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Leaf from an Antiphonary with Historiated Initial L[ucia virgo] with St. Lucy (recto)

Leaf from an Antiphonary with Historiated Initial L[ucia virgo] with St. Lucy (recto)

c. 1340

Ink, tempera, and gold on parchment

Sheet: 44.3 x 35.2 cm (17 7/16 x 13 7/8 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1952.281.a

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Description

St. Lucy, the 4th-century virgin-martyr, was honored as one of the most illustrious saints of the Latin Church. During the Middle Ages, she was venerated by people who suffered from eye trouble—probably because her name suggests light or lucidity and because she was martyred by the removal of her eyes. Her feast day, December 13, is introduced by this large initial L bearing her portrait. She is identified here not only by her name but also by the attributes she holds: a cup containing her eyes and a palm branch symbolizing her rank as a martyr. The painter of this initial was one of the most important and prolific Florentine artists of his generation. He was both an illuminator and a panel painter. His name derives from a large panel painting in Florence showing Christ and the Virgin attended by 17 Dominican saints.

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