MAKING AND TASTING WINE, full-page miniature by THE SPANISH FORGER on the recto of a leaf from a 14th-century Italian Antiphonal, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
475 x 357mm (leaf); 337 x 243mm (miniature). On the right, richly dressed nobles tasting wine, to the left figures harvesting grapes and loading them into barrels borne by an ass, the middle-ground showing the picking and treading of the grapes and storing of wine in barrels, a castle in the distance, on a burnished gold ground, within a frame of ornamented bars and burnished gold, with full-page border of scrolling acanthus, sprays of naturalistic flowers, urns and gold disks; the verso with seven four-line staves ruled in red above seven lines written in a large gothic bookhand (some creasing and rubbing of gold, probably deliberate). Framed.
THE ROMANCE OF THE MIDDLE AGES -- A QUINTESSENTIAL MINIATURE BY THE SPANISH FORGER
The text Sana a[n]i[m]am mea[m] q[ui]a peccavi tibi... is the response for Prime on Monday following the first Sunday after the Octave of the Epiphany. The leaf comes from an Antiphonal, with the text and music erased from the recto.
The fine miniature is by the so-called Spanish Forger, a painter of 'medieval' miniatures and panels who was active in Paris in the years around 1900. He acquired his name c.1930 and in 1978 the Pierpont Morgan Library published a catalogue of his work (W. Voelkle with R. Wieck, The Spanish Forger, 1978, this leaf no L50). Although some entire manuscripts are attributed to him, the Forger is mainly known from leaves and cuttings painted on vellum from choirbooks. No mere copyist, he created original compositions in his own distinctive style and gave them 'authenticity' through rubbing the surface and distressing the gold to suggest centuries of use.
This large leaf allowed for a miniature on the grand scale and its source was suitably monumental: the fresco of The Drunkenness of Noah by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Campo Santo at Pisa, known to the Forger through the chromolithograph published by Paul Mantz (Les chefs-d'oeuvre de la peinture italienne, 1870, opp.p.107). Unusually, the Forger has here devised a scene of everyday life that does not illustrate a specific text or feast; it is totally inappropriate for an Antiphonal. It may have been inspired by the full-page Calendar miniatures in the Très riches heures of the Duke of Berry, where September shows grapes being harvested before the château of Saumur, an example too famous for the Forger to follow directly. His charming reinterpretation of Gozzoli evokes the innocence of the illusory Medieval Golden Age in which the nineteenth century found recreation and inspiration.
Said to have been found with with six other leaves by the Spanish Forger in an attic in the Neuilly district of Paris (Voelkle, Spanish Forger, nos L43-L44, L47-L49, L51-52); Jean-Francçois Vilain, New York; bought 1978; Voelkle and Wieck, no 14.
Preaching and Wine Making, L44, shares the same provenance and a source in the same Gozzoli fresco and is painted on a leaf from the same Antiphonal, the source of many of the Forger's leaves (Voelkle, Spanish Forger, p.75).