The Nativity, in a historiated initial P
(438 x 332 mm.; miniature c. 84 x 65 mm., excluding extensions)
Upper Rhine or Central Switzerland?, ca. 1340-60
EXCEPTIONAL LEAF WITH A TENDER DEPTICTION OF THE NATIVITY FROM UPPER RHINE
Probably from an illuminated Lectionary, the present leaf shows a seven-line historiated initial with the Nativity to introduce the first lection of the liturgy of Christmas. The colors of the washes in the initial are very subdued but harmonious. The red contours of the figures align the vivid scene with the red penwork and red outline of the body of the initial that is given in chased burnished gold. Although with some flaking, the gold initial still reveals the skilful craftsmanship of its makers. It seems that the layer of goldleaf is extremely thin and did not adhere to the grounding very well, which sadly now has affected St Joseph's halo in particular. The surrounding red penwork is very delicate and refined, as is the three-sided bar that frames the text with interspersed little round flower- and ornamental discs or medallions. While both the secondary decoration and the script appear very neat and accurate, thus speaking of very experienced hands, the figures of the Nativity-scene look a bit sketchy and archaic, which, however, is only true at first sight.