This very large initial “T” comes from a monumental Gradual commissioned by King Louis XII of France (r. 1498-1515) and his wife Anne of Brittany, whom he married in 1499 and who died in 1514, most likely during the early years of their reign. It would have introduced the Introit of the Feast of the Dedication of a Church that begins with “Terribilis est locus iste…,” as is demonstrated by the comparison of an initial of the same subject in the Gradual of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, illuminated a few years later by the same artist, the Master of the Parisian Entries (Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, BM, MS 74, f. 338: fig. 1; see Delaunay 2008).

The initial depicts the latest part of the complex ceremony of the dedication, by which a newly built church would become a sacred space. The bishop would sprinkle holy water on the internal and external walls of the church, knock thrice at the doors, inscribe the Greek and Latin alphabets in two lines of ashes on the floor of the church in the form of a cross of St. Andrew, consecrate the altar, and finally anoint the walls of the church with chrism. This initial represents the latter, and most iconic part of the dedication: the bishop is seen on a ladder in the nave of a church, before the choir screen, anointing one of the consecration crosses. These crosses were to be painted beforehand, with twelve crosses in circles being placed at equal distances on the four internal walls of the church, with branches for candles above them. These were meant to drive the devils out of God’s place, to proclaim Christ’s triumph, and to represent the twelve apostles.

The distinctive size and decoration of the initial, as well as the two lines of text in a large Gothic liturgical hand, with musical notation on a red four-line stave on the reverse, allow for its identification with a series of cuttings from a huge Choir Book commissioned by King Louis XII and Queen Anne of Brittany, scattered across several major public collections (De Hamel 2010; see below for an updated list). Most characteristic of the series is the consistent illumination of the historiated letter itself in dark blue with light blue panels terminating in red swirls, heightened with white penwork, with red, blue, and vivid green ivy leaves on brightly burnished gold ground in the corners. In 1860, Antoine Leroux de Lincy recorded that this splendid Choir Book, filled with the arms of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany, had been broken up some twenty years earlier, c. 1840, with cuttings then in the collections of A. Firmin-Didot (1790-1876), L. Curmer (1801-1870), and C. Sauvageot (1781-1860). The devotion to the Crown of Thorns, illustrated in the Nantes initial (fig. 3), suggests that this royal Choir Book had been made for the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris (Girault 2013, p. 103). 

Most of the fragments with borders include the crowned royal arms of France, the initials ‘A’ (Anne) and ‘L’ (Louis), as well as the ermine of Brittany (Anne’s emblem). The manuscript was made after their marriage in January 1499, but the exact date of the commission remains difficult to assess. A complete leaf belonging to Wellesley College includes the crowned royal arms of France quartering Milan that may allude to the time when Louis XII was both King of France and Duke of Milan (6 Sept. 1499-5 Feb. 1500). On the other hand, the leaf in the Morgan Library and Museum (MS M.1199: fig. 2) shows the arms of France quartering Orleans, which were used by Louis when he was still Duke of Orléans, hence before his accession on 7 April 1498. This opulent manuscript was probably being decorated in the very early years of Louis XII’s reign, and the heraldry was likely meant to provide a compendium of the royal couple’s previous heraldry (Herman 2020).

A great number of Parisian artists were involved in the decoration of this monument of Parisian illumination, such as Jean Pichore, the Master of the Parisian Entries, and the Master of Philippe of Guelders (Cousseau 2016, pp. 75-80). This initial can be securely attributed to the Master of the Parisian Entries, identified with Jean Coene IV, who contributed most of the known historiated initials of the volume. These include the only complete leaf with a historiated initial of the Levitation of Mary Magdalene (Master of the Parisian Entries, New York, Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.1199: fig. 2), the initial with Louis XII and Anne of Brittany in Prayer, before the Crown of Thorns (Master of the Parisian Entries, Nantes, Musée Dobrée, acquired from Les Enluminures: fig. 3; see Girault 2013), the initial with a Noli me Tangere (London, Sotheby’s, 10 December 1996, lot 25), and the initial with Mary Magdalene in Penitence (London, Sotheby’s, 8 July 1974, lot 28). These were probably among the first of the many royal commissions that Jean Coene IV was to receive throughout his long career. In all likelihood, the royal Choir Book had been commissioned from a Paris stationer, who would have divided the daunting task of its decoration between the most important Parisian illuminators of the time.

Jean Coene IV often collaborated with Jean Pichore and his workshop, who were also involved in the decoration of this Gradual (Annunciation, Les Enluminures; Creation of Eve, London, Sotheby’s, 8 July 1974, lot 26; Louis XII healing the Sick,partially repainted, Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Marlay Cutting Fr. 16a: fig. 4). Most characteristic of his distinctive style are the thick black outline of his figures, their puffy eyes dotted with white, and pronounced red lips. This initial demonstrates a careful finish that is found only in his most important commissions (e.g., Master of the Parisian Entries, Paris, BnF, MS fr. 14116: fig. 5). The bishop’s skin is carefully modeled, his facial features drawn in black with a narrow brush, and heightened with red. This clear and harmonious composition is based on the softly-balanced combination of the white, lilac, and light blue garments of the altar boys, which folds, subtly accentuated by thin black lines, indicate the work of a deft hand.

A prolific artist active in Paris under Kings Louis XII (1498-1515) and François I (1515-1547), the Master of the Parisian Entries was first named after a manuscript recording the royal entry of Mary Tudor in 1514, second wife to Louis XII (London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian MS B II), and another devoted to the Sacre, couronnement, triomphe et entrée de la reine et duchesse Madame Claude de France in 1517, first wife to François I (Paris, BnF, MS fr. 5750; fr. 14116: fig. 5). A group of thirty manuscript copies of Pierre Choque’s Commemoration et advertissement de la mort d’Anne, reine de France, illuminated soon after of Anne of Brittany’s funerals in 1514, demonstrates the capacity of his workshop to produce a great number of manuscripts in a short period of time (Delaunay 2008; Avril 2011). The Master of the Parisian Entries was identified with Jean Coene IV in 1997 by Eberhard König on the basis of an inscribed painted frame in the Crucifixion of a Missal that purportedly reads “De Jos Coene” (König 1997, p. 320). Jean Coene IV would have belonged to a well-known family of Bruges artists that had settled in Paris in the early fifteenth century.


  1. This initial was part of the Gradual of King Louis XII of France (r. 1498-1515) and his wife Anne of Brittany (d. 1514), commissioned in the early years of his reign from several illuminators active in Paris, most likely for the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris (see above).
  2. Antoine Leroux de Lincy writes in 1860 (Leroux de Lincy 1860, vol. 2, p. 86) that this manuscript had been broken up some twenty years earlier, around 1840, most likely in Paris, with cuttings then in the collections of Ambroise Firmin-Didot (1790-1876), Léon Curmer (1801-1870), and Charles Sauvageot (1781-1860).
  3. Anatole France (1844-1924), a French novelist and essayist, the son of a bookseller, a bibliophile and art collector himself, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921; his sale, Paris, Drouot, 20-21 April 1932, lot 56, as recorded by a label pasted on the reverse of the frame.

Sister leaves

Complete leaves:

Leaf with the Levitation of Mary Magdalene in an initial ‘G’, foliated f. 27,  685 x 515 mm (New York, Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.1199);

Leaf with decorated initials, foliated f. 81, 657 x 495 mm (Wellesley College, Massachussets, MS 6). 

Historiated initials:

Adoration of the Child, initial ‘O’ (Paris, 14 April 1910, Georges Hoentschel sale);

Adoration of the Magi, initial ‘E’, 175 x 170 mm (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Marlay Cutting Fr. 15);

All Confessors, initial ‘S’, 220 x 216 mm(Maggs Bros, 2015);

Annunciation, initial ‘R’, 205 x 210 mm (Les Enluminures);

Communion of St. Denis, initial ‘C’, 175 x 160 mm (London, Christie’s, 9 December 2020, lot 7);

Creation of Eve, initial ‘G’, 195 x 220 mm (Sotheby’s, 8 July 1974, lot 26);

Last Supper, initial ‘S’, 300 x 300 mm (Paris, 13 June 1884, lot 78, Ambroise Firmin-Didot sale);

Louis XII healing the sick, initial ‘S’, 168 x 183 mm (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Marlay Cutting Fr. 16a);

Louis XII and Anne of Brittany in Prayer before the Crown of Thorns, initial ‘G’, 208 x 192 mm (Nantes, Musée Dobrée, inv. 994.3.1, acquired from Les Enluminures);

Mary Magdalen in Penitence, initial ‘C’, 200 x 212 mm(Sotheby’s, 8 July 1974, lot 28);

Noli me Tangere, initial ‘S’, 200 x 220 mm (Sotheby’s, 10 December 1996, lot 25);

Pentecost, initial ‘S’, 305 x 330 mm (Paris, 13 June 1884, lot 78, Ambroise Firmin-Didot sale);

Presentation to the Temple, initial ‘S’, 170 x 160 mm (Evreux, Musée d’Art, inv. 8100);

Trinity, initial ‘B’, 205 x 227 mm (Sotheby’s, 8 July 1974, lot 29).

Cuttings with borders or decorated initials:

Lower corner of a leaf, 268 x 300 mm (London, Sotheby’s, 2 July 2013, lot 7);

Upper corner of a leaf, foliated f. 119 (Philadelphia, Free Library, Lewis T 659);

Left and lower borders of a leaf, 333 x 285 mm (Tours, BM, 2273 C);

Left border of a leaf, with a decorated initial, 532 x 185 mm (Paris, Binoche & Giquello, 6 June 2018, lot 4);

Five strips of borders (Bloomington, Indiana University, Lilly Library, Ricketts 107);

Five strips of borders (Paris, Bibliothèque de l’École des Beaux-Arts, Mn.Mas. 141);

Six decorated initials, each c. 90 x 100 mm (London, Sotheby’s, 3 December 2013, lot 15).


F. Avril, “Deux miniatures découpées,” Les Enluminures du Louvre. Moyen Âge et Renaissance, ed. F. Avril, D. Cordellier, and N. Reynaud, Paris, 2011, no. 118-119, pp. 225. 

M.-B. Cousseau, Étienne Colaud et l’enluminure parisienne sous le règne de François Ier, Tours/Rennes, 2016.

C. De Hamel, Gilding the Lilly: A Hundred Medieval and Illuminated Manuscripts in the Lilly Library, Bloomington, 2010.

I. Delaunay, “Le Maître des Entrées Parisiennes,” in “Le Graduel de Saint-Dié,” Art de l’Enluminure 26 (2008), pp. 52-70.

P.-G. Girault, “Louis XII et Anne de Bretagne en prière devant la Couronne d’épines,” in Trésors enluminés des Musées de France. Pays de la Loire et Centre, 2013, no. 19, pp. 100-103.

E. König, Boccacio und Petrarca in Paris. Leuchtendes Mittelalter, Neue Folge 1, Ramsen, 1997.

A. Leroux de Lincy, Vie de la Reine Anne de Bretagne, femme des rois de France Charles VIII et Louis XII, suivie de lettres inédites et de documents originaux, Paris, 1860, vol. 2, p. 86.

Online Resources

N. Herman, “Louis + Anne Forever,” Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis, 20 March 2020:


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