May 5, 2009
Leaf from an Antiphonary: Initial E with the Visitation, July 2
Flanders, ca. 1450
Parchment with ink, paint, and gold
This initial begins the third nocturn of Matins for the Feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary (July 2), “Exsurgens Maria abiit in montana cum festinatione in civitatem Juda…” (Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to the town of Juda.) The text is from Luke 1:39-47, which relates the story of the Visitation of Mary, and is the Gospel reading for the Mass of the same feast. When she was pregnant with the Christ Child, Mary traveled to Hebron to see her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Upon their greeting, John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb in recognition of the Christ Child’s divinity. Elizabeth was supposed to be an older woman when she carried John: this is evident in Elizabeth’s stooped carriage in this initial. The earliest known instance of the celebration of this feast occurs in the Franciscan liturgy around 1237.
In the initial, a castle can be seen in the background, which would have made the setting familiar to the medieval viewer.
This leaf has been identified as being close in style to the Master of the Ghent Gradual in a Book of Hours that was auctioned in 1981 by the Galerie Kornfeld of Bern. This Visitation is a horizonally compressed version of the Visitation in the Book of Hours, fit into the historiated initial E.
Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E M 66:11