Ascension, in an initial V
Leaf from a Gradual (II), in Latin.
Illuminated by Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci for Paolo Venier, abbot of San Michele à Murano
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909
The Roman numeral XLIIII on the recto indicates it was originally folio 44 of the Gradual. The Virgin and the twelve apostles are contained by the sides of the letter V, while Christ appears to ascend on a tiny cloud through the upper, thinner part of the letter. The initial begins the Introit for the Mass of the Ascension: Viri Galilaei quid admiramini aspicientes in coelum? (Men of Galilee, why wonder you, looking up to heaven?) Here, and in some other initials in the set, a decorative pattern has been punched on the gold leaf, especially in the haloes, a practice that was common in contemporary panel painting. The gold leaf was always applied before the colors because the burnishing or polishing procedure could damage the paint surface. The colors could then be placed over the rough edges of the gold leaf, creating a clean line.