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Description

This miniature shows the Virgin Mary in a blue mantle holding out the Christ Child to the priest Simeon, shown in a distinctive red skullcap. Joseph stands behind Mary to the left of an altar decorated with a tiny Gothic triptych. The initial 'S' opens the introit Suscepimus deus misericoridam for the feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary (February 2), also known as Candlemas. The initial is decorated with scrolling white vine work and sprays of acanthus in red set on an ornate blue background.

The artist was a collaborator of the Olivetan Master, who has been identified as Girolamo da Milano, a Lombard painter working in the middle of the fifteenth century. The technique of applying thin washes of paint in a watercolor-like method is used by collaborators of Olivetan Master and also by the Master of the Vitae Imperatorum, as in a Meditationes Vitae Christi manuscript in Milan (Bibl. Trivulziana, cod. 543). Other nearly-contemporary miniatures with similar designs and techniques have been attributed to a separate collaborator of the Olivetan Master by Anna Melograni, including miniatures in New York at the Morgan Library (figure 1, MS M.558C) and Ithaca, New York, at Cornell University Library (MS B68). The softness of the modeling and the charming expressions characterize a group of five known cuttings by this artist from the same Choir Book (see list of sister leaves below). The same careful rendering of expressions with washes of color across the faces of the figures is notable in the sister leaf with the Assumption of a Female Saint in an initial 'P' (figure 2).

The miniature is cut close to the black border, the verso with fragments of four lines of text written in a Gothic rotunda in brown ink with part of a rubric in red and part of an initial in blue opening the chant Post partum virgo, with two lines inscribed "Post [partum virgo inviolata perm]a(n)sisti." The miniature with small spots of water over pigments and a line across the Virgin's blue mantle revealing some underdrawing, otherwise in good condition, the verso with remnants of paper, adhesive, and red wax from former mounts.

Sister leaves:

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, initial 'C,' Private Collection (Les Enluminures, BEL 2, no. 5)

The Birth and Naming of John the Baptist, initial 'H,' Private Collection (Les Enluminures, BEL 2, no. 6)

The Birth of the Virgin, initial 'N,' Private Collection (Les Enluminures, Catalogue 8, no. 21)

Assumption of a Female Saint (Saint Clare?), initial 'P,' Private Collection (Les Enluminures, Catalogue 10, no. 32) [figure 2]

Literature:

For comparisons see:

M. Bollati, in Biblioteca Trivulziana - Milan, Fiesole 1995, p. 96.

M. Bollati, in BEL Catalogue 2, Ridono le carte. Medieval and Renaissance Illuminations, Paris and Chicago, 1998, pp. 26-27.

M. Bollati, The Olivetan Gradual: Its Place in Fifteenth-Century Lombard Manuscript Illumination, London, 2008.

A. Melograni, "Appunti di miniatura lombarda. Ricerche sul Maestro delle Vitae Imperatorum," Storia dell'arte 70 (1990), pp. 274-314.

A. Melograni, "Miniature inedite del Quattrocento lombardo," Storia dell'arte 82 (1994), pp. 283-302.

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