ANNUNCIATION, in an initial M, cutting from an ILLUMINATED CHOIRBOOK ON VELLUM
203 x 170mm. Initial staves of pink and salmon sculptural forms with terminals of pink, green and blue foliage are set against a burnished gold ground, to the left of the central stave Gabriel kneels in an arid landscape, the dove of the Holy spirit above him and heading towards the kneeling Virgin, her hands held in prayer and submission, on the verso two lines written in a gothic bookhand between three lines of music of square notation on a four-line stave of red (laid onto a vellum surround reused from a choirbook, reverse still visible, crease from fold to right of initial, five small holes in the initial and one on the Virgin's robe are patched on the reverse and retouched, losses from the gold ground and marginal disks, small wormholes below the initial, some smudging at left edge and darkening and spotting to text area, small tear at right edge).
This initial was already recognised as the work of Guglielmo Giraldi (fl. 1445-89) by Suida in his article of 1947. Giraldi, a favourite illuminator of Borso d'Este, duke of Ferrara who was documented working for the Este court from 1445 to 1477, was one of the most important personalities of Renaissance book decoration. This initial perfectly exemplifies the elegance and individuality of his style. The combination of stylised architectural decoration in discordant shades of pink with more conventional Ferrarese borders, and the tall and slender figures with their placid faces and clothed in sharply modelled angular drapery are instantly identifiable as his.
In treatment and vocabulary this initial is especially close to those of the manuscripts (now in the Palazzo Schifanoia) that Borso d'Este had Guglielmo illuminate for the Certosa di San Cristoforo from 1462 to the mid-1470s: G. Mariani Canova, Guglielmo Giraldi Miniatore Estense, 1995, pp.97-110, pls 18-20.
The initial was no 82 in vol.I of E. Rahir, Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection, Objets d'art, Paris, 1907 and was discussed by W. Suida, 'Italian Miniature Paintings from the Rodolphe Kann Collection', Art in America, vol.35, 1947, pp.29-30.
After Kann it was owned by Mrs Collis P. Huntington, widow of the railroad builder and financier. In 1913 she married her husband's nephew, Henry E. Huntington and with him gathered together material for what would become the Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, California.
In 1953 this Annunciation was exhibited in Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, California, Mediaeval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts, no 123.
Purchased from Duveen Brothers, New York 27 December 1963.