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  • Place of origin:

    monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence (illuminated)

  • Date:

    1382-1399 (illuminated)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Water-based pigments, gold-leaf and ink on parchment

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case I, shelf 81, box L

This is one of a series of fragments from choirbooks of a type known as Graduals that were made for the San Michele a Murano monastery in Venice. The majority of these fragments were illuminated by a monk of the Camaldolese Order in Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence, Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci. At this time, Venice was not a centre of illumination. In 1401, the Dominican nuns wanting advice on the making of books were told by Goivanni Dominici, a Dominican from Florence, to study the choirbooks of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which contained Silvestro’s work. The monastery was the home of a number of scribes, painters and illuminators in the 14th and 15th centuries. They worked both for their own house and for other churches and even secular customers.

Silvestro may have worked as part of a team with some ornamentation done by others. This particular fragment is believed to be the work of an assistant, the Master of the Canzoni. The fragment shows an initial A for the Mass for Easter Tuesday, with a bearded prophet holding a scroll. The drawing seems slightly clumsy, but the illuminator is clearly working in the same style as Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci.

Nineteenth-century enthusiasts altered medieval artefacts to suit their taste. Medieval illuminated manuscripts could be cut up to make them more marketable and pleasing to the collector. Choirbooks from San Michele a Murano in Venice were dismembered for their images. Single leaves survive, but also initials, as here, cut to shape. It is not known when the choirbooks were cut up. The Museum seems to have acquired this piece in the late 1850s.

Physical description

Cut-out historiated initial A in orange, yellow and gold. Acanthus decoration in grey, blue, pink, green and gold stems from the intial. Inside is an saint holding a scroll, set against a gold background, with a long grey beard and hair and wearing a green tunic and blue-lined grey cloak. The initial introduces an Offertory for Easter Monday.

Place of Origin

monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence (illuminated)


1382-1399 (illuminated)


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

Materials and Techniques

Water-based pigments, gold-leaf and ink on parchment

Marks and inscriptions

[Quem queritis surre]xit si[cut dixit, A]lle[luia] [and musical notation]
on reverse; from Offertory for Easter Monday

A[qua spientie potavit]
on verso, Introit for Easter Tuesday


Height: 240 mm, Width: 170 mm

Object history note

Made for San Michele a Murano in Venice. Bought by the V&A Museum before 1859.

Historical context note

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

'Cat. no. 307.10
432 (MS 969
GRADUAL (Feria II - Feria III after Easter)
Cut-out historiated initial A (aged saint with long beard and hair, holding scroll, attributed by Levi d'Ancona to the Maestro delle Canzoni and by Kanter to Silvestro dei Cherarducci)

Text: [Quem queritis surre]xit si[cut dixit, A]lle[luia], from Offertory for Easter Monday; on verso, A [qua spientie potavit]
Introit for Easter Tuesday

Italy (Florence) . 1382-199
240 x 170 ) mm; miniature 145 x 130 mm.
Staves of 4 red lines, 37 mm; Square notation

Transferred from the Art Museum, in or after 1859
Pub: 1908 cat,85 1923 cat, 78; Levi d'Ancona, 1993 pp. 28, 49, fig. 17 (verso) ; Kanter, 1994, p 161 (Gradual 2, no 2) , fig 61'

[ Note from Anna Melograni re: 432 (2/5/07) The attribution to Don Silverstro Gherarducci is by Gaudenz Freuler (not L. Kanter) according to the Met catalogue 1994

Same as other fragment attributed to Don Silverstro]

Descriptive line

Historiated initial A, saint holding scroll, attributed to Maestro delle Canzoni, Florence, 1382-1399.

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

Levi d'Ancona, Mirella. The reconstructed "Diurno Domenicale" from Santa Maria degli Angeli. Florence: Centro Di, 1993. 63 p., ill. (The choir books of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence; vol. 2). ISBN 8870382451.
Kanter, Laurence B, et al. Painting and illumination in Early Renaissance Florence 1300-1450. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994, 394 p., ill. ISBN 0870997262.
Watson, Rowan. Illuminated manuscripts and their makers. London: V&A Publications, 3002. 144 p., ill. ISBN 185177385.

Labels and date

Cut-out historiated initial A (bearded Prophet) from the Gradual of San Michele a Murano, Venice.
Illuminated by Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci
Florence, 1392-1399
Bought by the Museum before 1863 [1995]

Production Note

The attribution to Don Silvestro Gherarducci is by Gaudenz Freuler according to the Metropolitan Museum catalogue of 1994 (information supplied by Anna Melograni).


Parchment; Pigment; Gold-leaf


Illuminated; Writing

Subjects depicted



Manuscripts; Religion; Christianity


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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