Historiated initial C, from an ILLUMINATED CHOIRBOOK ON VELLUM.

Lombardy Emilia, 1460-70.


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.


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