mcai420131b

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Leaf from an Antiphonary: Initial L with St. Augustine blessing three acolytes

Germany–Regensburg, ca. 1300

Script: Gothic

Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square

 

Begins the first antiphon of first Vespers for the feast of St. Augustine (Aug. 28), “Letare, mater nostra ierusalem …” (Rejoice, our Mother Jerusalem). Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a Doctor of the Church and became Bishop of Hippo in North Africa in 396. His writings include Confessions and City of God  and have dominated Western Christian theology since his lifetime. This leaf can be dated to ca. 1300-1310.

Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E M 42:13

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mca0060158a

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Antiphonary, Dominican use: Feast of St. John the Apostle, December 27

France, early 14th century

Script: Gothic bookhand (part one); Rotunda semitextualis (part two)

Parchment with ink and paint

Notation: Square

 

This antiphonary was made in France and eventually made its way to Italy by the 16th century, as there are added chants at the end of the volume which can clearly be dated to Italy in that time period.

This decorated initial U begins the response for the first nocturn of Matins for the Feast of St. John the Apostle, Dec. 27: “Valde honorandus est beatus iohannes qui supra pectus domini in cena recubuit. . .” (Very highly we must venerate blessed John; for during the Last Supper he reclined on the breast of the Lord). The page has been mended with green thread, possibly in the 18th or 19th century. This entire volume was well-used and well-worn, as it has mendings throughout, in addition to rips and tears from use.

Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 6 f158v
 

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johnbaptist

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Processional: Miniature depicting the Feast of St. John the Baptist, June 24

Paris, France, c. 1510

Script: Gothic bookhand

Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square

 

Although this processional is from the early Renaissance period, it was considered for some time to be from the medieval period, owing to its style and decoration. A processional is a personal book containing the appropriate music for liturgical processions. This book is made of fine French vellum, and is a handsome specimen: it is decorated throughout with insects, birds, and frogs, and was made for use at the Dominican house in Poissy, France.

This miniature shows St. John the Baptist, accompanied by his attribute, the Lamb of God, holding a Christian flag in its mouth.  John the Baptist is usually recognizable in medieval art by his shaggy clothing and wild hair, which is meant to remind the medieval viewer of John’s humble lifestyle.

Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 7, f101v

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magdalene

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magdalene2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gradual: Initial G with St. Mary Magdalene

Italy, ca. 1425

Script: Rotunda

Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square

 

This gradual is a shared book, and is enormous owing to the need of the choir to see it from a distance. A gradual contains the music needed for the Mass.

This historiated initial G begins the Introit for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (July 22), “Gaudeamus omnes in Domino diem festum celebrantes sub honore Mariae Magdalene…” (Let us all rejoice in the Lord celebrating the feast in honor of Mary Magdalene). According to The Golden Legend, Mary retired to the wilderness after the ascension of Christ, and each day was borne aloft by angels at the seven canonical hours so that she could hear the heavenly hosts. The angels appear in this historiated initial, as does the foliage of the wilderness. The long hair pictured here can be attributed to its status as part of her iconography: Mary washes Jesus’ feet with her tears in penitence and dries them with her long hair.  There is also a legend of 11th-century origin that Mary’s hair miraculously grows to cover her nakedness when she goes into the desert as a penitent. 

 

Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 73

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Initial G with the Coronation of the Virgin Mary, August 15

Perugia, Italy – c. 1325

Script: Rotunda
Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square

 

This initial begins the Introit for the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, “Gaudeamus omnes in domino diem festi celebrantes sub honore Marie virginis …” (Let all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival day in honor of the Virgin Mary). The image of Mary being crowned by her son Jesus Christ as Queen of Heaven or physically being assumed into heaven is a popular scene from the Middle Ages.  The end of Mary’s days is frequently used as the image seen for Compline, the final hour in the Little Hours of the Virgin seen in medieval books of hours.

Free Library of Philadelphia E M 72:16

Visitation, July 2

May 5, 2009

mcai660111b

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Leaf from an Antiphonary: Initial E with the Visitation, July 2

Flanders, ca. 1450

Script: Gothic

Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square

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

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Single leaf from a gradual:

Initial E with the Adoration of the Magi, January 6

Lombardy, Italy, 1490-1510

Script: Rotunda

Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square

 

This initial begins the introit for the Feast of the Epiphany: Ecce advenit Dominator Domine (Behold, He is come, the Lord the Ruler).

The leaf shown here has perspective and detail that is not displayed in earlier illustration processes. The Star in the East is prominent in the picture, as is one of the adoring kings, who is quite literally in the very center of the initial. However, attention is appropriately paid by all other figures in the foreground to the baby Jesus. There is a ship in the background, which might signify an escape plan: God warned them in a dream “that they should not return to Herod, they [should depart] into their own country another way” (Matthew 2:1). The initial is clearly a product of the early Renaissance period, as the artist has clothed the subjects of this decoration with heavy gowns and sleeves of the 15th century, donned the soldiers in the background with armor of that period, and painted a ship with a 15th-century gallery and mast.

Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E M 71:15