St. John the Baptist, a large historiated initial "F" on vellum cut from an antiphonal. Italy (Perugia), c. 1310-



Available to view at our Curzon Street shop.


The figure of St. John the Baptist, dressed in orange robes, with golden halo and holding a book; the initial painted in a pale brown on a blue ground with white tracery, with extension of orange and blue acanthus and gold circles.

Size of initial: 75 x 62mm.

A very fine representation of St. John the Baptist on an initial "F", which introduces the first Responsorium for the first Nocturne of the feast of St. John the Baptist: "Fuit homo missus a Deo cui nomen Joannes erat hic venit ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine et pararet Domino plebem perfectam".


The characteristic foliate extension of the illuminated letter indicates an origin in Umbria in the first half of the fourteenth century. This can be further defined by comparing the figure of Saint John with the facial types in works by Venturella di Pietro, in particular MS. 14 in the Biblioteca Comunale di Cortona which can be attributed to him with certainty due to a note of the scribe. In particular, the figure of the Baptist can be compared with one of the apostles in the scene of the Ascension at f.161v, and our initial can therefore be attributed to an artist of his circle.


Venturella di Pietro was a prolific artist active in Perugia during the first quarter of the 14th century; documents record a work for Podesta Ottaviano dei Brunelleschi, and a significant corpus of illuminations has been reconstructed. This includes a Messale and a Rituale in the Archivio Capitolare of Gubbio (MS. II C 20 A and MS. II C 15). There are also two cut-out leaves in the Victoria & Albert Museum (E371 & E378). A cutting of Christ's entry into Jerusalem which appeared as item 16 in our European Bulletin no. 25 can also be attributed to the same circle. The foliated decoration of the initial would suggest an early date for this cutting.


Provenance: Almost certainly from the collection of J. W. Bradley, whose two albums of cuttings were sold at Sotheby's in 1952; this cutting has the same distinctive numbering at top outer corners as is found in lot 22.

Light wear but generally very good condition.

References: Elvio Lunghi, Altri "scriptoria" nella prima metà del Trecento a Perugia in: Francesco d'Assissi, Documenti e Archivi. Codici e Biblioteche, Milan, 1982, pp. 253-256. Emanuela Sesti, Aspetti della miniatura umbra nei secoli XIII e XIV in rapporto all'Ordine Francescano, Ibidem, pp. 368 & 378. Marina Subbioni, La miniatura perugina del Trecento,Perugia, Guerra Edizioni, 2003, pp. 39-71. Dizionario Biografico dei Miniatori Italiani, Milan, 2004, pp. 988-989 (article on Venturella di Pietro by Elvio Lunghi).

Stock Code: 246299

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