Easter Sunday (Florence, 15th century)
April 24, 2009
Single leaf from an antiphonary:
Initial A with the Three Marys at the Tomb, Easter Sunday
Italy — Florence, 15th century
Parchment with lead pencil, ink, and paint
The initial A begins the first response of the first nocturn of Matins for Easter Sunday, “Angelus domini descendit de celo.” (An angel of the Lord descended from heaven.) This leaf is exceptional in that it allows the viewer to see one stage of medieval manuscript decoration. An artist drew in the initial, figures, and foliate border with lead pencil or ink, and undoubtedly expected it to be decorated with colored pigments and illuminated with gold or silver. Other stages were completed in this leaf: the parchment, after it was prepared for writing, would have been pricked and ruled. Someone would prick the edges of each page with a sharp instrument, and then rule the page with lead ink or make an impression (called blind ruling). A scribe would then have written the text, and also in this case, the music notation with ink. This page was also rubricated: someone wrote instructions in red ink and even went to the trouble of decorating the first initial at the top of the page with red and purple ink.
The Three Marys appeared at the tomb of Jesus three days after his body had been placed in it, only to discover that his body was no longer there: that he had risen from the dead, as he had predicted on the evening before his crucifixion. The Marys were the Virgin, mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene; and Mary of Cleopas, sister of Joseph.
Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E M 74:14