Gospel Book

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Accession number: 
MS M.270
Gospel Book
Rome, Italy, 1572-1585.
Purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), 1907.
1 painting : vellum ; 413 x 277 mm
Probably executed for one of the choir or gospel books in the Sistine Chapel; commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII (pope from 1572-1585); excised ca. 1800 and the miniatures mounted in the present manner; Abate Celotti sale (London, May 26, 1825, lot 87) to Anthony Molteno (d. ca. 1846); William Young Ottley (probably purchased from Molteno); his sale (London, Sotheby's, May 11-12, 1838, lot 243); A. Firmin Didot (1884); purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) from Olschki in 1907; J.P. Morgan (1867-1943).

Ms. illuminated montage (single leaf); 6 vellum cuttings consisting of 4 separate miniatures of the Evangelists; a floral border with 3 oval medallions and the papal arms of Gregory XIII, and an architectural cartouche with 19th century inscription, inlaid on a vellum leaf and mounted on cardboard; cuttings of the Evangelist portraits and floral border illuminated in Italy, probably in Rome, during the papacy of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585).
A nearly identical example, possibly from the same manuscript or set of manuscripts, is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Artist: a follower of Giulio Clovio.
Formerly in blue cloth wrapper in blue morocco case; now matted.


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.