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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