Christie’s: London, 12 June 2013

Christie's 12 giugno 2013

AUCTION: Valuable Printed Books and Manuscripts, Christie’s, London (8 King Street, St. James’s), Wednesday 12 June 2013.

The following entries are of particular interest:

THE THRONE OF MERCY, historiated initial ‘D’ on a leaf from an illuminated antiphonal on vellum [Bologna, c.1295-1300] 505 x 359mm (the leaf); 110 x 120mm (the initial). The initial in red, yellow and ivory-white on a ground of blue; within, the Throne of Mercy showing God the Father supporting the Cross with the body of Christ, the sun and moon above, all against a ground of burnished gold; seven lines of music and text on recto and verso (minor loss of burnished gold below the moon). Framed. Contemporary folio number ‘XXV’. The initial opens the Introit for the first Christmas Mass: ‘Dominus dixit ad me filius meus es tu’ (The Lord said to me, you are my son).
The present leaf is from a dismembered Antiphonal that, together with a series of Graduals, was commissioned for the Dominican convent of S. Agnese di Valdipietra in Bologna. The Graduals remain in Bologna (Mus. Civico mss 519, 520 & 521). Sixteen other fragments from the Antiphonal have been identified (Gaudenz Freuler, publication forthcoming). The style of the illuminator — theso-called Master of S. Agnese di Valdipietra — shows the strong influence of Byzantine art and the ‘primo stile’ characteristic of Bolognese workshops of the 13th century.
Freuler points to the evident compositional and figurative link with the Gerona Master, one of the most influential artists of his time. Other initials by the illuminator of the present leaf include BL Additional MS 18196, f.24; Bologna, Mus. Civico, ms. 518, f.199; London, Victoria and Albert Museum, ms. 953 (803-1894); Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, No. 62.1361 and Munich, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Inv. No. 40068 40068.

THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST, historiated initial ‘V’ on a leaf from an illuminated antiphonal on vellum [Venice, c.1325], 435 x 332mm (leaf); 110 x 112 (initial). The initial in pink and red on a ground of blue, acanthus terminals extending into the margin; the Virgin and the apostles within with Christ above in a mandorla borne by two angels; seven lines of music and text on recto and verso (some fading of text, tiny loss of pigment to the face of the Virgin). Framed.
The initial opens the Introit for the Mass of the Ascension: ‘Viri Galilei quid admiramini aspicientes in coelum?’ (Men of Galilee, why wonder you, looking up to heaven?). a striking and vibrant example of early fourteenth-century venetian illumination. The composition of the scene displays an eastern, Byzantine influence, and the heavily modelled faces, with brows and noses heightened by touches of white, indicate that the manuscript was produced in Venice during the first half of the 14th century. The patterned robes of the angels carrying Christ to Heaven and the minute detail of red and white dots outlining the halos of the Virgin, Christ and the angels are particularly distinctive. Identical details and a similar modelling of the figures are found in the original decoration of a Venetian Gradual produced for a Dominican house c.1325 (Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 56: Morgan, Panayatova & Reynolds, Illuminated Manuscripts in Cambridge, 2011, Pt 2, vol.1, no 48). It is likely that the artist who was responsible for the first campaign of the Fitzwilliam Gradual was also responsible for the present manuscript. Localisation to Venice is supported by the close similarity in figure style and ornament to the very fragmentary Antiphonals of San Marco, one perhaps datable to 1318 (Venice, Archivio di Stato Proc. de supra, s. Chiesa, MSS Reg. 113 and Reg. 116).

THE DORMITION OF THE VIRGIN and THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN, miniatures on both sides of a leaf from a Book of Hours, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Veneto, probably Padua, c.1340-1350] 131 x 94mm. On the recto, the Dormition of the Virgin against a ground of liquid gold, with the body of Mary surrounded by angels and Apostles, Christ holding her soul in the form of a young girl below ten lines of text closing Vespers, all within a full-page diapered border of black, gold and red; the verso with the Assumption of the Virgin against a ground of liquid gold, with Mary in a blue mandorla borne by two angels and the apostles looking on from below, three-line initial ‘C’ opening Compline, three lines of text, all within a similar full-page border, the lower segment with pink, green, red and blue flowers and two Saints (borders worn, with loss of pigment and darkening of colours, loss of burnished gold in several places, the recto with some browning and wear to the figures). Double-sided frame.
A charming and richly illuminated leaf from an exceptionally early italian book of hours. Books of Hours from the first half of the 14th century are extremely rare and it is only recently that any Italian examples have been identified, most notably the lavishly and inventively illuminated Officiolum of the poet Francesco da Barberino of c.1308 (Christie’s Rome, 5 December 2003, lot 404). Like other early Italian Hours the Officiolum was apparently painted in or around Padua by artists heavily reliant on Bolognese style. Such an origin seems likely for the present leaf with its vibrant palette and delicately modelled Giottesque figures. The profusion of illustration — two miniatures to open a single Hour — indicates that the parent manuscript must have been a remarkable luxury product. This leaf, like its sister folio (priv. coll. Switzerland), has great significance for Italian bibliographic and devotional history in addition to being a work of exceptional artistic quality.

THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN, historiated initial ‘V’ cut from an illuminated manuscript choirbook on vellum [Tuscany, probably Lucca, late 14th century] 200 x 175mm. The initial against a ground of burnished gold joined to bar borders with curling leaves and golden disks with the Virgin, in a mandorla surrounded by seraphim and flanked by two angels in patterned robes, rising from a flower-filled tomb; verso with 2 lines of text and music. Mounted and framed. Provenance: One of 39 cuttings from the choir books of the Carthusian Abbey of Santo Spirito, Lucca, acquired by the Scottish antiquary James Dennistoun (1803-55) in Lucca in 1838 — Sir Kenneth Clark (1903-83), acquired in c.1930 from Dennistoun’s granddaughter Mrs Henley-Henson; Sotheby’s, 3 July 1984, lot 92, item 5 — Sotheby’s, 6 July 2010, lot 5. Originally on the recto of a leaf of an Antiphonal, the initial opens the responsory ‘Vidi speciosam sicut columbam ascendentem’ for the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin (15 August). Illumination
The style displays the marked influence of the Sienese artist Martino di Bartolomeo, who worked on the Cathedral choir books in Lucca in the 1390s, a period of fervent artistic activity in the city that coincided with the political control of Lazzaro Guinigi. The Clark sale of 1984 grouped the present cutting with four others from the same Antiphonal, three of which were later in the Breslauer Collection (Voelkle and Wieck, The Bernard H. Breslauer Collection of Manuscript Illumination, 1993, pp.181-85, nos 67-9). Of these, the cutting depicting the Resurrection (no 67) is closest to the present cutting in terms of style and figural composition: both have the same distinctive mauve and acid-yellow palette, acanthus foliage and figures with patterned robes and straight, almost expressionless faces. The Resurrection cutting bears the lightly sketched arms of Guinigi and a possible clue to the identity of the illuminator: along the top are the abbreviated words ‘gi. col. go. fot. chi’.

SAINT URSULA AND HER VIRGINS, large historiated initial cut from an illuminated manuscript choirbook on vellum [Italy, probably Cremona, c.1450-60] 148 x 145mm. Laid down on card. The bright decorative colours and charming, somewhat doll-like faces of the figures, are characteristic features of Milanese illumination from the end of the 14th into the third quarter of the 15th century.
This initial is identifiable as belonging with a group of dispersed cuttings (several belonging to the Houghton Library, Harvard) brought together as originating in a single choirbook by Anna Melograni: ‘Miniature inedite del Quattrocento lombardo nelle collezione americane’, Storia dell’Arte, 1994, pp.289-94. They are the work of an artist given the name Maestro dai Fondi Giallini on the basis of his distinctive use of mustard-yellow backgrounds. His style owes an obvious debt to the Master of the Vitae Imperatorum, favoured illuminator of Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan. The work of the Maestro dai Fondi Giallini was first identified in a series of Graduals made for the convent of Sant’Agostino in Cremona (Museo Civico, mss XIII-XV), and the present initial almost certainly came from a dismembered volume of this same series: Illuminated Manuscripts in Cambridge, eds N. Morgan, S. Panayatova and S. Reynolds, II, vol.1, 2011, nos 130-131.

THE VISITATION, large historiated initial ‘D’ cut from a Ferial Psalter, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Lombardy, c.1450] 277 x 213mm (leaf); 110 x 133mm (initial). The initial opens Psalm 26, ‘Dominus illuminatio mea et salus mea…’. The Psalm continues on the verso.
The architectural staves, red and green acanthus and curving drapery folds are features common to the work of two Lombard followers of the Master of the Vitae Imperatorum, the leading illuminator in Milan in the second quarter of the 15th century — the Master of the Franciscan Breviary and the Master of the Budapest Antiphonary. The handling of the faces, however, shows a more meticulous build up of pale pigment and reliance on a defining contour. The white decoration of the background is universal in manuscripts from the workshop of Jacopo da Balsemo (active in Bergamo 1451-1500): the illuminator is likely to have been an accomplished contemporary who shared their artistic formation.

LOT 11
ST ROMUALD?, initial ‘O’ by the master of the murano gradual, cut from an illuminated manuscript choir book on vellum [Venice, mid-15th century] 150 x 127mm. Within a large powder-blue initial and against a ground of burnished gold, a bearded Camaldolese monk, possibly the founder of the order St Romuald, in white, pink and green robes with gold embroidery clutches a book (tiny loss of gold pigment in the infill of the initial). Pasted down on a later ground of burnished gold, mounted on card and in an 18th-century gilt wooden frame with putti. Provenance: robert stayner holford (1808-92); Sir George Holford (1860-1926), The Holford Collection, 1927, no 27c, pl. XXV. a dazzling cutting from a lavish choir book by the master of the murano gradual, one of the most distinctive and gifted artists active in northern Italy in the mid-15th century. The Master (active c.1430-1460) takes his name from a Gradual for the Temporale (Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, MS 78 F.1) and a series of cuttings — including two at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles (MSS 73 and 106) and another at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Rogers Fund 1948, 48.40). that were likely from a companion volume for the Sanctorale, made for one of the two Camaldolese houses, San Michele or San Mattia, on Murano. Many of the cuttings can be traced to the sale of William Young Ottley (Sotheby’s, 11 May 1838) where Murano was given as their source. The Master’s style owes a great deal to the Lombard illuminator Belbello da Pavia (1430-73) to whom his work has often been attributed. The present cutting’s grave, ruddy-cheeked monk in his voluminous robes looking up from his book is a poised example of the Master’s fine, expressive style.

THREE CUTTINGS FROM AN ANTIPHONAL, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Cremona, c.1482-84]. These three delightful initials come from an Antiphonal illuminated by the Cremonese artist Baldassare Coldiradi, documented in Cremona from 1482-1484. The artist has an expressive style showing the strong influence of his Lombard predecessors: his figures are crisply modelled, their finely delineated features heightened by touches of white and their hair, especially in the case of the Magdalene, by fine wisps of gold. The palette is a deep, vibrant array of rich reds, greens and blues, and the folds of the robes confidently follow the contours of the figures. Provenance: ‘From the Cathedral of Como’ is inscribed in an early 20th-century hand on the verso of each cutting – this erroneous attribution (see Anna Melograni, ‘Miniature Inedite del Quattrocento Lombardo nelle Collezioni Americane’, Storia dell’Arte 82, 1994, 283-302) links the present cuttings to a group of other miniatures that are all stylistically attributable to Cremona in the second half of the 15th century, including British Library Additional 39636, ff.5-8, 11-12, 30-32 (though these are by a different artist). It is likely that all were brought from Italy by the Venetian abbot and art dealer Luigi Celotti (1759-1843). His sales of cuttings acquired during the Napoleonic invasion of Italy are often credited with starting collecting in this field. By the same artist, and belonging to the same manuscript are Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E M 71: 1a-c and Oberlin, Allen Memorial Art Musem, 1943.17.
LOT 14
THE ANNUNCIATION, historiated initial ‘M’ cut from an illuminated antiphonal on vellum 110 x 110mm. The initial opens the Antiphon ‘Missus est Gabriel angelus ad Mariam virginem’ for the Office of the Feast of the Annunciation. Verso with 4 lines of text. Mounted on card and framed.
LOT 15
ST PETER IN PRISON, historiated initial ‘S’ cut from an illuminated antiphonal on vellum 61 x 71mm. The initial would likely have opened the first responsory of the first nocturn of matins for the feast of Sts Peter and Paul on June 29: ‘Symon Petre antequam de navi vocarem te’. Mounted on card and framed.
LOT 16
MARY MAGDALENE, historiated initial ‘M’ cut from an illuminated antiphonal on vellum 66 x 60mm. The initial would likely have opened the introit of the Mass for the feast of St Mary Magdalene on 22 July: ‘Me expectaverunt peccatores’. Mounted on card and framed.

LOT 17
THE LAMENTATION, miniature cut from an illuminated manuscript on vellum [Northern Italy, possibly Lombardy, mid-16th century] 78 x 82mm. The Virgin holds the body of Christ while the Magdalene kneels to kiss his feet. Mounted and framed.
An exquisite example of 16th-century northern Italian manuscript illumination, displaying the marked influence of Renaissance panel painting on book production of the time. The style is characterised by its sensitively rendered, mournful figures: the fine, clean brush strokes of the figures’s hair, robes and skin give texture and depth to the composition. The influence of Signorelli, Perugino and Botticelli is evident particularly in the depiction of the kneeling Mary Magdalene, but the landscape background points to a more northern, perhaps Lombard attribution.

LOT 18
THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI, miniature, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Italy, likely Monte Oliveto, 1530-35] 133 x 100 mm. In a rectangular frame of liquid gold on blue, the three Magi offer their gifts to the Christ Child seated on the Virgin’s lap, St Joseph looking on; behind them stretches their retinue, with three men mounted on horseback; in the background an idyllic mountainous setting with a white castle set against the sky (some fraying to edges). Pasted down on card and framed.
The technique is charmingly meticulous and refined: the palette is a subtle contrast of muted washes for the skin tones, punctuated by touches of pink for the cheeks and lips, and vivid, vibrant hues for the robes, heightened with liquid gold. It is an early work of the Sienese painter, illuminator and architect Bartolomeo Neroni (c.1505-71). The composition depends on the altarpiece painted by his probable master, Sodoma, for the church of S.Agostino, Siena in 1530. He first adopted it in his earliest signed work, one of the 18 Antiphonals produced between 1531-1532 at Monte Oliveto Maggiore, near Siena, for the Olivetan Abbey at Finalpia, near Genoa. In the present miniature Neroni offered his elegant reworking on an intimate scale suitable for private devotion.

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