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  • Place of origin:

    Lombardy (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1450 (illuminated)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Master of the Budapest Antiphonary (illuminator)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Water-based pigment, ink and gold leaf on parchment

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case 10

Medieval books had no contents page or index and so there was usually a hierarchy of initials marking important divisions in the text or music. The most important initials might be historiated with a figurative picture (istoire being the term for a story) or images of saints as seen here, while divisions of lesser importance had decorated initials.

The Master of the Budapest Antiphonary is named after a Franciscan manuscript in the National Library of Budapest (MS Clmae 462) which dates to around 1444-1450. This artist's style is characterised by fluid lines and complex spacial composition. Sometimes a monochrome colour scheme, using light-brown with touches of pink or blue, contrasts with brightly coloured foliage in green, pink, orange and blue. The work of the Master of the Budapest Antiphonary is sometimes confused with a the work of the Master of the Franciscan Breviary. The two artists overlap in their careers and the stylistic development of both illuminators show the influence of Lombard miniaturists such as Michelino da Besozzo.

Physical description

St Francis stands within an architectural construction in blue on cusped gold panel. A gold cross issues from the saints mouth. The background is made up of red cherubim.

Place of Origin

Lombardy (possibly, made)


ca. 1450 (illuminated)


Master of the Budapest Antiphonary (illuminator)

Materials and Techniques

Water-based pigment, ink and gold leaf on parchment

Marks and inscriptions

staves with music
on reverse.


Height: 24.5 cm, Width: 21.3 cm

Object history note

From a portfolio bought by the Museum in 1866 from J. & W. Boone. The cutting was stolen from a V&A gallery (Room 14) on the 11 January 1984 but was subsequently found in the United States and returned to the V&A in 2003.

Historical significance: In Italy, illuminated choirbooks and liturgical manuscripts contained the work of a large number of miniature painters. Choirbooks in particular were produced in sets of many volumes (often more than thirty). From the early nineteenth century onwards such choirbooks provided an easy source of images that connoisseurs eagerly sought to add to their collections of paintings. Medieval illuminated manuscripts could be cut up to make them more marketable and pleasing to the collector. Single leaves survive, but also initials, as here, cut to shape.

The illuminations gathered by the South Kensington Museum in the nineteenth century represented a new kind of collection. It aimed to provide examples of medieval illumination for students to copy. From the beginning, the Museum tended to buy ready-made collections. This manuscript comes from a portfolio of Italian cuttings bought by the Museum in 1866 from J. & W. Boone.

Historical context note

Data taken from notes compiled by Rowan Watson. The full text of the entry is as follows:

'Cat.no. 353/1
4928 (MS 1166)
Cut-out historiated initial A (St Francis praying, a gold cross issuing from his mouth, background of red cherubim), attributed to the Master of the Budapest Antiphonary. STOLEN IN JANUARY 1984

Italy. c. 1500
240 x 215 mm

From an album containing 4916-4928 bought for £15 from J & W Boone, 1866
Pub: 1908 cat, 93; 1923 cat, 86; M. Levi d'Ancona, Wildenstein Coll., 1970 pp. 31, 33.

[Note from Anna Melogvani (2/5/07) re; 4928:-
Date: "1450 ca"
Place: " Lombardy" or at least "North Italy"
The illumiation could be "The Master of the Franciscan Breriany" but right now I would leave - as you did correctly - to the Master of the Budapest Antiphonary"]

Descriptive line

Historiated initial A from a choirbook showing St Francis, attributed to the Master of the Budapest Antiphonary, Italy, ca. 1500.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Levi d'Ancona, Mirella. The Wildenstein Collection of illuminations. The Lombard school. Florence: L. S. Olschki, 1970. 179 p., ill. pp. 31.

Labels and date

About 1450
Possibly by the Master of the Budapest Antiphonary

This initial cut from a choir book shows
a vision experienced by a Franciscan friar.
He saw St Francis with a cross issuing from
his mouth and surrounded by seraphim
(six-winged angels). The Franciscans used
art to develop people’s understanding of
the saint’s life, though representations
of this episode are rare.

Italy, Lombardy
Ink on parchment, with
watercolour and gold
Museum no. 4928 [2009]

Production Note

Anna Melograni who has catalogued the V&A's Italian manuscript cutting collection gives the date as ca 1450 and the place 'Lombardy' or at least 'North Italy'. She also says that the illuminator could be 'The Master of the Franciscan Breviary' but she suggests that we leave it as attributed to the 'Master of the Budapest Antiphonary'.


Parchment; Pigment; Ink; Gold leaf


Illumination; Writing

Subjects depicted

Cherubim; Towers




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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