TWENTY FULL-PAGE MINIATURES, on ten leaves from a devotional book, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
78 x 52mm (average). Each scene in a fictive picture frame in brown and liquid gold.
A SET OF ITALIAN MINIATURES OF GREAT REFINEMENT AND DELICACY
THE ANNUNCIATION with Gabriel on a cloud borne by cherubs appearing to the kneeling Virgin, God the Father sending the Dove above; on the verso, THE ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS with two shepherds offering lambs to the Christ Child, who lies on a rock with the Virgin, Joseph and angels behind.
THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI with the Kings saluting Christ, seated on the Virgin's knee, Joseph behind, camels and servants waiting; on the verso, THE PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE Simeon behind the altar and Anna kneeling in front recognising the Messiah in the Virgin's arms, Joseph behind.
THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN with an angel showing the Cross to the kneeling Christ, the three Apostles sleeping below; on the verso, THE BETRAYAL AND ARREST OF CHRIST, surrounded by soldiers, Judas kissing Christ, Peter attacking the High Priest's servant in the foreground.
THE CROWNING WITH THORNS with four men forcing the thorns into the head of Christ, draped with the scarlet robe, a kneeling man placing the reed sceptre in his hand; on the verso, THE FLAGELLATION with Christ tied to the column, being beaten by three men, while a fourth reties his birch.
CHRIST SHOWN TO THE PEOPLE at an upper loggia, the crowd mostly of soldiers bearing the crosses, with a naked boy at the centre and two Jews to the right; on the verso, THE CARRYING OF THE CROSS, Veronica holding out her veil to Christ, brought to his knees by the weight of the Cross, escorted by soldiers, two on camels.
THE CRUCIFXION with the Magdalen embracing the foot of the Cross, flanked by the Virgin and St John the Evangelist; on the verso, THE DEPOSITION with the Virgin, John and a Mary watching the lowering of Christ's body.
THE SORROWFUL VIRGIN, walking through a landscape, perhaps as she leaves Christ's tomb; on the verso, THE PENITENT MAGDALEN, holding her ointment pot before her rocky hermitage.
ST CATHERINE, in a landscape, holding her martyr's palm and a section of her wheel, the sword of her martyrdom at her feet; on the verso, ST MARTHA, in a landscape, with the Holy Water with which she quelled the dragon of Tarascon, shown as a roped devil.
ST BARBARA, in a landscape, with her martyr's palm and symbol of the tower; on the verso, ST DOMINIC with his 'hound of the lord', domini canis, and lily of purity.
ST JEROME, penitent in the desert, beating his breast before a Crucifix, watched by his lion; on the verso, ST JOHN THE BAPTIST standing in profile in the wilderness, making the pointing gesture symbolic of his recognition of Christ.
Each leaf cut round the frame and fixed recto uppermost onto a window mount, surrounded by a framing line; the mount around the verso painted with an additional frame in liquid gold, to compensate for the area of original frame hidden by the mount, and surrounded by a framing line (small losses of blue pigment in seven scenes, slight smudging to two original frames). Framed, double-sided.
With paintings on both sides, the leaves were probably intended to be bound in a book, presumably opposite short texts on the facing versos or rectos. These miniatures could constitute the whole, or a part, of the original sequence. They are painted with exquisite refinement and delicacy in a carefully harmonised colour scheme dominated by red, pink, purple and blue, enhanced by tiny strokes of liquid gold for highlights, haloes and details. The artist appears to have worked in Rome but his wide-ranging sources make it difficult to establish his identity.
Prints provided many of his patterns and the miniatures must date from after 1568, the date on the engraving by Cornelis Cort after Federico Zuccaro that was followed for the Presentation. St Barbara is a more decently clad version of Raphael's Peace, engraved by Marcantonio Rainmondi, whose St Martha is virtually copied; the Flagellation combines elements from two prints by Adamo Ghisi. The biggest single debt is to Dürer's woodcut series of the Small Passion, issued in 1511 with accompanying devotional texts: this was the source, in whole or in part, for the Agony in the Garden, the Betrayal, the Crowning with Thorns, Christ shown to the People, and the Deposition (see The Illustrated Bartsch, LII no 51, XXVII no 393, XXVI no 182, XXXII nos 1-2, X pp.256-319).
First recorded in vellum mounts bound in modern red morocco with the bookplate of Adolph Lewisohn, New York; Esther Rosenbaum, Chicago and New York; Sotheby's, London, 25 April 1983, lot 218; Arturo Pregliasco, Miniatura Gotico-Rinascimentale, Turin, 1984, no 32; Voelkle and Wieck, nos 94-103. (10)