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Single Leaf from a Bible: Initial E[t factum est] with Jonah Swallowed by the Whale

Single Leaf from a Bible: Initial E[t factum est] with Jonah Swallowed by the Whale

c. 1290

Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum

Sheet: 26.7 x 40.3 cm (10 1/2 x 15 7/8 in.)

The Harold T. Clark Educational Extension Fund 1959.271

Description

This leaf and the bifolium (double-leaf) displayed to the right both come from the same manuscript: a large lectern bible. The decorative scheme consists of a single historiated initial and spiky ivy-leaf tendrils along the margins, a Parisian convention just developing at this time. These "ascenders" and "descenders" originate from two of the initials and meander along the margins as separators and framing devices for the text. This ivy-leaf motif dominated book illumination in Paris through the early 15th century.

The interior of the initial E contains a background of geometric patterns (called diapering) against which is set Jonah and the whale and the ancient city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. The illusionistic effect creates three layers of perspective-the framing initial, the figures, and the background.

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