THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST, on a leaf from a Gradual, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
520 x 380mm (leaf), 105 x 90mm (initial). The initial 'E' with a blue ground set within a burnished gold field, depicting St John the Baptist to the left, with 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 foliage and gold discs, written in gothic bookhand in dark brown ink in three sizes, the largest for text accompanied by music on four-line red staves, the middle size for rubrics (in red) and cues to the offertory and communion, the smallest for liturgical directions (underlined in red), small initials alternately blue with red penwork flourishing, or vice versa (somewhat worn and with natural flaws in the vellum). Framed and glazed (not examined out of frame).
The initial introduces the introit for the feast of the Epiphany (6 January), 'Ecce advenit dominator' (Behold, the Lord the Ruler is come). 'Epiphany' comes from a Greek word meaning 'appearance', 'manifestation', or 'revelation', and in the Western Church this was usually taken as the occasion when the infant Christ was revealed to the Three Magi. In the Eastern Church, however, the feast was associated with Christ's Baptism, when the Dove of the Holy Spirit appeared, and the voice of God was heard, saying "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). The Eastern tradition is very rarely found north of the Alps, but occasionally occurs in Italian manuscripts. It may indicate that this leaf was produced in a centre with close contacts with Byzantium. The narrow tendrils of the border and the sworling acanthus terminals indicate a date around 1300.