ANTIPHONAL OF SANTA MARIA SOPRA PORTA, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
500 x 340mm. 214 leaves: 1-268, 275+1, COMPLETE, catchwords on final versos, eight lines of text written in a round gothic bookhand between eight lines of music of square notation on a four-line stave of red, justification: 350 x 220mm, rubrics in red, one-line initials touched yellow, larger initials alternately red or blue with flourishing of the other colour, NINETEEN LARGE ILLUMINATED FOLIATE INITIALS in rich colours set against grounds of burnished gold, TWO LARGE HISTORIATED INITIALS (small losses from gold background of initial on f.53v and smudging to three of the foliate initials). Original binding of leather-backed heavy wooden boards with metal pin and hasp from chain on lower cover (spine torn, thongs split, upper board almost detached, lacking straps, bosses, studs, catches and one pin).
A COMPLETE 'SCUOLA DEGLI ANGELI' CHOIRBOOK
1. Santa Maria sopra Porta, Florence: the opening rubric identifies the manuscript as having been written for the 'ecclesie s[an]c[t]e marie supra porta de florentia'. The church, now a library, stands near the site of the south gate of Florence's Carolingian city walls. In 1410 the church came under the patronage of the Parte Guelfa and in 1456 it lost its role as a Collegiate Church and became an oratory. It was probably then that it was rededicated to S. Biagio. It was suppressed in 1785, its frescoes mostly destroyed and its furnishings dispersed. These included the three stones from the Holy Sepulchre that had been brought back from the first Crusade and were originally used to start the fire for the Easter Sunday celebration of the Fuocco del Carro. With the deconsecration of the church they, along with other liturgical objects, were moved to SS. Apostoli. These included an Antiphonal, described as 1st half of the 15th century, and probably from the same series as the present manuscript, which remained at SS. Apostoli until the middle of the 20th century: W. & E. Paatz, Die Kirchen von Florenz, 1940-54, pp.367-377.
2. George Clifford Thomas: his 1902 bookplate inside upper cover.
3. Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass.
Antiphonal from Advent to the end of Lent ff.1-212v; a near-contempoary added leaf with further versicles and responsories ff.213r&v.
The opening rubric identifies the manuscript as the first volume in a set: 'Incipit primum volumen antiphonaru nocturni'.
The splendid and imposing initials of this volume are clearly attributable to an artist working within the stylistic conventions often, rather imprecisely, called 'Scuola degli Angeli', after the Camaldolese monastery, Sta Maria degli Angeli, onetime house of Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci and Lorenzo Monaco. The strong, lush colours and the range of decorative elements -- elegant attenuated acanthus, moulding bands, beads and penwork -- are exactly those of the choirbooks produced for Sta Maria Nuova that have been associated with payments of 1411 and 1413 to Bartolommeo di Fruosino and Lorenzo Monaco : L. Kanter etc, Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence 1300-1450, 1994, pp.289-293 & 308-310. Not only the foliage, colours and decoration, but the heads within the leaf-curls on fol.2v present striking similarities with Lorenzo Monaco's Trinity initial (Paris, Musée Marmottan, Wildenstein Coll.). While Don Lorenzo's liquid folds and soft modulation of tone also seem to be reflected in the drapery style, the present choirbook cannot be attributed to him. This illuminator should perhaps be sought among those who, like Bartolommeo di Fruosino and Matteo Torelli, worked on projects that involved Don Lorenzo and were susceptible to his influence.
The two large historiated initials are: a kneeling prophet looking up and seeing the approach of God, opening the responsory for matins on Advent Sunday, Aspiciens a longe f.2v; the swaddled Christ Child blessing and adored by angels, opening the responsory for Christmas, Hodie nobis celorum f.53v.