GIOVAN PIETRO BIRAGO
(active in Brescia, Venice, and Milan from c. 1460s to 1513)
Trinity (164 x 175 mm.)
Italy, Brescia, 1469-1486
Securely attributed to Giovan Pietro Birago, the celebrated Lombard illuminator who was a priest from Brescia, this cutting comes from one of the Choir Books completed for the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore de Dom in Brescia between 1469 and 1486 (Brescia, Pinacoteca Tosio-Martinengo). In 1471, Birago signed and dated miniatures in three of these Choir Books, which makes them unique documents of his earliest style. The Trinity shares characteristics with his early signed miniatures and anticipates his later Lombard creations: it presents a robust figure of God the Father holding Christ on the cross surrounded by red-faced cherubim and a subtly modulated blue sky. The ensemble reveals Birago’s exquisite decorative vocabulary, his predilection for vibrant contrasting shades of rose, green, blue, and red, his rich ornament, and his delicate tooling in swirling patterns in the gold leaf around the initial.