Don Simone Camaldolese (active 1379-1405) and Workshop
This unusual leaf with a large initial 'R' depicts the Empty Tomb following Christ's resurrection. It is newly attributed to Don Simone Camaldolese and workshop, one of the most famous illuminators of late fourteenth-century Florence. The colorful and contrasting foliates with gold leaf, black ground with delicate plants, and the carefully modeled tomb closely compare to initials painted in Choir Books well-documented in the decade before 1400, at a time when the next generation of Florentine illuminators was training under Don Simone's gaze, including Lorenzo Monaco.
Such richly decorated initials for the Resurrexi introit for Easter Sunday more often depict the Resurrection with Christ standing over sleeping Roman soldiers or the Three Mary's at the Empty Tomb. The present miniature depicts neither, instead showing a closed tomb at bottom and an open tomb in the upper loop of the initial 'R', an intriguing and reductive composition. The dark ground with grasses and the gently upward-sloping loop of the initial closely recalls a miniature with the Resurrection signed and dated 1388 by Don Simone Camaldolese, formerly in the Bernard Breslauer Collection (Kanter, et al, 1994, cat. 21). The pigments and extensive use of so-called mosaic gold in the background of the present initial suggests a slightly later date, more or less contemporary to a two-volume Gradual of around 1390 attributed to Don Simone and workshop, at the Newberry Library, Chicago (MS 74; Kanter, et al, 1994, cat. 24). Compared to the Newberry Gradual, the present leaf is smaller and with narrower margins. Further research is needed to identify the parent manuscript.
The leaf is lined with six staves of notation, the top three with blue and red initials with penwork decoration, written in a rotunda script in brown ink, numbered "LV" at the top of the sheet. The three-line initial 'R' with the introit Resurrexi et ad huc tecum is decorated with brightly colored foliates and gold leaf, with mosaic gold background heavily outlined in black and a light maroon frame. The reverse continues the text for the introit, with a blue initial 'D' opening the following chant, Domine probasti me, ending incomplete, "…et resurrectionem me[…]." Some minor losses of paint and some rubbing to pigments and gold leaf, with pencil marks in places, and some original defects to the parchment.
Private Collection, USA, 1950s or 1960s (from labels on back of frame)
Unpublished. For comparisons, see: Mirella Levi D'Ancona, The Illuminators and Illuminations of the Choir Books from Santa Maria degli Angeli and Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, 1994, vol. 1, pp. 25-32; Gaudenz Freuler, Tendencies of Gothic in Florence: Don Silvestro Dei Gherarducci (A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, ed. Miklós Boskovits, IV, vol. 7, part 2), 1997; Gaudenz Freuler, Lorenzo Monaco dalla Tradizione Giottesca al Rinascimento, 2006, p. 138; Laurence Kanter, et al, Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence, 1300-1450.