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Description

This colorful initial depicts the Circumcision of Christ, with Mary holding the baby Jesus on a golden altar and with Joseph grasping a blade (as mohel), with two other figures standing behind, all set within the apse of small chapel. The initial, most likely a ‘Q’ (but possibly ‘O’ or ‘D’), is decorated with leafy acanthus in shades of green and set in a square border with gold ground.

Taken from a choir book illuminated around 1400 to 1420, this miniature can be attributed to the circle of the Prague Hexameron workshop, named for a copy of Ambrose’s Hexameron from 1420 in the cathedral library of St. Vitus in Prague (A 131). The style and vivid pastel colors are simlar to a group of seven initials from an antiphonal now in Münster (Westfälische Landesmuseum, EM 40.1-7) attributed to a subgroup of the Prague Hexameron workshop. Probably also from this group and with a similar composition of figures the present miniature is a cutting with the Presentation in the Temple, published in 1929 by Swarzenski and Schilling (and noted in Suckale 1990). This subgroup was established in Poland after fleeing the capital city of Prague in the tumult of the Hussite Wars. However, the style and heavily modeled drapery of the present miniature suggest it is more likely from a choir book illuminated in Prague in the decades before 1420.

The parchment cutting is lined in red with fragments of music notation and text in brown ink. Mounted to a paper support, the initial is cut unevenly on the right side. The miniature with minor surface abrasions and isolated losses of pigment, and overall in good condition.

We are grateful to Dr. Maria Theisen for her expertise.

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