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FOUR HISTORIATED INITIALS WITH SAINTS.
The following four initials seem almost certainly to have been cut from a single choirbook and to be the work of a single artist. The palette of all four is identical, with a reliance on pink, bright green and mid-blue for the initial forms -- with the substitution in the St Anne initial of the lilac otherwise used for drapery -- and the painterly and sensitive handling of flesh and cloth is common to all. The edge of each of the infills is shown as though lit from the upper left, with a dark maroon line at upper left and a yellow line at lower right.
The style and decorative vocabulary relate these initials to the work of Francesco and Girolamo Dai Libri, especially with the initials in the Museo Castelvecchio, Verona, that are believed mostly to have come from the Olivetan house of Sta Maria in Organo and to have been painted between 1491 and 1502. The idiosyncrasy in approaching the space and shape available for illumination in the Cosmas and Damian -- where a 'window' is made in the gold field -- and the St Agnes initials -- where the saint is discretely placed to one side of the central stave -- can be paralleled in various of the Castelvecchio initials. In the most recent discussion of the Verona initials it was pointed out that at this date both father and son were working: G. Castiglioni in Mantegna e le arti a Verona 1450-1500, eds S. Marinelli & P. Marini, exh. cat. Verona 2006-2007, pp.379-381. Castiglione while not securely attributing them to one or the other tended to see them as Girolamo's work. Yet the facial types and soft handling and shading of flesh show a closer relationship with Francesco's figures, as, for example, in the Adoration of the Magi in the Wildenstein collection, Musée Marmottan, Paris: G. Castiglione, 'La miniatura veronese del Rinascimento', 1986, p.84.
These initials were part of a group of 19, all thought to be from the same antiphonary, that were no 75 in vol.I of E. Rahir, Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection, Objets d'art, Paris, 1907. They were subsequently discussed by W. Suida, 'Italian miniature paintings from the Rodolphe Kann collection', Art in America, vol.35, 1947, pp.26-29. When in Kann's collection the nineteen were mounted on three sheets. The present cuttings were on a single sheet with four further initials. The group included a figure of a monk identified by Suida as Benedictine. If this was the case it may indicate that the choirbook had been made for a Benedictine house. With one exception, described as the Insignia of the Passion, all of the initials contained figures of saints. The parent volume must have been a splendid and extensively illuminated Sanctoral.
The third sheet from the Kann collection had three initials, a sainted Pope with two young male saints, St Agatha and St Sebastian, these are now nos M6103, 6104 and 6105 of the Wildenstein collection in the Musée Marmottan, Paris.
After Kann the present initials were owned by Mrs Collis P. Huntington, widow of the railroad builder and financier who married her husband's nephew Henry E. Huntington in 1913 and with him gathered together material for what became the Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, California.
They were exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, California in 1953, Mediaeval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts.
Purchased Duveen Brothers, New York, 27 December 1963.