ASCENSION OF CHRIST, beside an initial I, cut from a Choirbook, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
122 x 107mm. The Virgin and six Apostles gaze up at Christ, who rises to heaven in an unusually animated profile pose. The composition was originated by the Master of the Vitae Imperatorum, active in Milan c.1430-1450, in the larger area offered by an initial P (Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, n.1963.33). For the present initial, an associated illuminator has achieved a greater immediacy by cutting the watching figures to accommodate them beside the letter I: A. Melograni, 'Miniature inedite del Quattrocento lombardo nelle collezioni americane', Storia dell'Arte, 1994, pp.283-302, figs 5 and 6. The letter, in the form of a tower, is more typical of the Master of the Franciscan Breviary, based in Milan c.1440-1460.
This striking example of Milanese illumination of the mid-15th century was in the Holford Collection, R.H. Benson, The Holford Collection, Dorchester House, 1927, I, pp.2, 7, pl.III, formed by Robert Stayner Holford (1808-1892), most of whose cuttings came from William Young Ottley (1771-1836); this was possibly lot 23 in the Ottley Sale, Sotheby's, London, 16 May 1838. The collection passed to his son, Sir George Holford (1860-1926): lot 8 to Tancred Borenius (1885-1948) at the Holford Sale, Sotheby's, London, 12 July 1927.