JACOB SETTING UP THE PILLAR AT BETHEL, initial 'T' cut from a choirbook, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[southern Germany, late 15th century]
142 x 160mm overall. In a hilly landscape Jacob holds a flat stone upright and pours oil over it from an elaborate metalwork container, all within a blue initial with scrolling white foliate decoration and a burnished gold ground, on the verso 2 four-line staves with hufnagelschrift neumes and 2 lines of text (crease and small loss of gold at top left of ground and stave).
After his dream of a ladder with God at its head promising the land to him and his descendants, Jacob raised and anointed one of the stones that he had used as a pillow to be a sacred pillar marking the place as God's house. The subject serves here to illustrate the opening of the Feast for the Dedication of a Church, probably the initial of the introit 'Terribilis est locus' from a Gradual. This feast is more customarily introduced by an initial simply showing a church or an altar rather than a narrative scene.
This is an attractive initial of a most unusual subject.