CHRIST DESCENDING FROM THE MOUNTAIN AFTER THE TRANSFIGURATION in an initial V cut from an Antiphonal, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Sillaro, Lombardy, c.1500]
164 x 177mm. The initial is presumably from the antiphon for the Transfiguration: Visionem. Christ's scroll bears part of the quotation from Matthew XVII, on which it is based: nemini dixeritis visionem, His command not to speak of the vision until after the Resurrection. The scene conflates two further episodes after the Transfiguration as Christ touches the three apostles, here James rather than Peter or John and they look up to see Him, now alone. The convincing figures, the refined modelling, in paint and liquid gold, and the evocative landscape show this to be a particularly fine work by the Master B.F., who initialled some of the illuminations cut from the choirbooks of the Olivetan monastery of SS Angelo e Niccolò, Villanova Sillaro near Lodi, the likely source of this initial. Over twenty choirbooks were dismembered after the monastery's suppression in 1799 and cuttings are widely dispersed. This initial is not listed in the catalogue of B.F.'s work by M. Levi d'Ancona, The Wildenstein Collection of Italian Illuminations, the Lombard School, 1970, pp.97-105. It was in the famous collection of William Young Ottley (1771-1836), lot 90 in his sale, Sotheby's, London, 16 May 1838, to Rodd, and then in the collection of Lord Northwick (1770-1859), his sale, Sotheby's, London, 16 November 1925, lot 108. The Master was characterised by the astute Ottley as 'an artist of great power who had studied in the school of Leonardo da Vinci' and the influence of Leonardo's Milanese work of the 1480s is evident in the framing of the figures by the mountain and in the tonal range of their draperies. B.F. is sometimes identified with Francesco Binasco, court illuminator and goldsmith to the Duke of Milan documented from 1513-1535 (some losses from gold surround). Framed.