Very large historiated initial ‘H’, probably for the antiphon Hodie nata est beata virgo Maria for the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.

Italy (Siena), c. 1300.

Very large historiated initial ‘H’ (124 x 129 mm) cut from an antiphonal in Latin, the initial in pale pink against a quadrangular background of deep blue and enclosing the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, Anne lying pensively on a wooden bed before an arched background and the infant Mary being bathed by two nurses in the foreground, the whole painted in shades of blue, pink, orange, brown and white and with both burnished and shell gold, the verso with part of two lines of text and music in square and diamond-shaped notation on four-line red staves (stave height c. 30 mm); trimmed to the edges of the quadrangular blue background, slightly rubbed with some loss of burnished gold, but generally in very good condition.

£6750 + VAT

Approximately:
US $8738€8016

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Very large historiated initial ‘H’, probably for the antiphon Hodie nata est beata virgo Maria for the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.

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A very fine large initial painted in a style associated with the Master of the Gradual of Cortona, an artist named for a Franciscan gradual produced c. 1290 for the church of San Francesco in Cortona (now Vatican City, BAV, MS Ross. 612).

The architectural setting is unusual, as is the frontal pose of the small naked infant being washed in a bath shaped like a baptismal font, a composition derived ultimately from Byzantine models.

For a closely comparable initial, probably by the same hand and conceivably from the same parent manuscript, see Christie’s sale of 13 July 2022, lot 3, a complete leaf with an historiated initial of the Annunciation (stave height also c. 30 mm).

Visible beneath the initial in the upper left-hand corner is the name ‘marie’, doubtless a direction (or part thereof) to the artist. The text on the reverse comprises part of the antiphon ‘[Benedicta tu in mu]lieribus et be[nedictus fructus ve]ntris tui’.

Provenance: formerly in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, acquired with the Elisabeth H. Gates Fund, 1940.

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