ST DOMINIC RECEIVING THE RULE, historiated initial I on a leaf from an ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT CHOIRBOOK ON VELLUM
[Umbria or southern Italy, late 13th century]
445 x 330mm (leaf), 240 x 70mm (initial). St Dominic stands before an altar surmounted by an elaborate gold cross, holding and pointing to a book containing the rule of the monastic order he will found. He looks up to the hand of God blessing from above and, in turn, is watched by a throng of Dominican friars sitting and standing below; rubrics and six lines of text written in a gothic textura hand, between music of square notation on six four-line staves ruled in red, large initial I of red and brown penwork and on the verso, a red initial I with blue penwork and a large pen-flourished initial (two figures in niches on tower later additions, creasing and some abrasion to surface, particularly affecting lower right where last line of text and music re-inked).
The initial opens the introit In medio ecclesie for the Mass for the Feast of St Dominic (5 August during the Middle Ages) in a Gradual, of which this leaf was paginated 126-127 and 62-63 in brown ink. St Dominic (1170-1221), a Spaniard, gained papal approval for his order from Innocent III in 1216 and this leaf was likely produced within a century of the event, presumably in a choirbook for use in a Dominican convent.
The style of the figures, linear treatment of the drapery, white filigree ornament, architectural decoration and the pen-flourished initial recall an initial I with the Translation of the Body of St Dominic (24 May) on a detached leaf, also from a Gradual, in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio (Ms. 43.10) which has been linked stylistically to a group of illuminated leaves from a lost Gradual decorated by a number of artists of a single workshop in Umbria or Swabian southern Italy, and dated to the end of the 13th century (P. Palladino, Treasures of a Lost Art: Italian Manuscript Painting of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, 2003, no 3). The style of these leaves has been compared to southern Italian manuscripts of the second half of the 13th century in the milieu of the Manfredi Bible (Vatican City, BAV, Vat. Lat. 36). While the present leaf, having been cropped, is slightly smaller than those discussed by Palladino, its liturgy, decoration, stave measurement of 29mm and double pagination identify it as detached from the same manuscript.
A fragment with an initial D of the Calling of Sts Andrew and Peter, sold in these rooms, 4 June 2003, lot 5, should also be recognised as part of the same Gradual.