Four leaves containing five large initials, from a Gradual, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT CHOIRBOOK ON VELLUM
[northern Italy, ?Bologna, early 14th century]
505 x 350mm (average leaf size), 120 x 90mm to 80 x 65mm (initials overall), eight lines written in black ink in a gothic bookhand, between music of square notation on a four-line stave ruled in red, the final leaf with six (recto) and seven (verso) staves, the remainder with rubrics, justification: 355 x 230mm, one-line initials of red or blue with penwork in the contrasting colour, rubrics and folio nos. 19, 168, 178, 211 in red, rulings in plummet, five large initials opening the introits for mass on Christmas day, the Octave of Ascension, 1st Sunday after Easter, and the final leaf with two initials, opening the introit for the 17th Sunday (recto) and 18th Sunday (verso) after Pentecost; the intitials with staves of orange-red on dark blue grounds both decorated with white penwork, infills of interlacing foliate scrolls in light blue or shades of green, highlighted white, grounds of mauve-pink, the staves with knots and/or frondy foliate extensions in light and dark green, orange-red, and grey (some unobtrusive darkening at outer edges, some minor creasing or cockling, occasional losses of ink surface).
A very attractive group of leaves from a Gradual, with initials painted by a skilled illuminator working in the north of Italy at the beginning of the 14th century. The vivid, strong colours combined in the initials, the white penwork and the foliate extensions are characteristic of the decorative forms found in choirbooks made in Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. (4)