THE MASTER OF S. MICHELE OF MURANO, YOUNG MALE SAINT ? ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST - LARGE HISTORIATED INITIAL CUT FROM AN ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT CHOIRBOOK ON VELLUM
[Veneto, c. 1440]
120 x 95mm. The young, blond saint has his arms crossed in adoration as he looks upwards to a blue nimbus in the upper right corner, his robe is white with a green lining and his mantle is blue lined with orange, the background is highly burnished gold, the initial staves (very trimmed) of blue with white decoration have small leaf terminals of pale green and pink and an inner frame of ochre, on the verso text in a gothic bookhand between music of square notation on a 4-line stave of red is mostly obscured by pasted-down paper, window mounted on card.
This fine initial is from the same choirbook or series of choirbooks, and is the work of the same illuminator as a group of cuttings that were attributed to Belbello da Pavia by Mario Salmi and M. Levi d'Ancona. The artist was subsequently regarded as a follower of Belbello who worked in the Veneto, where he painted an Antiphonal now in Berlin (Dahlem, Kupferstichkabinett, cod. 78 F1) as well as the splendid choirbook from which the present initial came. William Young Ottley appears to have brought the cuttings into England from the Camaldolese Monastery of St. Michele on the Island of Murano, after which the illuminator has been named. Recently the question of identifying this Master with the young Belbello da Pavia has been raised again.
M. Levi D'Ancona, The Wildenstein Collection of Illuminations: The Lombard School, Florence, 1970, pls IV-XII & XIV.
Arte in Lombardia tra Gotico e Rinascimento, exhibition catalogue, Milan, 1988, pp. 104-108.