Lot 5
  • 5

St John the Evangelist, historiated initial from an Antiphonary, in Latin [Italy (Naples), c.1320]

3,000 - 5,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • ink and pigment on vellum
large cutting, c.305x75mm, vellum, historiated initial 'I', with small traces of text, neumes, and four-line red staves (rastrum c.48mm), rather smudged and slightly creased, but an imposing and monumental image, laid down on old paper and mounted

Catalogue Note

Provenance: (1) A substantial portion from the parent manuscript, 182 leaves from the Sanctorale, was bought in Naples in 1857 and is now in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm (MS B.2101, on which see C. Nordenfalk, Bokmålningar från Medeltid och Renässans, 1979, pp.82-85, esp. fig.113). The present cutting and those in Paris (see below) presumably all come from this volume which, according to its foliation, is missing at least 46 leaves. The emphasis given to Sts Francis and Clare suggest that it was MADE FOR SANTA CHIARA, NAPLES, the major church of the city, or the Franciscan and Clarissan monasteries which form part of the same complex of buildings. They were built by King Robert of Anjou and his wife Sancia of Majorca between 1310 and 1328. (2) Duncan Beresford-Jones (1903–2000), numismatist and collector of Japanese art, of Upton Heyes, Chester (inscribed on the reverse). (3) Priv. coll., UK.

Illumination: The Stockholm volume is illuminated by two artists, one rather rudimentary and purely Italian in style, the other – responsible for the present cutting – much more refined and combining Italian with French features. Three other very similar cuttings, also with standing apostles or prophets, were owned by Georges Wildenstein (d.1963) and are now at the Musée Marmottan, Paris (M.6123–6125; one is reproduced by Nordenfalk, fig.223); they were shown to Bernard Berenson who could not decide if they were Italian or French: they have now been attributed to AN ILLUMINATOR FROM PICARDY WORKING IN NAPLES (see F. Avril, et al., Les Enluminures: Collection Wildenstein [2001], no.35; idem, 'Un atelier "picard" a la Cour des Angevins de Naples', in "Nobile claret opus", 1986, pp.76-77). The present cutting therefore represents a fascinating and rare example of an artist adapting his own native style to that of a foreign milieu.