"Royalty in Medieval Miniatures," the Walters Art Gallery's new illuminated manuscript exhibit, starts out in one gear and shifts to another about halfway through. As a result, the mind can tend to wander from the main subject, with results that are not at all unhappy.
The show begins with examples of how medieval royalty was depicted in various non-religious books such as chronicles and histories. We see various activities in which kings were shown, helping to give legitimacy to the idea and the role of kingship: In a book on the Crusades, one king of Jerusalem dies and another is crowned; in a chronicle of France, King Edward of England kneels to King Philip of France -- as ruler of French territories, Edward was feudal vassal of Philip; in a law book, a king acting as judge swears in witnesses, while another king instructs his children as princes.
Then abruptly we turn to religious books, and illustrations of stories from the Bible. These stories do involve royalty, from David and Solomon to the coronation of the Virgin, but somehow, no matter how historical the Bible may be considered, to be wrenched from the socio-political milieu of the Middle Ages and thrust into the Bible is a shift that blurs the focus of this show.