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Historiated initial from a Gradual for the Camaldolese monastery of San Michele a Murano

  • Object:

    Manuscript cutting

  • Place of origin:

    Florence (made)
    Italy (made)
    Convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli (made)

  • Date:

    1392 -1399 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Master of the Canzoni (formerly attributed to)
    Gherarducci, Don Silvestro dei, born 1339 - died 1399 (attributed to)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Water-based pigment, gold leaf and ink on parchment

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case I, shelf 78, box A

This fragment comes from a Gradual made for San Michele a Murano, a Camaldolese monastery in Venice. Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci, who may have painted this initial, was a monk of the Camaldolese Order. He was based in the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence. The monastery was the home of a number of scribes, painters and illuminators in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They worked both for their own house and for other churches and even secular customers. Silvestro dei Gherarducci (1339-1399) was active as a painter and illuminator in the abbey from the 1370s. Silvestro may have worked as part of a team, with some of the ornament done by others. Whether or not he painted all the miniatures in the San Michele a Murano Graduals has been questioned. Silvestro's assistant, the Master of the Canzoni, may have illuminated this initial V.

It is not known when these choirbooks were cut up. This initial was transferred from the Art Museum to the V&A in December 1863. Their acquisition by the Museum before 1863 is the earliest known indication that they had entered the trade. Others from the same manuscript were purchased by the Museum in 1906.

Physical description

Historiated initial V showing a young bearded Prophet holding a scroll. The initial is in blue, vermillion, green and brown-pink with foliations on a ground of burnished gold. This initial introduces the fourth Sunday after Easter.

Rubric: Com'. [Cum vene]rit Para[clitus], from Communion hymn for 4th Sunday; on verso V[ocem iocunditatis], Introit, 5th Sunday after Easter.
Part of 2 lines of music (staves of 4 red lines, 37 mm) and text visible; square notation.

Place of Origin

Florence (made)
Italy (made)
Convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli (made)


1392 -1399 (made)


Master of the Canzoni (formerly attributed to)
Gherarducci, Don Silvestro dei, born 1339 - died 1399 (attributed to)

Materials and Techniques

Water-based pigment, gold leaf and ink on parchment


Height: 230 mm size of cutting, Width: 230 mm size of cutting, Height: 150 mm size of miniature, Width: 140 mm size of miniature, Height: 37 mm stave

Object history note

Made in Florence at the convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli, for San Michele a Murano in Venice. Bought before 1863 when it was transferred from the Art Museum.
A duplicate number MS.970 was assigned to this object in error and was subsequently cancelled.

Seven fragments, whose date and place of acquisition are unknown, arrived at the South Kensington Museum by an early date; four (2868, 3045, 3074 and 3087) appear in a register recording the internal transfer from the Art Museum to the Library on 6 December 1863 of a group of 241 illuminations, and a further three are recorded in a similar transfer in 1874 (431, 432 and 434). The remaining thirteen cuttings (D.217 to 228-1906) were acquired on 22 June 1906 from Bernard Quaritch for a total cost of £60. Two of them depicting prophets were lost during the Second World War (D.220-1906 and D.223-1906).

Cuttings from the same set of graduals in the V&A collection: 431, 432, 434, 2868, 3045, 3074, 3087, D.217-1906, D.218-1906, D.219-1906, D.221-1906, D.222-1906, D.224-1906, D.225-1906, D.226-1906, D.227-1906,D.228-1906, D.229-1906.

This piece is part of a series of over fifty identified cuttings from two different graduals now distributed through various collections. Related cuttings are in: New York, Pierpont Morgan Library; Stockholm, National Museum; Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett; Paris, Musée Marmottan; Padua, Museo Civico; London, The British Library.

Descriptive line

Historiated initial U (V) with a prophet, from a Gradual for the Camaldolese monastery of San Michele a Murano, Italy (Florence), 1392-1399.

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

p. 85.
Catalogue of illuminated manuscripts : Part II, Miniatures, leaves, and cuttings, by S.C. Cockerell and E.F. Strange (London: HMSO, 1908, 1st edition).
pp. 77-78 (as Siena, 15th century).
Catalogue of Miniatures, Leaves, and Cuttings from Illuminated Manuscripts. Victoria and Albert Museum. Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design, by S.C. Cockerell and C. Harcourt Smith (London: HMSO, 1923, 2nd edition).
George R. Bent, 'The Scriptorium at S. Maria degli Angeli and Fourteenth Century Manuscript Illumination: Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci, Don Lorenzo Monaco, and Giovanni del Biondo', in Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 55. Bd., H. 4 (1992), pp. 507-523.
pp. 29, 49, 55.
Mirella Levi d'Ancona, The reconstructed "Diurno Domenicale" from Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence: Centro Di, 1993.
pp. 155-176.
Kanter, L., B.D. Boehm et al. Painting and illumination in early Renaissance Florence, 1300-1450. New York, 1994.
no. 6.
Watson, Rowan. Vandals and Enthusiasts: Views of Illumination in the Nineteenth Century, London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1995
pp. 453-521 (esp. pp. 475-486).
Gaudenz Freuler, Tendencies of Gothic in Florence: Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci (Florence: Giunti, 1997).
p. 92.
Watson, R. Illuminated manuscripts and their makers. An account based on the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. London, 2003.

Production Note

Made at the convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence.


Parchment; Pigment; Gold leaf


Illumination; Writing

Subjects depicted



Manuscripts; Religion; Christianity; Manuscript cutting; Music

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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