ST DOMINIC, in an initial I, cutting from an ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
520 x 189mm overall, 176 x 144mm initial ground. The initial staves with a blue mask and red vase and corbel extending as red, green and blue acanthus are set against a burnished gold ground, hairline tendrils with leaves and flowerheads and golden disks beside border; as if visible through an embrasure in the burnished gold ground the saint stands in an extensive and hilly landscape, he holds a book and a lily and has a golden star on his forehead, on the verso two lines of music of square notation on a four-line stave of red above two lines written in black ink in an gothic bookhand, rubrics in red (laid down onto card, section of verso with text visible, smudge to mask in stave, small losses and abrasion to gold ground, scratch across top of leafy terminal, small tears apparent above and below border). Framed.
The decorative forms of the initial and the rectangular picture field cut from the gold ground and with edges shaded as though lit from the upper left are virually signature features of the style of Girolamo Dai Libri (c.1474-1555), the renowned illuminator and painter who, with his father Francesco, dominated book production in Verona from the 1490s to the middle of the 16th century. The convincing bulk and sense of presence of this St Dominic and the detail and complexity of the receding landscape show this initial to date from Girolamo Dai Libri's maturity: as his career progressed his style became more involved and expressive, and his treatment of volume and space more convincing. In his life of the artist Vasari cited the various series of choirbooks Girolamo decorated for churches in Verona, the Veneto and near Naples as his most important commissions.
During the first decade of the 16th century Girolamo undertook an increasing amount of work as a painter on a more monumental scale and the convincing solidity and sense of gravitas of this St Dominic relate it to figures in altarpieces he painted, for example the Pala Centrego (Sant'Anastasia, Verona) completed after 1505. The figure is particularly close in handling and feature to the St Peter in one of the small panels by Girolamo recently acquired by the Fondazione Domus per l'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Verona: G. Castiglione, 'Duy quadreti di devozione e qualche altra novità per Girolamo Dai Libri', Verona illustrata; Rivista del Museo del Castelvecchio 2007, pp.39-53.