Manuscript Gradual. Circa 1350. App. 130 folios.
Lot 1015
Sold for US$ 49,937 inc. premium

Fine Books & Manuscripts

14 Nov 2005, 13:00 PST

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Lot Details
Manuscript Gradual. Circa 1350. App. 130 folios.
Gradual. Latin manuscript on vellum with music on four-line red staves with neumes in black. [Tuscany (likely Pisa with Florentine and Sienese influences), circa 1350]. 130 leaves, lacking a bifolium at the center of quire 6, else internally complete though doubtless imperfect with only a portion of the Sanctoral at end. Collation: i-v10, vi10-2, vii-x10, xi8, xii6, xiii8. 490 x 290 mm (17.5 x 11.5 inches). 10 lines of music per page, numerous 3- to 5-line cribble initials in alternating red and blue with marginal tracery on every leaf, approximately NINETY-TWO LARGE VERSAL INITIALS, 8- to 12-stave lines in height with circulating blue and red floriated infilling and extended flourishes into margins, FIVE LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS, approximately 180 x 110 mm, with long illuminated branches extending almost fully around margins, in blue, green, magenta, pale pink, and characteristic salmon orange, with delicate white tracery and gilt infilling and gold discs along stems, with both floral and faunal themes (fol. 53r with an incomplete clawfooted, winged-like creature), and SIX HISTORIATED INITIALS in full colors with paneled borders and extensive illuminated branches, some populated with the faces of saints and floral sprays. 17th century full vellum over printed paper sheets with remnants of brass bosses. Folios 1 and 15 with portion of lower margin below text repaired, ff. 5 and 6 with upper fore edge margin dampstained and replaced with early 15th century vellum portion of a vernacular document arranging for the transfer of two oxen, f. 1r generally soiled, some dampstaining to lower margin of center leaves, vellum generally mottled and trimmed at upper margin with partial loss to illuminated branch on f. 92, some paint loss and chipping to gilt decoration, miniature of the Pentecost likely with some gilt overpaint by a later hand, pencil description of verses in English to margins throughout, boards well worn, spine chipped and lacking several brass bosses, yet overall an extraordinary and enormous relic of 14th century Tuscan illumination at the height of the early Renaissance.


1. Likely composed in Pisa for a congregation in Florence or central Tuscany, circa 1350. The list of saints in the extant Sanctorale is an intriguing clue to its possible localization, in particular, the unusual presence of SS. Remigius and Benedict. The Church of San Remigio in Florence was rebuilt around 1350 in honor of Saint Remigius, and had several important Florentine patrons, including the Pepi, Alberti, Bagnesi, and Alighieri Families. At least one other Pisan gradual was composed for the church and is presently part of the archives there (cf. Poggetto, 1979 516ff.) In addition, the celebrated Pieta of San Remigio, an altarpiece which Vasari identifies as the work of Giottino and now in the Uffizi gallery, prominently features the saints Remigio and Benedict with two kneeling women in modern clothes, probably the donors of the picture. It is conceivable then that this gradual was one of several commissioned for the church at the time of its reconstruction.

2. Late 19th century note glued to upper portion of front board in English, generally describing the contents, in part: “Choir book of the 14th century… Purchased in Florence, 1879.

This Gradual comprises: the winter and spring Temporal from Advent I to Trinity Sunday, (ff. 1r-117v) with abbreviated reference to the Litany (f. 78) but not the entire text; the Assumption (ff. 118r-124v); and the Sanctoral truncated (ff. 125r-130v) from St. Andrew (Nov. 30) to the Purification of the Virgin (Feb. 2nd). Unusual saints noted in the Sanctoral extant include Lazarus, Remigius, Felix, Benedict and Prisca, and with John Chysostom and Ignatius celebrated in late January rather than September and October.
Other unusual features include the large fore edge and lower margins which preserve the catchwords as well as roman numeral foliation in red on verso of each leaf, as well as the numerous scribal marks for the rubricator which have been preserved, including some marginal notes that were never scratched out.



    Pia Palladino of the Robert Lehrman Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art identifies the illumination in this manuscript as closely related to a group of choir-books apparently illustrated shortly after the middle of the 14th century by anonymous Pisan illuminators for various Florentine establishments. Some of these related volumes are presently found in the Archivo della Basilica di SS. Annunziata, the Church of San Remigio, and the Museo di San Marco, and have been extensively discussed by M. G. Ciardi Dupre dal Poggetto in terms of the cultural and artistic exchanges between Pisa and Florence at that time [cf. Poggetto, 1979; 1992]. Indeed, the facial and gestural depiction of Christ in the Ascension miniature here is reminiscent of the same miniature in a Gradual held in the Archivo della Basilica di SS. Annunziata [Poggetto, 1979, fig. 14].
    These Pisan illuminators were also strongly influenced by Florentine exemplars, in particular the Maestro Daddesco, and we can identify similar undercurrents of that cultural exchange here. For example, the Maestro Daddesco characteristically employed an alternating diamond pattern in red or black within a double fillet border around many of his miniatures, and a similar border design enframes many of the miniatures here [cf. Boscovits, pls. 84, 86, 91, 93, 94, 97, 98]. Indeed, from a group of three celebrated Graduals attributed to this artist in the Church of Santa Croce in Rome, we encounter the staging of the Resurrection in a strikingly similar manner, with Christ immediately above the tomb and the sleeping soldiers stacked almost on top of one another at the lower margin [cf. Boscovitz, pl. 98c], as well as the posture of the saints in prayer and our miniature of St. Andrew [Boscovitz, pl. 99a-b]. On the other hand, the Pentecost miniature appears to follow Sienese examples, which is typical of the production of Pisan illuminators.
    This Gradual is all the more remarkable for having survived relatively intact and undisturbed through the centuries of both benign neglect and fickle connoisseurship. Sandra Hindman and others have documented the tremendous popularity for single leaves and cuttings from illuminated manuscripts that could be mounted for display, in particular following the celebrated Celotti sale of such leaves and fragments in London in 1825. Among the most popular targets for such mutilation were the large Italian choirbooks of the 14th century, which could be unwieldy when bound but provided a striking visual display when cut apart. Indeed, most collectors into the 20th century could not hope to find these large choirbooks intact, apart from single leaves and initials trimmed to their illuminated borders in the 19th century (and typically reflected by John Ruskin’s 1854 diary entry: “Cut up missal in evening—hard work!”) Perhaps because this volume was secured by a discerning British owner in Florence in 1879, before the final paroxysm of book breaking took hold at the end of the 19th century, accounts for its remarkable survival, with apparently all integral illuminations intact.
    In any event, relatively complete Italian Graduals of the 14th century are extremely rare in the marketplace, with only three comparable examples located in the Schoenberg database reaching back to 1970 [Fischer, November 29, 1971; lot 564; Reiss & Auvermann, October 12, 1993, lot 658; Sotheby’s Milan, November 14, 2001, lot 1066].

    The large illuminated initials are located on ff. 15v, 53r, 64v, 87v, 99v. The subject of the historiated initials are:
    Folio 1r, the Trinity, initial ‘A’ (“Ad te levavi animum…”), 130 x 90 mm, with illuminated branch down inner margin, and the faces of four saints incorporated into borders;
    Folio 13r, the Nativity, initial ‘P’ (“Puer natus est…”), 130, x 80 mm, with illuminated branch down inner margin,
    Folio 81r, the Resurrection, initial ‘R’ (“Resurrexi et adhuc…”), 90 x 90 mm, Christ above the sarcophagus as soldiers lie asleep below, illuminated branch along upper and inner margin;
    Folio 92r the Ascension, initial ‘V’ (“Viri galilei…”) 114 x 114 mm, the Virgin and apostles watching Christ with an open book on his lap, illuminated branch along upper and inner margin;
    Folio 95r, the Pentecost, initial ‘S’ (“Spritius domini…”) 100 x 95 mm, the Virgin and apostles gather below the appearance of a dove, with illuminated branch down inner margin;
    Folio 125r, Saint Andrew, initial ‘D’ (“Dominus secus…”), 114 x 90 mm, holding his cross in a mountainous landscape, with illuminated branch down inner margin.


    Boscovits, et al. A Corpus of Florentine Painting: The Painters of the Miniaturist Tendency. Sec. III, volume IX. Florence, 1984.
    Hindman, Sandra, et. al. Manuscript Illumination in the Modern Age: Recovery and Reconstruction. Evanston, 2001.
    Palladino, Pia. Treasures of a Lost Art :Italian Manuscript Painting of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. New Haven, 2003.
    Poggetto, M. G. Ciardi Dupre dal, in La Miniatura Italiana in Eta Romanica e Gotica, Atti del I Congresso di Storia della Miniatura Italiana. Florence, 1979, pp. 501-528;
    Poggetto, M. G Ciardi Dupre dal, in Il Codice Miniato: Rapporti tra Codice, Testo e Figurazione. Atti del III Congresso di Storia della Miniatura. Florence, 1992, pp. 281-294.
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