St. Katharine, Nov. 25

March 16, 2009

Click on image for a link to the catalog record and higher resolutions.

Click on image for a link to the catalog record and higher resolutions.

 

Leaf from a Gradual: Initial U depicting St. Katharine, November 25 

 

Milan, Italy, 1395

Script: Rotunda

Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square

Illuminator (Artist): Tomasino da Vimercate

 

This initial begins the Introit for the Mass of the feast of St. Katharine of Alexandria (Nov. 25), “Vox de celis Katherine reditur veni sponsa gloriosa…” (The voice came back from heaven, ‘Come glorious bride’). Until his identity was determined by documentary evidence, the illuminator Tomasino da Vimercate was previously known as the anonymous Master of the Modena Hours after his most characteristic work in a book of hours now in the Biblioteca Estense in Modena, Italy.  Tomasino was active in Milan where he worked for ecclesiastical and lay patrons from ca. 1390 to 1415.

St. Katharine is shown wearing fashionable robes in the style of the fourteenth century, according to the date of the leaf. The wheel is the most common attribute to Katharine: her tormenters attempted to use a breaking wheel to break all the bones in her body and they were foiled in this exercise.  In her hand she holds a palm for her martyrdom; the crown on her head is a martyr’s crown. Katharine is the patron saint of all trades involving wheels, as well as education, libraries, and learning. 

Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E M 72:8

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Click on image for a link to a catalog record and higher resolutions.

Single leaf from a gradual:

Initial D with Christ with calling Sts. Peter and Andrew

Perugia, Italy – c. 1440-1460

Script: Rotunda
Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square

 

This initial begins the Introit for the Vigil of the feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 29), “Dominus secus mare Galilee vidit duos fratres Petrum et Andream …” (The Lord, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers Peter and Andrew). The Gospels of Matthew and Mark record that Christ came upon two fishermen in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, the brothers Peter and Andrew whom he called to be his disciples. The Gospel of John tells the story differently. It is Andrew, one of two disciples of John the Baptist, who sees Christ first and then runs to tell his brother Peter (John 1:39-41). The iconography of this initial combines the two different accounts: Andrew and Peter are fisherman, but it is Andrew who recognizes Christ first while Peter has his back turned.

The beautiful effect of gold script against a deep blue background is reminiscent of luxury manuscripts from an earlier time: during the Merovingian and Carolingian periods, manuscripts were made for kings and emperors that were stained a deep purple and written upon with gold. 

This leaf is rather worse for the wear, but it allows us to see the pink gesso that was used to adhere gold leaf to the illustration. Also, the writing has worn off some: this is typical of many Italian manuscripts, as a commonly used ink had the unfortunate side-effect of eventually flaking off the vellum pages.

Free Library of Philadelphia E M 73:1