THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI, historiated initial 'E' on a leaf from an Antiphonal, with an illuminated sister leaf, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS ON VELLUM
[Spain, probably Jaén, 1520s, certainly after 1516]
850 x 560mm. The initial with the Adoration of the Magi opening the Antiphon for Epiphany, 'Ecce advenit dominator dominus' (Behold the Lord the Ruler is come); both leaves with 5 lines of text and music and FULL-PAGE ILLUMINATED BORDERS of scrolling acanthus, flowers, classical vases and gold discs, the second leaf with later foliation '6' and the arms of BISHOP ESTEBAN GABRIEL MERINO (1472-1535), quarterly 1 and 4, argent a lion rampant gules, 2 and 3, vert a sheep proper, in chief an eagle displayed sable, with the initials 'G.G.'.
TWO LEAVES FROM A GARGANTUAN ANTIPHONAL COMMISSIONED FOR ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING FIGURES OF SIXTEENTH-CENTURY CATHOLIC EUROPE, Esteban Gabriel Merino (or Stefano Gabriele Merino, lo Spagnolo), Archbishop of Bari (1513-1535), Bishop of León (1516-1523), Bishop of Jaén (1523-1535), Patriarch of the West Indies (1530-1535) and Bishop of Gaeta (1535). Of humble origins, he was employed in the household of Ascanio Sforza before being forced into priesthood as penance for accidentally killing a cleric. A consummate diplomat, nuncio to François Ier and principal negotiator for peace between the French monarch and Charles V, he was throughout his lifetime an instrumental player in international Church politics. The flamboyant, colourful and classicising decoration of the present leaves is clearly Spanish, and it is likely Merino had the manuscript commissioned when he was in Spain as bishop of Léon or Jaén. The latter is the most likely, since the illuminator responsible for the miniature and the borders is Juan de Cáceres (active in Granada, near Jaén, between 1509-1524: see, for example, Catedral de Granada, Coral 6, also illuminated by Cáceres, image available online). Merino's personal library consisted of around 60 volumes, which he left to a variety of beneficiaries, including a Missal at the Cathedral at Jaén. Four other leaves from the same manuscript were sold at Sotheby's, 19 June 1990, lots 43-45 and two other from the same series if not from the same manuscript on 5 July 2011, lot 24. (2)