You are here:

Latin/Translation

Advertisement


Question
Ghent Altarpiece
Ghent Altarpiece  
I am looking for the correct english translation of this latin scripture and if this passage is written correctly in latin. "HEC E SPECIOSIOR SOLE + SVP OEM STELLARV DISPOSICOEM LVCI PATA IVEITVR POR. CADOR E ENI LVCIS ETERNE. + SPECLM SN MACLA DI MAIESTIS."
These words are from the Book of Wisdom, however i do not know which of the many translations to believe. If you could shed some light on this it would be greatly appreciated. (Of course some words are hidden in the painting and some have changed)
Thank you.

Answer
Hello,

First of all I have to point out that the Latin  inscription that we read on the  halo around the head of the Virgin Mary in the Ghent Altarpiece, also known as   Hubert and Jan van Eyck's Adoration of the Mystic Lamb  (15th century, Early Flemish polyptych panel painting ) contains many abbreviations by truncation general signs as well as tildes (marks made above a letter, in the standard late-medieval usage) such as e.g. the mark that you can see on the E after  HEC, where HEC stands for HAEC and E stands for EST.

In short, “HEC E SPECIOSIOR SOLE + SVP OEM STELLARV DISPOSICOEM LVCI PATA IVEITVR POR. CADOR E ENI LVCIS ETERNE. + SPECLM SN MACLA DI MAIESTIS” stands for:

“HAEC  EST SPECIOSIOR SOLE ET SUPER OMNEM STELLARUM DISPOSITIONEM. LUCI COMPARATA INVENITUR PRIOR.CANDOR EST ENIM LUCIS AETERNAE ET SPECULUM SINE MACULA DEI MAIESTATIS”  meaning:
"She (The Virgin Mary) is more beautiful than the sun and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared to the light she is found to be superior. She is in fact  the reflection of  the eternal light and the immaculate mirror of God’s majesty ".

Read more below.

Best regards,

Maria
_________________________________________________________________________________________
Note that:

-HAEC (demonstrative pronoun, feminine, nominative case)  = she
-EST (present indicative of SUM)  = is
-SPECIOSIOR  (comparative of the adjective SPECIOSUS) =more beautiful
-SOLE  (ablative of comparison from the noun  SOL)= than the sun
-ET =and
-SUPER (preposition which takes the accusative) = literally, “over”, i.e. “excels”
-OMNEM  (accusative of OMNIS) =every
-STELLARUM (genitive plural of STELLA)  =of the stars
-DISPOSITIONEM (accusative of DISPOSITIO) = literally, "the place", i.e.constellation
-LUCI (dative of LUX) =to the light
-COMPARATA  (feminine, past participle of COMPARO) =compared
-INVENITUR (present indicative, passive form of INVENIO) =she is found
-PRIOR (comparative)=to be superior
-CANDOR (nominative) =the reflection
-EST(present indicative of SUM)  =she is
-ENIM =in fact
-LUCIS (genitive of LUX) =of the light
-AETERNAE (genitive feminine  of AETERNUS)) = eternal
-ET =and
-SPECULUM (nominative)=the mirror
-SINE MACULA (the preposition SINE + the ablative MACULA )= literally, ”without spot”, i.e. spotless/immaculate
-DEI (genitive of DEUS)=God’s
-MAIESTATIS (genitive of MAIESTAS) =of majesty

Note that “HAEC EST  SPECIOSIOR SOLE ET SUPER OMNEM STELLARUM DISPOSITIONEM. LUCI COMPARATA INVENITUR PRIOR” is a passage from the Book of Wisdom (7:29), while CANDOR EST ENIM LUCIS AETERNAE ET SPECULUM SINE MACULA DEI MAIESTATIS comes from 7:26 (Book of Wisdom).

Lastly, for the scribal marks used in medieval Latin see 3.1 at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scribal_abbreviation

For abbreviations see also: http://www.ualberta.ca/~sreimer/ms-course/course/abbrevtn.htm  

Latin

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Maria

Expertise

I am an expert in Latin Language and Literature and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning this matter.

Experience

Over 25 years teaching experience.

Education/Credentials
I received my Ph.D. in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.