Gradual title page with decorative floral border & portrait initial
Northern Italy, around 1520 (based primarily on the appearance of the portrait initial, although the musicologist Dr Jeffrey Dean disagrees with this dating and has suggested a date perhaps a century or more later, on account of the script which he feels is more likely 17th century).
This is a half-leaf from a gradual because it contains music for the Mass; antiphonaries give the chants for the Holy Office.
The chant on the verso (p. 114) is an introit, the 1stitem in the Proper of the Mass, “Dominus dixit ad me “for Midnight Mass of Christmas Day: “In nativitate domini ad missam in nocte. Introitus.”
The recto (p. 113) has the end of the gradual “Hodie scietis” and Alleluia V. “Crastina die” for Christmas Eve: “Joseph: qui sedes super Cherubim, appare coram Ephraim, Beniamin, & Manasse…”.
Decorative title page from a vast gradual. Latin manuscript on vellum with Roman Square Capitals inscription on red-ruled four-line background.3 small initials “A”, “C” and “O” with floral decor in red and green; large initial “D” on gold background with a saint or patron portrait in purple and blue; a wide border of flower garlands on a deep gold background with floral tendrils. Ornamentation in red as well as numerous floral representations in blue, yellow, orange and white with leaves in green.
Format: 46.5 x54.5 cm. Format of portrait initial: 16.5 x 15 cm. The unusual horizontal format is explained by the fact that this is the lower half of a sheet, originally about 90 x60 cm.
The right-hand side with vertical crinkly folds, with light rubbing of the coloured surface. The overall impression is of an extraordinarily decorative leaf.
The magnificent portrait initial (format: 16.5 x 15 cm) on a powdered gold background is surrounded by a narrow gold leaf frame. It shows an unidentified youth, possibly a saint without an attribute or a donor/patron figure dressed in a purple tunic and a light blue turquoise overcoat, with curly hair and fine, almost feminine facial features, executed in sepia tones.
The delicate, regular facial features with the long, thin nose, the smallmouth, the finely arched eyebrows, and above all the lush brown curls, which have been heightened with white highlights, testify to a carefully composed desegno unmistakably in the tradition of the Florentine painting school of Domenico Ghirlandaio. The nuanced shading, as well as the elegantly sculpturally conceived face, based on the sfumato technique, all tend to confirm this classification.
The initial “D” in the background is adorned with painted flowers in blue, on gold leaf. The remarkably beautiful decorative border (width: 7.5 cm), which fills the illuminated, painted background, shows lush floral tendrils in red, as well as numerous varied flowers in blue, yellow, orange and white with separate leaves in green. The recto (p.113) has the end of the gradual “Hodie scietis”and Alleluia V.”Crastinadie” for Christmas Eve: “Joseph: qui sedes super Cherubim, appare coram Ephraim, Beniamin, & Manasse…”.