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ASCENSION OF CHRIST, historiated initial V cut from a Gradual, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
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ASCENSION OF CHRIST, historiated initial V cut from a Gradual, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM

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ASCENSION OF CHRIST, historiated initial V cut from a Gradual, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[north-eastern Italy, last quarter 13th century]

91 x 77mm. The initial V on burnished gold ground framed in orange and white, with a full-length figure of Christ clad in green robes against a blue background seated in a blue and red mandorla borne by two angels, below the twelve apostles in orange, blue and green robes gazing upwards; the verso with two partial lines of text below two lines of square musical notation on a four-line stave of red (gold ground slightly rubbed). In a Renaissance style frame.

This initial opens the introit of the Mass for the Ascension: 'Viri galilei quid admiramini aspicientes in celum...'. The overarching aesthetic of the composition, its Eastern figures with large eyes, straight noses and formulaic postures, appears strongly influenced by Byzantine art. This has led to an earlier suggestion of an origin in the Veneto, and yet the palette, with the reliance on strong shades of green, red and blue seems more characteristic of German illumination of the 13th century. Perhaps an origin in a border region would account for this apparent mix of influences in this handsome and accomplished work.
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Eugenio Donadoni
Eugenio Donadoni

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