4 June 2003
NATIVITY, in an initial H cut from an ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ANTIPHONAL ON VELLUM
235 x 205mm. The Virgin and Joseph kneel in adoration before the manger holding the Infant Christ, the Ox and Ass stand behind, within an initial with staves of orange and green with foliage of mid- and light blue, pink and mosaic gold, against a ground of burnished gold and silver (foliage trimmed, fine scratch from centre of background to outer edge, small creases in burnished gold, silver oxidised). On the reverse three lines of text and music of square notation on a four-line stave of red, a large blue initial flourished red. Cut-to-shape, mounted and framed.
This initial opened the responsory Hodie nobis celorum rex for matins on Christmas Day.
THIS SPLENDID INITIAL IS A FINE EXAMPLE OF THE LATE STYLE OF DON SIMONE CAMALDOLESE, one of the leading illuminators in Florence in the final decades of the 14th century. Although he was originally from Siena -- and his earliest works show the clear influence of Sienese artists of the preceding generation -- an unusual number of signed, documented or dated works attributable to him have survived and chart his career between 1379 and 1398 illuminating manuscripts for various Florentine monasteries and churches. The contained simplicity of his forms and the weighty immobility of his figures, evident in this initial, distinguish his style from that of his fellow Camaldolese illuminators, Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci and Lorenzo Monaco, who were resident in S. Maria degli Angeli, an important centre of manuscript production in Florence. Notwithstanding these differences in style it has been suggested that Lorenzo Monaco's early training may have been with Don Simone. L. Kanter in Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence 1300-1450, 1994, pp.187-217.
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