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Collections | Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

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Last Supper

Last Supper, in an initial C
Leaf from a Gradual (II), in Latin.
Italy, Florence, Santa Maria degli Angeli, 1392–99
Illuminated by Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci for Paolo Venier, abbot of San Michele à Murano
590 x 400 mm
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909; MS M.653.4
See CORSAIR catalog record for this item »

The leaf was originally folio 78 of the Gradual, for its recto bears the number LXXVIII. The illumination singles out Judas because he is about to put bread in his mouth and has a red purse and a black halo decorated with scorpions. Judas was likened to the scorpion because of his treacherous kiss. John, the young beloved apostle, is fast asleep as his master's hand is raised in blessing. The gesture, linked with that of consecration, connects the Last Supper with the institution of the Eucharist. The initial appropriately illustrates the Introit for the Mass of Corpus Christi (the body of Christ), which was composed by St. Thomas Aquinas: Cibavit eos ex adipe frumenti (He fed them with the fat of the wheat). Aquinas had also observed that scorpions signified men plotting in secret. Some of the initials in this set, including the present example, apparently were cut from the choir books more than once. This one was crudely cut in a squarish format, without the border, and subsequently replaced. The leaf itself was then removed.

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Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.