KING DAVID IN PRAYER, large historiated initial 'S' on a leaf from an ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ANTIPHONAL ON VELLUM
745 x 515mm (leaf); 205 x 175mm (initial). Full foliate borders of red, blue, pink and green with gold discs; five lines of music and text, verso with one red initial with blue penwork (some smudging of red pigment on the figure of David, marginal cropping, some creasing to lower half). Double-sided frame.
The initial opens the first response of the first nocturn of Matins for the fourth Sunday after Easter, 'Si oblitus fuero tui alleluya obliviscatur mei dextera mea'.
AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE INITIAL FROM A SIGNED CHOIRBOOK BY ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ITALIAN ILLUMINATORS OF THE TRECENTO. The present leaf belongs to the same Antiphonal as one now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.75.3, which contains an inscription identifying the artist: 'Ego Nicholau[s] d[e] Bononia feci'. At a time when Bologna was a major centre of manuscript production, Niccolò di Giacomo Nascimbene da Bologna (fl. 1349-1403/4), was one of the leading figures. The present initial, with its carefully balanced composition and finely rendered, expressive figures is a prime example of the artist's work. Niccolò worked for a variety of private, church and civic institutions and frequently signed his work -- though in the present case, the extension 'de Bononia' (which he omitted in manuscripts that were for use in the city) would indicate that the Antiphonal was made for a non-Bolognese foundation. Two cuttings in the Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 278a-b seem likely to be from the same choirbook, or series of choirbooks: one of them has a note on the mount naming the Cathedral of Gemona in Friuli (see Illuminated Manuscripts in Cambridge, eds N. Morgan, S. Panayatova and S. Reynolds, vol.1, 2011, no 184.