St Paul, in an initial on a leaf from a vast Gradual, in Latin [Northern Italy (Lombardy, perhaps Milan), late 15th century (c.1480–90)]
Parchment, a single leaf, c.560×340mm, with five lines of text and music in square notation on four-line red staves, the illuminated initial “S” opening the introit “Scio cui credidi et certus …” for the feast of the Conversion of St Paul (25 January), depicting St Paul, shown half length, holding a book and a sword, wearing a blue-lined green cloak over a red tunic, its hem lettered “VENIAS” in white; contemporary foliation “lxi” in red, the reverse with one decorated initial in blue with red penwork decoration; some creases and cockling, and the ink has eaten through the parchment is a few places, but not affecting the decoration.
Sotheby’s, 7 December 2010, lot 8.
The style of the illuminator has in the past been compared the work of the Master of the Graduals of San Salvatore at Pavia, christened by Pier Luigi Mulas after the illuminations in two surviving graduals from a series of choir books for that Benedictine monastery (see ‘Le Maître des Graduels de San Salvatore de Pavie’, in Quand la peinture était dans les livres, 2007, pp. 223–33, and ‘I Corali di San Sisto’, in I corali benedettini di San Sisto a Piacenza, 2011, pp. 45–66). While there is some similarity, this comparison is not very close. Our St Paul has a rather flat, long, face, an impression strengthened by his long tapering beard, unlike the Pavia master, whose faces tend to have more prominent cheekbones.