MANUSCRIPT VELLUM LEAF. ILLUMINATED E

Leaf from a Book of Hours.

Northern France, probably Paris, 1450.

£650

Illuminated E letter on vellum, ‘Ego dixi in dimidio dierum…’. 24 lines of text with blank spaces filled by dark blue and gold bars. The same colours are used to decorate smaller initials at the beginning of each row. Both sides displayable. On its verso, an illuminated E at the bottom of the page starts Canticum (in red) ’Exultauit cor meum in domino.’

CJS 6b

BAPTISM OF CHRIST

LATIN TEXT – BYZANTINE ICONOGRAPHY

Illuminated manuscript vellum leaf from a Gradual

Northeastern Italy or Dalmatia, 1300.

£5,750

Large folio (c. 52 x 38 cm), initial ‘E’ measuring 10.5 x 9 cm, with a blue ground set within a burnished gold field, depicting Saint John the Baptist to the left, one hand on Christ’s shoulder, Christ to the right, standing naked in a mound of stylized water, with a gold and orange cruciform halo, the initial joined by a short curl of foliage to a three-sided border with swirling acanthus foliage in blue, red, sage green and gold discs. In a gothic bookhand in dark brown ink in three sizes, the largest for text accompanied by five lines of musical notation on red staves with neumes, the middle size for rubrics (in red) and cues to the offertory and communion, the smallest for liturgical directions (9 lines; underlined in red), small initials alternately blue with red penwork flourishing, or vice versa; occasional surface wear, vellum with natural flaws; framed and glazed (not examined out of frame).

The initial opens the introit for the feast of Epiphany, ‘Ecce advenit dominator [dominus on verso]’ (Behold, the Ruler, the Lord is come). Epiphany (spelled consistently ‘ephyphania’ on this leaf) is the oldest feast day of Christianity with a fixed date (January 6). Epiphany was celebrated from the early fourth century onwards to commemorate the baptism of Christ, his birth and the miracle of the Wedding at Cana. In the West the feast became more associated with Christ being revealed to the Three Magi. The iconography of the initial is clearly Byzantine. The only place in the Latin West where this was possible around 1300 is the Northeast of Italy and the opposite coast of the Adriatic Sea with its strong Byzantine traditions and historic links with the Eastern Empire. Torcello, Grado, Venice, Ravenna and the Dalmatian coast were areas where Byzantine iconography survived up to the Renaissance, although they followed the Roman Rite. The baptism scene in this initial represents a rather minimalist version of the event: reduced to only Saint John and Christ, without the hand of God or the dove of the Holy Spirit above.

In regards to origin and iconography (including ortography), an unusual illuminated manuscript leaf.

L912

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ANTIPHONAL, WINTER PART

Decorated Manuscript on Vellum.

Southern Spain, perhaps Grenada, or Portugal, c. 1600.

£12,500

520 x 365 mm, 160 leaves, last numbered clxvii; I-XXI⁸ lacking 5ll. of text i.e. V₆, VI₇, IX₃, XIX₃ and XX₇ and 4 blanks: first and last and one from each of XII and XVI. Justification mostly 470 x 270 mm, in dark and light brown ink of varying quality in a very clean Spanish Rotunda, 6 staves of five lines per page in red with square and diamond shaped musical notation and text, sometimes interrupted by sections of text, most pages ruled in double blind lines, others in brown ink, from fol. 5-32 the written space is framed by double lines in black ink; original foliation visible in upper right in the second half of the codex, catchwords; rubrics in red, 90 elaborate calligraphic initials, 168 small painted initials (1-line + stave), 2 larger illuminated initials (2-line + stave). Heavy and sturdy vellum, typical for antiphonals, fleshsides and hairsides of vellum differ strongly in colour, few leaves broken in gutter, rather crude but functional repairs, a little water damage and ink bleeding, most pages are almost immaculate, some faded, minor ink erosion, occasional offprint, prickings in outer margins sometimes visible. Illumination overall in good condition. Remains of candlewax on inner side of front cover and scattered throughout the manuscript bear witness to its frequent use.

Beautiful contemporary, early 17th-century binding, calf over heavy wooden boards with delicate metal bosses and cornerpieces. Very soft spine, cracked at lower front, five raised bands, heavy headbands and thick threads in the quires, edges in red, remains of two clasps. Incipit: “Ecce nomen domini venit de longin quo et claritas..” (Isaia, 30, 27, Magnificat Antiphon at Saturday Vespers before the first Sunday of Advent) Explicit: “Crucem sanctam subiit qui infernum confregit” (Antiphon for Eastertide from Whitsunday).

This large antiphonal covers the liturgy from first Sunday of Advent to Eastertide. Its very heavy construction made it suitable for a high lectern for all members of the choir to be seen. With its very accomplished calligraphic initials and its 170 colourful painted initials it is quite lavishly decorated. Two larger initials (e.g. on fol. 30v) show an almost baroque approach to older Renaissance forms of grotesques, festoons, fruitbaskets and architectural floral elements. These two large initials open the liturgy of first Christmas day and Epiphany. The initials are painted on coloured square grounds, mostly in red and blue, with golden tendriled and spiralling decoration in liquid gold or silver. The smaller initials sometimes include charming faces of putti or masks and are in general quite playful in the arrangement of foliage that forms the letters.

There are two different types of painted initials, probably by different hands. One shows monochrome letters in almost austere, but elegant and humanistic shape on square grounds that could be either dotted or decorated with tendrils, while the other has polychrome initials formed of different kinds of leaves and foliage in 2 forms that are derived from renaissance Italian illumination. Both share the same palette for the square grounds and decoration, so we may assume that both painters worked in the same workshop. In addition to the style of the accomplished Spanish rotunda and calligraphy, the illumination points to Spain as place of origin. The more elegant initials resemble those in MS Egerton 3296 of the British Library, the Carta executonia de Hidalguia which was made for Philipp II in 1597 (cf. in particular fol. 59v). That manuscript was made in Grenada.

The contemporary binding is particularly beautiful and well preserved, which is rare. To find an antiphonal with all traces of long and continuous liturgical use in its contemporary binding is an unusual pleasure, as so many have been dismembered, and the bindings lost. The present binding with its delicate brasswork also points to Portugal or Southern Spain around 1600 or the early 17th century. Provenance: French private collection. No signs of earlier provenance distinguishable. An ornate, later, but not modern, cast iron book stand, perhaps constructed for this volume, is included in the price.

L1621

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TRIO OF MUSICIANS

A FINELY-PAINTED INITIAL FOR A XVTH CENTURY ITALIAN CARTHUSIAN MONASTERY

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Historiated initial C, from an ILLUMINATED CHOIRBOOK ON VELLUM.

Lombardy Emilia, 1460-70.

£5,750

92x100mm. A MONK IN WHITE SERGE SWINGS THE CLAPPERS OF TWO BELLS inside a pointroofed tower flanked by a foreshortened building, ACCOMPANIED BY A PIPER wearing a blue hat AND A LUTE PLAYER in a yellow and red dress, against a landscape of a green hill and a blue-nuanced sky pointed by floating golden clouds. The stave of light green with white tracery is adorned by fleshy acanthus leaves in crimson and pink highlighted in white and with curled up terminations, a blue pearl enriches the decoration, on a burnished gold ground outlined in black. Framed, in very good condition (not examined on reverse).

This initial probably opened the introit ‘Cantate Domino canticum novum’ on the fourth Sunday after Easter. One of the musicians is a tonsured monk in white hooded serge; it is likely the choirbook from which the leaf came was for a Carthusian monastery. The Carthusians were widely spread in the XVth century in Northern and Central Italy.

This is a very beautiful and accomplished miniature; its palette of bright colours, the curled up foliage of the stave highlighted in white, the little clouds and soft brush strokes are reminiscent of the stylistic characteristics of the late works of Belbello of Pavia, after the Missale of Barbara of Brandenburg (F. Lollini, Giovanni Belbello da Pavia in Dizionario bibliografico dei miniatori italiani, a cura di Milvia Bollati, Milano 2004, pp. 273-6).

PROVENANCE: The Holford Collection (sold at Sotheby’s, 12 July 1927, lot 13).
Reference: Dorchester House catalogue, Oxford 1927, vol. 1, n. 24(b) p.22, Plate XXIV.

L914

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RESURRECTION

A BEAUTIFUL IMAGE OF RISING CHRIST IN A MINIATURE FROM THE MEDIEVAL CENTRAL ITALY

Historiated initial ‘E’, cut from an illuminated choirbook on vellum.

Central Italy, first half of 14th century.

£3,750

(164×125 mm.) Half-length rising Christ wrapped in a red cloth and showing his wounds in the upper compartment and two angels either side of the tomb with an open book in the lower compartment, on light pink ground, within an initial E with acanthus staves in blue and red, on blue adorned with white tracery and large gold bezants and outlined in black. On the right edge traces of four-line red staves and text. On the reverse lines of text and 4-line red staves. (Framed; a couple of waterstains touching the initial on the right side, a sign of folding in the middle; otherwise good).

This initial might have introduced the Easter antiphon “Et respicientes”, as the representation of the Resurrection suggests.

The strength and beauty of this work is due to its fresh simplicity. The style, essential and genuine, with its palette of colour is evocative of 14th century illumination from the central regions of Italy, perhaps Tuscany.

L840

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FIVE HISTORIATED INITIALS

FIVE INITIALS FROM A LAVISHLY ILLUSTRATED GRADUAL OF THE BEGINNING OF THE 16TH CENTURY: AN EXCEPTIONALLY RICH PROJECT OF DECORATION

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ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM, from a Gradual, in Latin.

Beginning of 16th century.

£7,750

(71x67mm.) THE CHRIST CHILD sitting on the grass and HOLDING A GLOBE against a short brown wall, beyond the wall a far landscape with high mountains and clouds, WITHIN AN orange INITIAL K with staves of acanthus leaves and jewels, highlighted in white, on a light pink ground of scattered flowers outlined in black. On the right trace of a four-line stave ruled in red.

(71x57mm.) A BOY CLUBBING A DOG in a mountainous landscape WITHIN AN INITIAL I of pale pink and blue acanthus leaves including a grotesque face, on a ground of liquid gold. On the left trace of a four-line stave in red and text.

(71x66mm.) AN ASCENDING SOUL helped by an angel ABOVE A LONG-HORNED STAG SWIMMING, in a large landscape, WITHIN AN INITIAL S of green, mauve, and orange acanthus staves, touched in white, on a yellow ground.

(75x71mm.) A MAN FROM BEHIND KNEELING IN PRAYER TO CHRIST, seated on a rainbow amongst the clouds of the sky (as at the Last Judgement), in a deep landscape, WITHIN AN INITIAL R with acanthus blue staves highlighted in white, on a green ground adorned with acanthus leaves and outlined in black. On the right fragment of a red four-line stave.

(67x68mm.) A MAN KNEELING BEFORE A PRIEST ADMINISTERING COMMUNION, on the back an altar with two women, jointing their hands in prayer and watching the scene, and an altarpiece of the Crucifixion, WITHIN AN INITIAL Q with blue acanthus leaves highlighted in white and adorned with pearls, on a green ground patterned with curling hairline tendrils and outlined by a double black fillet. On the right faint trace of a red four-line stave.

Framed all together; on the reverses remains of text and 4-line red staves; slight rubbing in a couple of places, else in very good condition.

According to the textual and musical fragments on the reverse of a couple of our cuttings, the five capitals come from a Gradual. Indeed, the K probably opened the Kyrie eleison (since there are remains of the Gloria on the reverse of the letter); the Q marked the Communion for Corpus Christi. The iconography also contributes to the identification.

The sophisticate acanthus staves are typical of early sixteenth century German initials in both illuminated and printed books. The illuminator of our initials, however, was aware of the rules and the power of the Renaissance painting, known in Germany trough the masterpieces of Dürer, Cranach and Altdorfer. The atmospheric landscapes characterized by distant silverblue shapes of mountains, the effect of the movement in the water, the smooth brush, the attention paid to details such as the subtle termination of the stave curled around Christ’s tiny foot or the costumes in the Communion scene (the woman’s one indicating a date around 1520) make this artist and accomplished painter of the early Renaissance.

The Gradual from which our initials came seems to have been lavishly adorned with historiated initials, not just for the introits. This rich project was exceptional and certainly reserved for very important books.

PROVENANCE: W.M. Voelkle and R.S. Wieck, The Bernard Breslauer Collection of Manuscript Illuminations, Cat. of the exhibition, New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, 9 December 1992 – 4 April 1993, New York 1992, nos. 50-54.

L832

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CARACCIOLO, Marino II, Prince of Avellino


Highly decorative and unusually large law degree certificate.

Naples, 8 June 1627.

£3,750

Manuscript in brown ink on fine vellum (56 x 76 cm), 42 lines including ornamental heading gilt, ornate floral decorations in blue, magenta and orange, in a legible humanist minuscule, several words in gilt capitals, outer and upper margins with wide ornamental borders in five colours and gilt, incorporating two coats-of arms, two portrait medallions in corners and one medallion depicting the Virgin consoling Christ on the Cross; small hole in lower margin and semi-circular from lower edge slightly, affecting ornamental border (perhaps due to loss of seal). A very good copy, lightly spotted in places; mounted, framed and glazed.

This splendid late humanist document conferring a law degree from Naples University to the 21-year old Giovanni Tomaso Compara (of the Neapolitan family now known as Acampora, or D’Acampora) was issued under the auspices of Marino Caracciolo, member of one of the most powerful Neapolitan patrician families. Marino II was Lord High Chancellor of the kingdom, and as such had the right to grant the doctor’s cap or laurea. As Prince of Avellino (1617-30) his Southern Italian town grew considerably and developed into a regional cultural centre. The court attracted artists and writers, such as Giambattista Basile, renowned for one of the earliest collections of fairy tales in Europe, the Neapolitan Cunto delli cunti.

Campora passed his degree of canon and civil law ‘summo cum honore, maximisque laudibus’ and this certificate, intended for display, entitles him to ‘lecture on both laws, interpret, comment and practice it’. One of the coat-of-arms is that of Caracciolo, it contains a depiction of the golden fleece of the Imperial order of which he was a knight. The other is most likely the Compara family. In the upper corners are portraits of Saint Francis Xavier, the co-founder of the Society of Jesus, depicted as usual with his hands crossed in front of his chest. The other, fictitious, is that of Thomas Aquinas, one of the most notable alumni of the University of Naples.

Manuscripts of this type are not uncommon but the dimensions, richness, and quality of the decoration of this example are exceptional.

CJS3

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ANTHROPOMORPHIC INITIAL I

Illuminated Manuscript in Latin on a leaf from an Antiphonal.

Central Italy, mid-14th century.

£1,850

Folio (475 x 340 mm). On recto seven four-line staves in red, music in square notation alternating with seven line text in brown ink in a gothic bookhand; a couple of initials with pen-work flourishing, in red with blue, in blue with red; numbered 291 on upper margin. INITIAL I (body: 145 x 25 mm) composed wholly of a human figure with hat, dressed in light blue and red, on a blue background with white tracery; leafy extensions in light pink and blue developing from the hat and the feet into the inner and upper margins. On verso seven four-line staves in red, music in square notation alternating with seven line text written in brown ink in a gothic bookhand; red pen-work initial with blue flourishing. Slightly worn in the lower part with loss of a few letters, otherwise good.

TWO VERY APPEALING LEAVES FROM A MID-14TH CENTURY ANTIPHONAL DECORATED BY A CENTRAL ITALIAN ARTIST. The initial I opens the response ‘In montem Oliveti oravi ad patrem pater si fieri potest’ on Holy Thursday. According to the Catholic liturgical year, these two leaves marked, in the same Antiphonal, the beginning and the end of Lent (from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday).

Two early attractive, unsophisticated leaves; the characteristic foliate extensions, the palette of delicate colours and the style indicate a Central Italian origin (possibly Tuscany), from the mid-14th century.

L876

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