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Collections | Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

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Ascension, in an initial V
Leaf from a Gradual (II), in Latin.
Italy, Florence, 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.653.3
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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.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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