Nov 3, 2015

Single Leaf from an Antiphonary: Initial H[odie nobis] with The Nativity

Single Leaf from an Antiphonary: Initial H[odie nobis] with The Nativity


Benvenuto di Giovanni

(Italian, 1436–1509/17)

Ink, tempera, and gold on parchment

Sheet: 56 x 40 cm (22 1/16 x 15 3/4 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1952.282



This initial h introduces the first matins response for Christmas Day: Hodie nobis celorum rex (“On this day the King of Heaven”). Illustrating this artist’s love of fantastic detail, an entwined dragon climbs the ascender of the h. Christ’s nativity is within the letter, complete with adoring shepherds. Above is the figure of Christ blessing, surrounded by singing angels intended to suggest the heavenly realm. Benvenuto is first recorded in 1453, when he is known to have been working on the frescoes in the Siena Baptistery. This leaf comes from a set of choir books commissioned for Siena’s Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala by Niccolò Ricoveri, the hospital’s rector, as indicated by the coat of arms at the bottom of the leaf.

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