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Manuscript

  • Place of origin:

    convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli (made)

  • Date:

    1382-1399 (illuminated)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Gherarducci, Don Silvestro dei, born 1339 - died 1399 (illuminator)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Water-based pigment and gold leaf on parchment

  • Museum number:

    D.221-1906

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case I, shelf 77

Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence, a monastery of the Camaldolese order, 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 (1339-99) was active as a painter and illuminator in the abbey from the 1370s, though he also acted as sub-prior and prior. He illuminated works not only for Santa Maria degli Angeli but also for a Camaldolese house in Venice, San Michele a Murano. At this time, Venice was not a centre of illumination, In 1401, Dominican nuns wanting advice on the making of books were told by Giovanni Dominici a Dominican from Florence to study the choirbooks of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which contained Silvestro's work. Silvestro may have worked as part of a team with some ornamentation done by others. Illuminators such as Belbello of Pavia and Cristoforo Cortese were later employed on the choirbooks and it is through their careers in Venice that compositions and styles developed by Silvesto dei Gherarducci became used in that city.

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 inital D in blue and yellow, set against a background of burnished gold, depicting a bearded prophet holding a scroll. The prophet is wearing a green robe with blue lining and an orange tunic. The initial has foliage ornamentation in orange, green and pink and the prophet has a halo made up of a pattern of circles tooled into the gold.

Place of Origin

convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli (made)

Date

1382-1399 (illuminated)

Artist/maker

Gherarducci, Don Silvestro dei, born 1339 - died 1399 (illuminator)

Materials and Techniques

Water-based pigment and gold leaf on parchment

Dimensions

Height: 19.5 cm maximum, Width: 20 cm maxmimum

Object history note

Made for San Michele a Murano in Venice. Bought by the V&A Museum before 1863.

Historical significance: Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence, a monastery of the Camaldolese order, 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 (1339-99) was active as a painter and illuminator in the abbey from the 1370s, though he also acted as sub-prior and prior. He illuminated works not only for Santa Maria degli Angeli but also for a Camaldolese house in Venice, San Michele a Murano. At this time, Venice was not a centre of illumination, In 1401, 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. Silvestro may have worked as part of a team with some ornamentation done by others. Illuminators such as Belbello of Pavia and Cristoforo Cortese were later employed on the choirbooks and it is through their careers in Venice that compositions and styles developed by Silvesto dei Gherarducci became used in that city.

Information from Watson, Rowan. Illuminated Manuscripts and their Makers. London: V&A Publications, 2002. 144 p., ill. ISBN 185177385, p. 92.

See also:
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.

Historical context note

Background to Music and Christian Liturgy

Music was incorporated into the Christian Liturgy early on and had been influenced by the use of music in the synagogue. Plainchant (unison singing, originally unaccompanied) was the traditional music of the western Church and from about 1000, vocal polyphony (music with two or more melodically independent parts) was being practiced. Polyphony made certain chants of the Mass longer and more complex.

Different Types of Liturgical Music Manuscripts

Liturgical manuscripts with musical components were either used in the celebration of the Mass or the Divine Office and included the following:

MASS
(With the Divine Office the Mass forms the basis of Christian Liturgy. It centres on the Eucharist and was attended daily by those in religious orders, the clergy and, with varying frequency, by members of the laity)

Gradual - the principal choir book used in the mass.

Kyriale - the portion of a Gradual containing the ordinary chants of the Mass (i.e. the chants whose text remain unchanged throughout the ecclesiastical year)

Sequentiary - book (or portion of a Gradual or Troper) containing sequences (extended melodies) sung by a soloist between the alleluia and the Gospel lesson at Mass.

Troper - book containing tropes: musical and textual additions to the chants of the mass or divine office.

Missal - Service book containing the texts necessary for the performance of the Mass together with ceremonial directions (merged the Sacramentary, Gradual, Evangelary and for the performance of high or solemn mass the Epistolary).

DIVINE OFFICE
(With the Mass forms basis of Christian Liturgy. Cycle of daily devotions - the prayers of the canonical hours - performed by members of religious orders and the clergy)

Antiphonal (also called an antiphoner or antiphonary) - contains the sung portion of the Divine Office . It was often large in format so that it could be used by a choir.

Hymnal (also called a hymnary) - containing metrical hymns sung in the Divine Office and arranged according to the liturgical year. Could be included in a Psalter or Antiphonal as a separate section. Its contents were eventually incorporated into the Breviary.

Breviary - service book combining the various volumes used during the Divine Office (Psalter, Antiphonal, Lectionary, Colectar, Martyrology, Hymnal and others). Used from the 11th century onwards.

[A Choir Book is the generic term for a service book containing the parts of the Mass or the Divine Office sung by the Choir.]

The above is adapted from Brown, Michelle P. Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms. London, 1995.

Decoration

Medieval books had no contents page or index and as such decorative initials (and sometimes miniatures) were used as a means of signalling key divisions in the text or, in this case, music. There was a hierarchy to the decoration - the important/major initials might be historiated (that is, with a figurative picture) or elaborately decorated while the lesser/minor initials might be made of coloured letters on coloured or gold grounds, often with flourishing in ink of a contrasting colour or even simply a letter slightly larger than the main body of text and picked out in a contrasting colour (e.g. red or blue).

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

'Cat. no. 307.18
D. 211-1906 (MS 981)
GRADUAL (Fifth - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost)
Cut-out historiated initial D (Bearded Prohet holding a scroll, on burnished gold ground, attributed by Levi d'Ancona and Kanter to Silvestro dei Gherarducci)

Text: [ne commo]vear. Co[m' Unam pe]tii a Domin[o], part of Offertory & Communion for 5th Sunday; on verso D[ominus fortitudo], Introit for 6th Sunday

Italy (Florence). 1394-1399
(195 x 195) mm; miniature 145 x 145 mm.

Bought from Quaritch, with D. 217-1906 to D.229-1906 (£60 together)
Pub: 1908 cat, 85: 1923 cat, 78; Levi d'Ancona, 1993 II, pp. 31, 50: Kanter 1994, p. 163'

[ 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 D from a Gradual, prophet, attributed to Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci, Florence, 1382-1399.

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

Watson, Rowan. Illuminated manuscripts and their makers. London: V&A Publications, 3002. 144 p., ill. ISBN 185177385.
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.
Levi d'Ancona, Mirella. [Article in] Rivista d'Arte, XXXII, 1957. p. 3 ff.

Production Note

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

Materials

Parchment; Pigment; Gold leaf

Techniques

Illuminated

Subjects depicted

Scroll; Prophets

Categories

Christianity; Manuscripts; Religion; Images Online

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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