Leaf from a finely illuminated manuscript Missal - with an almost nude man and two men’s heads within the initials, in Latin on vellum[Italy, Umbria (probably Assisi), c. 1290]



Available to view at our Curzon Street shop.


A large initial I (opening Ipse tibi … ) and enclosing a three-quarter length figure of a finely painted clean-shaven man facing right, nude apart from a thin chiffon-like robe which hangs over his shoulders, his delicate musculature drawn out in blue-grey tones, one hand tucked beneath his robe and another gesturing upwards, the lower part of his legs wrapped in a blue cloth edged in white, all on burnished gold grounds with liquid gold penwork, multi-coloured acanthus leaf fronds extending into the margins, 2 further coloured initials enclosing men's heads (the first wearing red robes, the second in a red coif) both with same decoration as above, 3 further multi-coloured initials on gold grounds with liquid gold penwork (one kaleidoscopic in its complex makeup), a single red one-line initial with contrasting penwork, rubrics in red, calligraphic capitals with hairline penwork tracery.

Single leaf (362 by 238mm), double column, 25 lines of 2 sizes of a refined Italian bookhand, inscription in French in nineteenth- or possibly early twentieth-century pencil at foot of recto, some areas of text with ink weakened by flaking away, very slightly trimmed at top with small affect to topmost acanthus leaf tendril, small amount of discolouration and cockling (mostly at edges) and marks at upper corners from old framing, else in good condition with wide margins.

This is a long-lost and hitherto unrecorded leaf from an opulently decorated and early Italian Missal. Only a handful of other leaves are known, including two leaves once in the collection of Bernard H. Breslauer in New York  and a leaf offered by Les Enluminures, Illuminations, cat.1, 1992, no. 4, all now in the McCarthy Collection (see below) and a further leaf sold in Koller, Zürich, 18 September 2015, lot 109, formerly in the collection of Friedrich G. Zeileis, Austria.


Gaudenz Freuler in his recent catalogue entry for the leaves in the McCarthy Collection, states that they are from "a highly elegant Missal that must once have belonged to an important religious institution". He also notes that the artist has close stylistic connections to the Master of the Assisi Choirbooks, one of the most refined illuminators active in Umbria at the end of the 13th century who "embodies a synthesis of Roman painting and the work of the Master of the Deruta Missal together with the more advanced tendencies derived from Cimabue." He concludes, "whether our illuminator was a Roman artist active in Umbria or was in fact Umbrian cannot be established but the close ties to the Master of the Assisi Choirbooks, not merely in the figure style but also in the colour palette, with a clear predilection for blue tones, distinctly anchor his activity in Umbria".


Gaudenz Freuler, The McCarthy Collection I, Italian and Byzantine Miniatures (2018), no. 47, pp. 149-153. Wieck and Voelkle, Bernard Breslauer Collection, 1992, nos. 58-9.


Stock Code: 223109

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