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Pages of Gold: Medieval Illuminations from the Morgan
June 19 through September 13, 2009

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Adoration of Magi
Cutting from a Gradual, in Latin
Illuminated by Master B. F.
Italy, Milan, ca. 1500
220 x208 mm
The Morgan Library & Museum, 1927; MS M.725

Master B. F. might be the Lombard illuminator Francesco Binasco, although this remains to be proven. If not the same, both were interested in engraving: Binasco worked as an engraver for the mint of Milan, and B. F. was evidently fond of engravings. The group of houses in the background of the miniature, for instance, derives from Albrecht Dürer's engraving of the Prodigal Son (ca. 1496). The motif of the servant removing the spurs of the youngest Magus may derive from Gentile da Fabriano's famous altarpiece of 1423 in the Uffizi.

The miniature came from a Gradual, as the verso contains part of the Introit to the Mass for the Epiphanyi. The leaf was lot 85 in the landmark Ottley sale held at Sotheby's in 1838. According to the catalogue, it was from the monastery of Certosa at Pavia.

Virgin and Child Enthroned with the Gentleman of Cologne and a Soldier, in an initial A
Leaf from a Gradual, in Latin
Spain, Castile, Toledo, ca. 1500, commissioned by the rosary confraternity of Toledo's silk weavers for the Dominican convent of San Pedro Mártir el Real
928 x 600 mm
Gift of William S. Glazier, 1958; MS M.887.1

This elaborate leaf contains the Introit for the Mass of the First Sunday in Advent. In the initial A (of Ad), the "Gentleman of Cologne," holding a rosary and wearing a chaplet of roses, kneels before the Virgin and child, who had appeared miraculously. The knight on the right was about to avenge the death of his brother, slain by the gentleman in a quarrel. The knight, however, was deterred by the miraculous appearance and the two men became friends. The five wounds of Christ, shown three times in the borders, was the emblem of the rosary confraternity. The two depictions of Hercules slaying Ladon, the serpent/dragon guarding the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides have local meaning, as Hercules was the legendary founder of Toledo. The Hercules figures were inspired by Antonio Pollaiuolo's famous engraved Battle of the Ten Nudes (1465). The roses in the borders refer to the confraternity of the rosary.

Pope Clement VII Asperging the Congregation Before Mass
Composite leaf with miniature by Vincenzo Raimondi
Italy, Rome, ca. 1523, vellum with montage pasted on card
500x 280 mm
The Morgan Library & Museum; MS M.1134

The large miniature, depicting the pope in procession with bishops, sprinkling holy water, is by Vincenzo Raimondi (d. 1557), a French illuminator who worked for the papal courts from Leo X (r. 1513–21) to Paul IV (r. 1555–59). The miniature is surrounded by double borders of several different fragments cleverly arranged to appear whole. The Medici arms appear twice as well as emblems with mottoes (Semper, "always," and Suave, "sweet") used by both Leo X and Clement VII, who was Giulio de' Medici, cousin of Leo X. The use of the yoke with Suave derives from Matthew 11:30, "For my yoke is sweet and my burden light." Among the popes, bishops, saints, and other figures in the ovals, only one can be identified. It is Pope Gregory the Great, at the top left, for his attribute is the dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, suggesting the divine inspiration of his writing.

Four Evangelists
Montage with other cuttings, possibly from a Gospel Book made for Pope Gregory XIII (r. 1572–85).
Italy, probably Rome, ca. 1572–85.
413 x 277mm
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan from Leo Olschki, 1907. MS M.270.

This "leaf " is actually a montage of vellum cuttings excised from one or more service books taken from the Sistine Chapel during the 1798 French occupation of Rome. These cuttings were brought to England by Luigi Celotti (1759–1843), who presumably created the montage and sold it at Christie's on 26 May 1825, lot 87. In the Celotti sale catalogue, William Ottley (1771–1836) listed it under Pope Gregory XIII and attributed it to Giulio Clovio (1498–1578). It was then in Ottley's own sale at Sotheby's (10 May 1838, lot 243). The dealer Leo Olschki wisely offered the leaf to Morgan, who had acquired Clovio's masterpiece, the Farnese Hours, three years earlier. If the portraits are not by Clovio (he was then quite old) they are certainly by an artist who came under his influence.

Seated Ruler with Two Women and a Standing Saint
Cutting from a choir book, in Latin
France, perhaps Paris, first quarter of the twentieth century
Illuminated by the Spanish Forger
245 x 195 mm
Purchased (as the Spanish Forger), 1967. MS M.786c.

The Spanish Forger was keenly aware of the growing market for single leaves and cuttings, producing nearly two hundred fifty of them for an unsuspecting public. The forger's nationality remains unknown, but Belle da Costa Greene named him the Spanish Forger after she had exposed a panel by him that was thought to be Spanish. This leaf was the first manuscript illumination tested using neutron activation analysis, resulting in the identification of the green pigment as copper arsenite or Paris green, which was not available before 1814. In 1978 the Spanish Forger became the first illuminator to be given a one-man show at the Morgan, causing Hilton Kramer to comment "that many a genuine artist has received a lot less from posterity."

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