MASS BOOK, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM, [north-eastern Italy, second quarter 15th century]
133 x 93mm. 134 leaves. TWO- LINE INITIALS alternately red or blue with flamboyant penwork flourishing in the other colour extending into upper and lower margins and often featuring birds, beasts and putti; SEVEN HISTORIATED INTIALS in green or red on burnished gold grounds surrounded by three-sided borders with acanthus, bezants, birds, beasts and putti; ONE QUARTER-PAGE MINIATURE depicting the Crucifixion, (lacking Mass of the Dead, some cropping, resulting in small losses to the tops of the pages, scattered marginal spotting, occasional pigment loss, text faded in places). Green blind-stamped morocco gilt.
Collection of votive masses: of the Holy Spirit, Corpus Christi, Trinity, Dedication St Michael, Holy Cross, Blessed Virgin, Commemoration of the Virgin from Advent to the Nativity, ff.1-43v; Gradual Psalms ff.44-47v; a sequence of prayers opening with prayer on rising ff.48-88v; the Canon of the Mass ff.91-120; prayers to be said for 'quas missas in offitio vel libro isto continetur' (from these it is clear that the manuscript originally opened with a Mass of the Dead, now lacking) ff.120-22; Common of Saints, ending with Masses for the Dedication of the Church, Pilgrims and Sinners ff.122v-134.
The border forms, especially the vibrantly depicted multi-coloured birds, evoke the early manner of the Venetian Cristoforo Cortese (fl. 1399-before 1445), as seen in a 1397 copy of Michele Angriani's Lectura super psalterio in the Biblioteca Universitaria, Padua (MS.692). One of Italy’s most significant illuminators of the first half of the century, Cortese was a prolific artist whose influence is noted throughout Venice and the Veneto. Parallels for foliate details in the present borders appear in secular texts illuminated in the mid-century Veneto (Cod. Lat. IX, 6, & VI, 160) at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice. The simple rendering of facial features and figures in the historiated initial pages is also seen in the single Crucifixion miniature. THIS IS A CHARMING EXAMPLE OF FIFTEENTH-CENTURY NORTH-EASTERN ITALIAN ILLUMINATION.