DAVID IN PRAYER, historiated initial D on a leaf from an ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT CHOIRBOOK ON VELLUM
[Bologna or Ferrara, c.1440-45]
580 x 410mm (leaf), 86 x 77mm (initial only). David in three-quarter length praying to the head of God in the upper right, a blue background within a pink initial against a ground of burnished gold, a dragonhead ascender leading to marginal sprays of wheat, acanthus, golden trefoils and disks; rubrics in red; on the recto two lines of text and music of square notation on a four-line stave of red above ten lines written in black-brown ink in a round gothic bookhand, 16 lines on the verso; one-line flourish initials alternately red and blue with flourishing of the other colour; the verso with a two-line blue initial with elaborate flourishing of red, green and yellow (abrasion to the gold surfaces and small pigment losses, creases in lower quarter of initial and lower margin).
This initial, opening Psalm 81, was folio 24 in a Psalter and Hymnal. The size, format and style of illumination -- with the characteristically flamboyant borders made up of extravagant and fantastic foliage -- suggest a relationship with a manuscript made for a Franciscan convent with illumination attributed to Giovanni d'Antonio da Bologna, who was active in Emilia and Romagna between 1432 and around 1445. Leaves from this dismembered manuscript are known in various private and public collections including the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Museo Civico Amedeo Lia: A. De Floriani in, La Spezia, Museo Civico Amedeo Lia, Miniature, ed. F. Todini, 1996, pp.150-157. Two intact manuscripts, also Psalter-Hymnals (Ferrara, Museo di Schifanoia, cod. I and O), attributable to Giovanni d'Antonio, were made for the Olivetan convent of San Giorgio in Ferrara: M. Medica, La miniatura a Ferrara dal tempo di Cosmè tura all'eredità di Ercole de' Roberti, ed. F. Toniolo, 1998, pp.80-83. The present leaf may well belong to one of these two series of choirbooks; yet, with 16 lines of text on a full page it differs in format from the known Psalters, and seems likely to belong with two leaves in Venice of similar size and foliation: G. Mariani-Canova, Miniature dell'Italia settentrionale nella Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 1978, nos 62 and 63. The elaborate calligraphy of the initial on the verso of this leaf appears attributable to Guinaforte da Vimercato: he also worked on choirbooks for the Ferrarese Olivetans.