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Description

This small but vibrantly illuminated leaf comes from a German Prayer Book or Book of Hours. Saint Wolfgang, a bishop and patron saint of Regensburg, is shown on a wide seat in colorful robes and mitre and holding a crozier and axe. The borders are brightly painted in green, red, and blue and touched with white.

Saint Wolfgang is popularly depicted in relief sculpture and altarpieces from Swabia around 1500. The axe, the saint’s most identifiable attribute, refers to the legend in which Wolfgang threw an axe into the woods to fix the site on which he would build a new monastery.

The present miniature most likely derives from a print. Wolfgang’s wide seat resembles a cathedra, or bishop’s throne, an element also found in widely-circulated woodcuts. A woodcut dated to 1488, for example, combines the throne with a tiny image of a cathedral, following a similar tradition (Illustrated Bartsch, vol. 86, 8688.1488). The reverse is ruled for 16 lines, with part of a prayer ending “…hilff lassen beraust werden.” The remainder is inscribed with a versicle “Dit fur uns den herren…bischoff sandt Wolfgang” and rubric for a collect.

Literature:

Unpublished. On Southern German altarpieces with Saint Wolfgang, see John O. Hand, German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries, Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, 1993, pp. 187 and 192.

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