A NOBLE COUPLE PRESENTING THEIR DAUGHTER TO A SAINT TO BE BLESSED, large historiated initial A on a cutting from a 15th-century choirbook on vellum
[Paris, c.1900]201 x 188mm. The initial on a ground of burnished gold; verso with 4 lines of music of square notation on a 4-line red stave and 4 lines of text in brown ink with two large penwork initials in red and blue (a few very tiny holes, barely discernable and not touching image, some abrasion to surface with small losses of pigment and cracking of gold, most likely intended). Window-mounted.
His identity unknown, the so-called Spanish Forger was active in painting 'medieval' miniatures in Paris between the 1890s and 1920s (see W. Voelkle, The Spanish Forger, New York, 1978 and Manuscript Illumination in the Modern Age, 2001, pp.157-162). Although a number of panels and complete manuscripts are attributed to him, the Forger is mainly known from leaves and cuttings. Painted on segments of vellum from 14th- to 16th-century choirbooks, scraped to provide a new surface, the Forger's works gain authenticity through appearing worn and aged, with signs of abrasion. Celebrated as 'one of the most successful, skillful and prolific forgers of all time' (Manuscript Illumination, p.157), the Forger was an illuminator rather than a copyist, creating original compositions executed in his own distinctive style. The present initial perfectly displays his narrative vocabulary: the theatrical positioning and gestures of the figures, the stage-like quality of the architecture, stylised landscape and the muted palette. A number of cut-out historiated initials by the Forger are known (see Voelkle, p.52), created in response to the increasing fashion for collecting historiated initials cut from medieval manuscripts in the 19th century.