19 
48

Description

From a Choir Book, this miniature depicts Gabriel kneeling in an arid landscape, the dove of the Holy Spirit above him, and approaching the kneeling Virgin, her hands clasped in prayer.  The initial is composed of pin and salmon sculptural forms with terminals of pink, green, and blue foliage set against a burnished gold ground.  The initial "M" likely introduces the chant that begins Missus est Gabriel angelus, of which several words can be made out on the reverse (see below).  There are a few tiny holds in the initial and one on the Virgin's robe, slight losses from the gold ground, some smudging, but generally the cutting is in very good condition.  A vellum surround extends the miniature by about an inch on all sides.  On the reverse:  [Missus est Gabriel angelus ad Mariam virginem desponsatam Joseph nuntians ei verbum] et expa [vescit] virgo de lumin[e ne timeas Maria invenisti gratiam apud dominum ecce concipies et paries et vocabitur altissimi filius].

 

Extensively published and with excellent provenance, this initial was already recognized as the work of Guglielmo Giraldi by Suida in his article of 1947. Giraldi, a favorite illuminator of Borso d'Este, duke of Ferrara, was documented working for the Este court from 1445 to 1477, and he stands out as one of the most important personalities of Renaissance book decoration. This initial perfectly exemplifies the elegance and individuality of his style. The combination of stylized architectural decoration in discordant shades of pink with more conventional Ferrarese borders, and the tall and slender figures with their placid faces and clothed in sharply modelled angular drapery are instantly recognizable as hallmarks of his style. In treatment and vocabulary this initial is especially close to those of the manuscripts (now in the Palazzo Schifanoia) that Borso d'Este had Guglielmo illuminate for the Certosa di San Cristoforo from 1462 to the mid-1470s.

 

These initials were part of a group of nineteen, all thought to be from the same Antiphonal, that were in Rahir's catalogue published in 1907. They were subsequently discussed by Suida in 1947. When in Kann's collection the nineteen were mounted on three sheets. The Annunciation was on a sheet with the St. Anne and the St. George, along with four further initials. The group included a figure of a monk identified by Suida as Benedictine.  If this was the case it may indicate that the Choir Book had been made for a Benedictine house. The third sheet from the Kann collection had three initials, a sainted Pope with two young male saints, St. Agatha and St. Sebastian (now M6103, 6104 and 6105 of the Wildenstein Collection in the Musée Marmottan, Paris). With one exception, described as the Insignia of the Passion, all of the initials contained figures of saints. The parent volume must have been a splendid and extensively illuminated Sanctoral (see London, Christie's 4 June 2008, 30, 31, 32, Annunciation no. 30, along with Saint George, now Private Collection, USA, and St. Anne).

 

Exhibited:

Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum, Mediaeval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts, 1953, no 123.


Provenance:

Rodolphe Kann (1845-1905), Paris (see E. Rahir, Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection, Objets d'art, Paris, 1907, I, no. 82; Mrs. Collis P. Huntington, widow of the railroad builder and financier, who founded the Huntington Library and Museum.

 

Literature:

G. Mariani Canova, Guglielmo Giraldi Miniatore Estense, Modena, 1995, pp.  97-110, pls 18-20; W. Suida, "Italian Miniature Paintings from the Rodolphe Kann Collection," Art in America, 35 (1947), pp. 26-29.

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