between 1389 and 1404. This couple of fully dressed, embracing Gemini, testifies that this iconography was in used in Italy too.
4) Lund Astronomical Clock, Lund, Sweden (c1380 or 1424) [reported by Darren Worley]
Lund Astronomical Clock or Horologium mirabile Lundense, was made around 1424 probably by the clockmaker Nicolaus Lilienveld in Rostock.
There are some similarities of the Gemini figures found here with the VM Gemini: both figures are fully clothed and the man appears on the left, however, the posture of the Gemini figures is different, but I would put this down to the constraint of being painted around a clock dial.
The Rostock Astronomical Clock also contains clothed, clasping Gemini figures. It was built in 1472 by Hans Düringer, a clockmaker from Nuremberg.
5) Heidelberg Cod. Pal. Germ. 7 (15th-century) [found by Darren Worley]
This image is taken from Heidelberg Cod. Pal. germ. 7, (12v) a 15th-century manuscript from Bayern [Bavaria] (Southern Germany) that is written in German.
Heidelberg Cod. Pal. Germ. 7 is a “lot book” (Wahrsagebuch or Divination Book), a simple and popular form of divination whose only link with astrology is the frequent and arbitrary use of astrological terms and imagery.
There are some similarities with the VM, for example, the man appears on the left, both figures are fully clothed, but they are clasping too closely and do not appear within concentric circles.
6) Heidelberg MS Pal.Germ. 832 (Heidelberger Schicksalsbuch) (1491) [found by Darren Worley]
There’s no mistaking the sex of the twins in this example which appears on page f93v in the famous Heidelberg MS Pal.Germ. 832 (Heidelberger Schicksalsbuch). It was written in Regensburg, Bavaria in 1491.
This manuscript comprises of a collection of various calendar, geomancy and astrological texts.
The section containing this image (Fol.92v-98r) is described as “An Illustrated Treatise on the twelve zodiac signs” (Vgl. Hyginus deutsch, Erhard Ratdolt, Augsburg 1491; Vgl.Regiomontanus: Calendarium deutsch, Erhard Ratdolt, Augsburg 1489). On the previous page Taurus is depicted and Cancer follows.
Although the man appears on the left and the female twin, on the right, is wearing draped fabrics these are about the only similarities with the VM.
7) Pal. Lat. 1369 (1444) [found by Darren Worley]
We consider this be the best Gemini example found to date. It appears in Pal. Lat.1369 (f147) a manuscript of Southern German origin comprising of many other Latin texts and this one German text. The manuscript is dated to 1444 and is currently found in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.
The similarities include:
- Similar body shape of the male-twin figures (narrow or no hips!)
- Men on the left and women on the right
- Similar standing posture of both male and female figures
- Similar smock(?) with pleats and scalloped-hem worn by the male twin-figures
- Similar long-sleeves of the smocks(?) worn by the male twin-figures
- Similar facial expression of the female-twin figures
- Similar draped dress worn by the the female-twin figures
- Similar billowy sleeves on the dresses worn by the female-twin figures
- Both male and female figures have blushed cheeks
- Both pairs of figures appear within two concentric circles containing text
Perhaps these two Gemini images have been copied from a common earlier source, or represent the work of the same (inexperienced) artist some years apart? The Pal. Lat.1369 figures appears have better proportioned arms and legs and more skillfully drawn feet.
Other images from this section of the manuscript can be found here.
Pal. Lat.1369 contains various translated Latin texts of Arab origin (e.g. texts by Albumasar an eighth-century astrologer-astronomer and Islamic philosopher, and another by the eighth-century Persian Jewish astrologer-astronomer from Basra, Messahala or Mashallah) as well as passages from the Sabian astronomer-astrologer Thabit ibn Qurra, the astronomer Ptolomy and medieval European authors (Richardus de Wallingford, Johannes de Gmunden) amongst others.
The section (f144v-147f), containing the Gemini image, is titled “Planetenbilder mit deutschen Texten” (Planet pictures with German verses) and contains human representations of the seven planets together with verses from an astrological poem. The verses appear to be describing the different virtues and attributes of the “children of the planets” born under each of the seven planet’s’ influence.
This would appear to be a common theme in German Renaissance popular culture. For example, there is a Renaissance “Painted House” (Sgraffitohaus) in Eggenburg, Austria that features similar astrological and planet related rhymes. It can be seen here.
An interesting article about the Children of the Planets was earlier posted on these pages (by Marco). It seems plausible that the VM Zodiac may be related to this popular German Renaissance “children of the planets” astrological motif.
Perhaps unexpectedly, the page depicting this Gemini twins (f147v) contains two depictions of Virgo, in this case, the duplication is systematic and can be explained in Astrological terms: for each planet, the two Domiciles are represented at the two sides of the planet. On the right, below one of the domiciles, the exaltation sign appears. Below the Exaltation, the Fall sign appears.
Domiciles: Sagittarius and Pisces
Another copy of the same astrological verses appears in BSB München, Cgm 595, 36r-39r which is dated to 1436-37, suggesting that the poem pre-dates its appearance in Pal.Lat.1369 dated 1444.
Darren Worley & Marco Ponzi