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Description

This enormous leaf with a grand initial 'G' depicts the Assumption of the Virgin. Carried to heaven by eight red angels, the Virgin Mary holds her hands in prayer, as do two apostles below (perhaps Saints Peter and John the Evangelist) on either side of a hilly ground, with the haloes of other apostles stacked immediately behind. A colorful border with three bands surrounds the scene, the initial 'G' decorated with acanthus and flower-like swirls, and framed in gold with leafy red and green ascenders spanning almost the entire height of the leaf.

The decoration and modeling of faces is distinctive of Jacopo da Balsemo and his workshop, known for a substantial group of Choir Books made in Bergamo in the second half of the fifteenth century. Jacopo is recorded as working on Choir Books for the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo between 1449 and 1468. The present leaf can be added to a group of seven others (see related leaves below), all of which come from a series of choir books.

The initial 'G' opens the chant Gaudeamus omnes for the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin (August 15th). The leaf is ruled with six lines of text and three staves of notation, with rubrics, written in a rotunda script in brown ink. Inscribed "LXXXV" on the recto, with later foliation "80" on the reverse (formerly the recto), and with five lines of text and four staves of notation. The leaf with some cockling and minor losses of gold, with crease lines at the top and bottom, and with a small restoration to the blue pigment inside the initial.

Related Choir Book Leaves:

God Speaking to Moses, leaf with initial 'I,' Italy, Private Collection

Christ followed by his Apostles, leaf with initial 'G,' Italy, Private Collection (G. Freuler, Italian Miniatures from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Centuries, 2013, II, nos. 83 and 84, respectively)

The Prophet Isaiah, leaf with initial 'E,' Austria, Zeileis Collection (F. G. Zeileis, "Più ridon le carte": Buchmalerei aus Mittelalter und Renaissance, Gallspach, 2004, no. 112, pp. 336-37)

King David, leaf with initial 'E,' formerly Milan, Ulrica Hoepli Collection

St. John the Evangelist, leaf with initial 'V,' Italy, La Spezia, Museo Civico Amedeo Lia (Anna De Floriani, "Bottega di Jacopo da Balsemo," in F. Todini, ed., Miniature: La Spezia, Museo Civico Amadeo Lia, Milan, 1996, no. 15, pp. 69-73)

The Adoration of the Magi, leaf with initial 'E,' Venice, Fondazione Cini, inv. No. 22101

The Massacre of the Innocents, leaf with initial 'C,' Venice, Fondazione Cini, inv. No. 22102 (M. Medica and F. Toniolo, ed., Le miniature della Fondazione Giorgio Cini: Pagine, ritagli, manoscritti, Milan, 2016, nos. 171-72, pp. 422-26, respectively)

Also related to this group are two Antiphonals in Bergamo, their miniatures excised, in the Biblioteca Radini Tedeschi, MSS 280-281.

Literature:

Unpublished; for the Choir Books made for the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo, see M. Rossi, "Cat. nos. 64-71," in M. L. Gatti Perer, ed. Codici e incunaboli miniati della Biblioteca Civica di Bergamo, Milan, 1989, pp. 168-88; see also K. Sutton, "Cat. nos. 158-9," in J. Hamburger et al, ed., Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections, Boston, 2016, p. 193, with bibliography.

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